St. Claude de la Colombière, 17th-century priest and confessor, observed:
There is no one who does not experience a hundred small annoyances every day, caused either by our own carelessness or inattention, or by the inconsideration or spite of other people, or by pure accident. Our whole lives are made up on incidents of this kind, occurring ceaselessly from one minute to another, and producing a host of involuntary feelings of dislike and aversion, envy, fear, and impatience to trouble the serenity of our minds…If we were careful to offer all these petty annoyances to God and accept them as being ordered by his providence, we would soon be in a position to support the greatest misfortunes that can happen to us, besides at the same time insensibly drawing close to intimate union with God.
Well isn’t that the truth? The other day, driving around L.A. on a series of pesky errands, I started thinking about Thomas Merton’s famous “moment” on a street corner in Louisville where, suffused with love, he realized “There is no way of telling people that they are all walking around shining like the sun.” I thought, a bit churlishly to be sure, Yeah, I’d think people were shining like the sun as well, if I didn’t have to wade through them every day. I see the monks “shining like the sun” when I visit a monastery, too–mostly because I don’t have to live with them…
That’s not to detract in any way from Merton’s truly beautiful epiphany; it’s only to observe that the real feat for me would be to see Christ in the people who are in my way 24/7, as I jostle for a parking spot, a place in line, my earplugs at night to block out the sound of their obnoxiously yipping dogs….
Recently I heard a guy tell of a spiritual practice he’s discovered. He says thank you to God not only for the things that make life easier, but for the things that make it harder, scarier, more painful. He lost his wallet at the movie theater: he got home, gritted his teeth, thanked God, and the theater called the next day and said they’d found it. He lost the wallet again, this time at a bowling alley–again, he thanked God; again, the wallet miraculously turned up. A third time he lost the wallet, on a visit to his aunt in Arizona. Again, he said, “Thank you, God;” a third time the wallet was returned.
I thought, My God man, put the wallet in a different pocket!