God's Ways are Not our Ways | Encouragement to Endure

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

For years, I have been aware of the verse from Isaiah which says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways.” 

In the context of natural disasters or global humanitarian crises, I find hopeful comfort in these words: God’s ways are not our ways. I may not understand what is happening in our world, or why, but I am called to trust that we are in God’s providential hand under his divine timing. And when he calls me to serve, I strive to be prepared to say “yes.” 

Despite my understanding on a social level, discerning, pursuing and fulfilling a vocation to marriage has been a provocation for me to encounter this truth in a personal and intimate way. 

PHOTOGRAPHY:   FIAT PHOTOGRAPHY

PHOTOGRAPHY: FIAT PHOTOGRAPHY

Becoming indefinitely united to another and living into a sacramental reality is a catalyst for conversion. The word ‘conversion,’ in its Latin roots, means ‘to turn.’ Through marriage, our hearts and minds receive countless invitations to turn towards humility, selflessness, charity, patience, and faith. 

A vivid image of the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz comes to mind. For years, he sat rusted and immobile. All of a sudden, oil is released into his joints; though he creaks and aches while breaking through the stiff rust, he finds freedom in turning his joints and discovering his new potential.

Similarly, parts of my heart laid dormant for years. The sacrament of marriage is the oil which seeps into the deep crevices of intimacy, breaks into the rust of fear and self-doubt, and brings new freedom to our desires to love and be loved. 

Though living in the freedom of my heart’s potential is eventually a joyful revelation, I sometimes focus more on the painful, creaking, aching process rather than the hope of mercy. 

In our human nature, we don’t like pain. We would prefer to avoid it, if possible. But God’s ways are not our ways. Often, through grace, he invites us into our stiffness in order to create a new mobility of love. 

My heart desires freedom, desires to say “yes,” desires to receive love and mercy, desires to be seen. Yet my head knows the process may be painful and proposes barriers against turning toward Jesus in order to avoid the hurt. Will I trust the Lord, will I receive his mercy, will I endure the crosses of my vocation? The choice is ours. 

So often, life does not go according to plan; new circumstances present unforeseen challenges. God’s ways are not are ways, yet we are called to keep our eyes on him as we continue following his lead. 

The exchange of wedding vows requires active participation from three: bride, groom, and God. Therefore in the months and years following the wedding day, fulfilling the vows “in good times and in bad” is a continued participation of three: bride, groom, and God.

In the moments when we don’t understand his plan and can’t anticipate the journey of our lives, we can trust the validity of our vows—God is ever-present within our marriage and family lives. We can affirm our hearts’ desires and calm our heads’ worries because we are seen, known, loved and led by God. The mercy and grace he offers through the marital embrace will include the invitation to enter into pain, so we may turn toward love.

His ways are not our ways, yet his ways are perfect and pure. Trust the moment, enter into the painful process, and maintain a steadfast hope in the promises of the Sacrament.


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK

“The Body is Called to Follow in Hope” | Ongoing Reflections from the Ascension

STEPHANIE FRIES

 

Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday, he ascends into heaven; he shows us the way to our destiny in heaven. 

The opening prayer at the Ascension Mass caught my attention in a surprising way when the priest said, “Where the head has gone before in worry, the heart is called to follow in hope.”

PHOTOGRAPHY:   DU CASTEL PHOTOGRAPHY

I understand this prayer can be interpreted in different ways. In reference to the Ascension, the Catechism of the Catholic Church says, “Jesus Christ, the head of the Church, precedes us into the Father’s glorious kingdom so that we, the members of his Body, may live in the hope of one day being with him forever.” Here, the Catechism speaks of the head and the body as a parallel to Christ and the Church. 

However, I internalized this prayer with a self-reflective lens: where my head--logic, anxiety, and expectation--has gone before in worry, my body--my heart, soul, and will--is called to follow in hope. 

Entering the sacrament of marriage has opened my heart to an entirely new level of vulnerability and, thus, worry. Perhaps you can relate. The beautiful experience of being vulnerable and intimate and in union with another is raw. And in moments of weakness and fear, my head is left in a state of worry: about my own health and safety; about my husband’s health and safety; about the future of our family; about being prematurely abandoned or alone. 

Concurrently, as my heart has grown into my vocation over the last year, I have grown in union with my spouse; a union I adore with gratitude every day. My vocation is creating in me a new heart with a greater capacity to love and be loved, a new identity of what it means to be a woman, and a new understanding of where and how God calls me to live. 

I believe the experience of responding to beauty, grace, and gift with worry is a reaction to our human mortality. Though God showers us with mercy and love, this Earthly reality will not last forever. 

Sin occurs when our feelings pull us into a state of despair. Holiness abounds when our feelings propel us toward God the father with a hope for heaven. 

The Ascension reveals a perpetually open door for our bodies to follow Christ in hope. Hope in God’s perfect timing. Hope that God will use our Earthly experience to reveal his glory and bring us closer to him. Hope that we are destined to follow Christ into heaven.

Through the gift of free will, we have a choice. The worries, pains, and anxieties we experience through the crosses we bear can end with worry. Or these emotions we feel can be a cue for greater faith, hope and charity. As we are honest with ourselves in times of trial, we see either a temptation or an invitation. 

In the Ascension, God lifted Jesus back to himself. It was not an act of Jesus’ strength, but a surrender of his will to the will of God. The same is true for us. 

How often do we internalize our struggles and think we must muster the strength to pull ourselves out of despair, solve problems, take action, and rise up with a plan? On the contrary, as we abandon our fears and worries to God, he lifts us into his everlasting love. Through his mercy and our goodwill, he frees us from the chains which weigh us down and he becomes our strength. 

Saying yes to God’s invitation for faith and hope and love is not always accompanied by fuzzy feelings. But, like choosing love or forgiveness, choosing God may be an act of the will before it is an affirming experience of the heart. 

My sisters, these are words I believe to be true, but I often struggle implementing this truth in my life. More often than not, I bemoan the act of surrender. Though I hate to admit it, I feel sad for myself and pay too much attention to the temptation to despair. I desire to surrender with a more joyful hope. In my feeble attempts of saying “yes,” each moment of self-awareness and desire is a new stepping stone towards God. 

He will raise us to a greater glory. Do we ask him to reveal his heavenly self in our daily lives? Do we have the eyes to see, the ears to hear him? 

Like Jesus’ Ascension, hope and surrender are graces to be received by God. Do not grow weary in the waiting for eternity. Do not allow worries on Earth to stain your hope for heaven. God sees you, knows your heart, loves you, desires union with you. He has a perfect plan to draw you closer to see and know and love him. By following in hope, you will be lifted to see his face. 


About the Author: Stephanie Fries is Spoken Bride’s Associate Editor. Stephanie’s perfect day would include a slow morning and quality time with her husband, Geoff, a strong cup of coffee, and a homemade meal (…with dessert). Read more

INSTAGRAM | FACEBOOK