by Gaby Spykerman
When was the last time you experienced a milestone in your faith life? Perhaps for some of us, the word milestone brings us back to an extremely tangible encounter with the Lord. For others, it could be a moment of allowing yourself to sit with the Lord, even if it felt as if that was going against everything you thought was logical at the time.
The universal reality of our faith lives is that it is indeed marked with many different milestones, ones that may not always look the same but remain ever-present. Much like how parents mark their children’s height on the door frame to see how much they have grown, milestones are reminders of our journeying closer towards Christ and where He calls us to be. Yet, do we pause to take stock of these moments or do we simply let them slip by, allowing them to become distant memories?
Especially when life seems to sweep us by in one fluid motion, we are called to live in a spirit of remembrance, and to celebrate the continual victory of Christ over our lives!
A Practice of Gratitude
I would like to think that the practice of gratitude is something that we all are constantly working on. Especially in this season of Ordinary time, where COVID-19 has rendered us more limited than we would normally find ourselves, facing new challenges at every turn. How then do we practice gratitude amidst these circumstances?
In Thoughts in Solitude, Thomas Merton writes: “To be grateful is to recognize the love of God in everything he has given us—and he has given us everything, every breath we draw is a gift of his love, every moment of existence is a grace. Gratitude, therefore, takes nothing for granted, is never unresponsive, is constantly awakening to new wonder and praise of the goodness of God. For the grateful person knows that God is good, not by hearsay but by experience. And that is what makes all the difference.”
Similarly, in celebrating our milestones, both big and small, it enables us to come to greater awareness and recognition of the goodness of God in our lives. As Saint Mary Euphrasia once said, “gratitude is the memory of the heart.” –– may we continue to actively exercise this memory of ours!
The Harder the Place, the Higher the Praise
“They shall eagerly utter the memory of Your abundant goodness
And will shout joyfully of Your righteousness.”
– Psalm 145:7
Often, we may find ourselves growing forgetful, especially in the face of a difficult season. I think it is safe to assume that we are all familiar with failure. The setbacks, the losing battles in our struggle against sin –– the moments where we come face to face with our humanness, and the extent of our weakness. Often it is in these seasons of struggling that we may find ourselves hyper-focused on our shortcomings. Our gazes shifted from that of the face of Christ to that of the waves. The voice of God is drowned out, and we grow more and more overwhelmed by a tirade of lies and self-rejection.
What was initially a bump in the road manifests into a mountain. We become paralysed and unsure as to how we are ever going to surmount the giant before us, and recognising the goodness of God becomes an even more difficult task. It is precisely in these times that celebrating our milestones can become one of the most important tools in the arsenal of our spiritual lives.
For when our attention seems to be consumed by our fallibility, all the more do we need to re-orientate ourselves through living in remembrance of the Father’s unceasing faithfulness in our lives (Isaiah 43:2). That we may remember how far grace has carried us, and how far it continues to carry us.
Choose to Celebrate
Even in my own life, I find it difficult to even fathom the idea of celebrating both the minor and major milestones in my faith life. It is so much easier to focus on what is lacking, and what has not materialised. Yet, I am brought to the recognition of an old and everlasting invitation from Jesus: To choose Him. That no matter the season of our lives, highland, or valley, I may choose to praise His name.
Dear readers, let us not be mistaken, the celebration of these milestones is not meant to be a celebration of our own strength. It is not the ignorance of our circumstances. Rather, it is a celebration of who God is in our lives, and who He continues to be. A reminder that He is indeed a very good, very faithful Father, who continues to restore us to wholeness.