“Words, words, words,” Hamlet decried. Likewise, Liza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, seemed to be a having a wee bit of trouble when she also lamented, “Words, words, words, I’m so sick of words!” Necessary for robust communication, these little packets of information also serve as the nexus of misunderstanding.
In our home, communication collisions are a daily occurrence. A few weeks ago I was preparing PB&J for the kids, and my nearly 5-year-old popped up with, “Mom, is there any Gramma fat in this?” Nice to know she was paying attention during her sister’s science and nutrition lesson. Though, in certain circles the phrase “Gramma fat,” would likely raise eyebrows and blood pressure, and needed to be discouraged. On another occasion, one of my little girls brought me a pebble, and shyly questioned, “Mommy, every night we pray for the people in ‘a-rock,” well, here is a rock, how did the people get in there?”
Sometimes our communication issues result in overly high expectations. There was the time when (then) 7-year-old Kenny eagerly waited for the UPS man. I told Kenny that I had purchased a thesaurus, and it would help him with his schoolwork. Never had I seen a child so exuberant over a reference book! Days passed, and the UPS man finally arrived. Kenny seemed puzzled and disappointed by the small parcel. He examined his new book carefully, and thanked me politely. Now I was puzzled. It was only weeks later when he admitted that he had thought a thesaurus was a kind of dinosaur that I finally understood.
Ronald Regan was known as, “the Great Communicator,” and the errors that frequently occur in our home, make it all too clear that I am not even a mediocre communicator. As JM turned four, it was time for him to begin preschool, as the 4 older children had before him. Again, he eagerly anticipated his new books and crayons, as the others had. With true joy, he told all his friends, family, and neighbors that he would soon be starting preschool, and all shared his infectious excitement. Our mornings include morning Mass, breakfast, and schoolwork. Though this little guy also loves to don his child-size vestments, turn on EWTN, and pretend he is concelebrating Holy Mass with the good Franciscan friars on TV. One day, shortly after JM’s preschool year began, I asked him how it was going. To which he responded, “great Mom, but when can I go up to the altar and really ‘do’ Mass?” Confused, I responded, “Well JM, if God calls you to be a priest, then someday when you are much older, after many years of prayer and school, you will be ordained. Then you would really be a priest, and celebrate Holy Mass.” Shocked, he looked at me and responded, “Mom, I am already in priestschool, aren’t I?”
While most of our communication mishaps are accidental- a result of errors in perception or accuracy, some are more deliberate. I recall one very naughty, three-and-a-half-year-old, Grace Marie in dire need of a “time out.” I specifically told her to sit on the second step of the stairs, while I washed the dishes in the other room. A few minutes later, I noticed that the typical noises were not emerging from the staircase as anticipated. As I stood akimbo at the base of the stairs, I called up to her, with a stern, “Young lady, did you hear me tell you to take a time out on the second stair?” To which my budding canon lawyer replied, “but you didn’t say whether you wanted me on the second stair from the bottom or the top.”
While communication among my earthly companions is wrought with errors (what can you expect from a group of imperfect, finite beings), I also struggle in my communication with God. The real difference here, is that I can’t blame the mistakes on anyone but myself. God is omniscient- He knows my every thought even before they are formed.
Lord, You have probed me, you know me;
you know when I sit and when I stand;
you understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark;
With all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is on my tongue,
Lord, you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me,
And rest your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is beyond me,
Far too lofty for me to reach….
Probe me, God, know my heart.
Try me, know my concerns.
Psalm 139: 1-6, 23
God knows everything, and His plans for me and those I love are magnificent. I know His plans are greater than anything I could possibly conceive, and I trust. Yet, like Job, every once in awhile I have that feeling that we’re just not communicating. Like communication with my children, it is often a case of lack of clarity. I understand that God is trying to communicate, I just cannot correctly decipher His intent. I have been known to utter the prayer, “Lord, I know you are trying to tell me something, but I’m too dense to understand, could You please speak a little louder, or make Your intentions a bit more clear.” I always get an answer to this prayer, though not always the one for which I’m looking.
Even though my prayers are poorly worded, I know the Holy Spirit makes it all right. For scripture tells us:
“In the same way, the Spirit too comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes with inexpressible groaning. And the One Who searched hearts knows what is the intention of the Sprit, because it intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s Will (Romans 8: 26-27).”
Often I find that I cannot hear God, because I am talking too much. I suppose He is just waiting for me to take a breath, so that He can get a word in edgewise. When I have the presence of mind, to merely sit in His presence, adoring Him hidden in the Tabernacle or visible in the Monstrance, it is amazing how much real communication takes place. Then with Job, comforted that I am dust, I rejoice that He is God, and I am not. With the trust of child, I place all that I am in His capable Hands.
Blessings, M.A. JMJ