by Father Mark Goldasich
I tell you, I don’t know which changes quicker anymore: the dates on the calendar or the price of gas!
Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t we just start this year of 2008? How, then, can graduation season already be in full swing? Where did Lent, Easter and the
Easter season go? I seem to have missed them all.
May is often the month when I feel close to a meltdown. All the weddings, funerals, baptisms, appointments and meetings begin to take their toll. And as we near the end of weekly editions for a while here at The Leaven, my eyes and my brain are weary as well. My proofreading gets slower and slower, and I’m turning in this column later and later.
It’s easy to start feeling beaten up . . . or down. Imagine my great relief, though, when one of my cousins passed along the following story:
Some years ago on a hot summer day in south Florida, a little boy decided to go for a swim in the lake behind his house. In a hurry to dive into the cool water, he ran out the back door — leaving behind shoes, socks and shirt as he went.
He flew into the water, not realizing that as he swam toward the middle of the lake, an alligator was swimming toward the shore. His father, working in the yard, saw the two as they got closer and closer together. Seized by utter fear, he ran toward the water, yelling to his son as loudly as he could.
Hearing his voice, the little boy became alarmed. Suddenly, he saw the alligator and made a U-turn to swim to his father.
It was too late. Just as the kid reached his father, the alligator reached him.
From the dock, the father grabbed his little boy by the arms at the same moment that the alligator snatched the boy’s legs. Thus began an incredible tug-of-war between the two.
Although the alligator was much stronger than the father, the father was much too passionate to let go. A farmer happened to drive by, heard the screams, and saw the horrible ordeal. He got out his rifle, raced from his truck, took aim and shot the alligator.
Remarkably, after many weeks in the hospital, the little boy was able to return home. Naturally, his legs were extremely scarred by the vicious attack of the alligator. Additionally, his arms bore deep scratches where his father’s fingernails dug into his flesh in his effort to hang on to the son he loved.
A newspaper reporter who interviewed the boy after the trauma, asked to see his scars. The boy lifted up his pant legs. And then, with obvious pride, he said to the reporter, “But look at my arms. I have great scars on my arms, too. I have them because my dad wouldn’t let go.” (Adapted from an anonymous source in an email.)
That’s a tremendous story. It reminds me that life is not always easy or fair. All of us probably have scars of some sort from our past. Sometimes these scars are the result of foolish things we’ve done . . . but sometimes problems or dangers have found us. Regardless, we should take great comfort in the fact that, like that little boy in the story, we have a Father who is passionate about us, one who won’t ever let us go.
It’s tempting to focus solely on our “life-is-tough” scars. The story above invites us to go deeper and take notice of the “God scars” as well. These come from those struggles — large and small — that were threatening to overwhelm us. And we would have been lost, had not God cared so passionately for us that he engaged in a tug-of-war for our safety. Because he was not going to let go, it gave us reason to go on.
If we’re in the hands of God, we really don’t need to fear or worry. We may be stretched or bruised or tired, but we’ll never be lost.
And God is very creative in the “hands” that he sends our way. Just when we might be ready to throw in the towel, look out! From where you least expect it, God will grab onto you — perhaps through an encouraging e-mail or phone call from a friend, a helpful gesture from a stranger, an up-building thought in a homily, or a bit of advice from a wise elder.
As this busy month of May unfolds, do a little pondering on the worldly scars you may be carrying. Pray for the grace to forgive those — others or even yourself — who put them there. Ask God for the courage to move on.
Then spend time examining the “God scars.” Bring to mind those people who, when you were at your lowest or weakest, came on the scene to lift up your heart and your spirit.
After remembering these rescuers, pick out one or two and let them know of your gratitude for their persistent caring attitude.
And then ask God for the grace to become a rescuer yourself. Pray to notice those around you who could use an outstretched arm and, at least once a week during the summer, extend that helping heart and hand.
You know, I feel better already, simply knowing that God is here, pulling for us.