There is a pink pencil in the pen holder on my husband's desk. It is 23 years old now, and holds special significance to us because it is the last of those handed out to our friends on the occasion of the birth of our second child.
The days and weeks after her birth were a difficult time for us, for she was diagnosed with a heart defect and Down Syndrome the day she was born. Airlifted to the city, medical interventions, developmental supports, more hospitalizations all followed in the succeeding months.
It was hard to see how God had answered our prayer for "the safe delivery of a healthy child." At least we got half of it, we thought.
It was not until years later that a moment of grace opened our eyes to see that pink pencil point to God's ways. Written on the pencil are the words, "It's a Girl! Of such is the kingdom of heaven."
'Here am I, the servant of the Lord.'
We understood then; it is those who are like little children who are closest to the kingdom of God. It is they who are, in a fundamental way, the healthiest of us all. Our prayer had been answered, we just hadn't understood.
Most of the promises of God are not spoken directly to us, as they were to David who was promised that his kingdom would be made sure forever, or to Mary who was promised that, though she was a virgin, she would give birth to a holy child.
We are inheritors of God's promises through Scripture and the teaching of the Church. Yet the same obedience of faith that was theirs is to be ours in response to the promises that God will answer our prayers, that all things will work for good and that he will continue the work he has begun in us.
There are moments and circumstances in every person's life when understanding fails. We will not be able to see why it is as it is, how this is the place where God is at work and what will be accomplished in God's plan of salvation. Those times can become stumbling blocks for us.
Yet the failure of our understanding says nothing concerning the truth of God's ways; it says only that we have failed in our understanding.
David and Mary both stood before the messengers from God with that same lack of understanding. Neither could see how it was possible that the promise could be fulfilled. Their obedience of faith gives us example for those times when we, too, are unable to comprehend.
The obedience of faith is a response of gratitude even in the midst of pain and grief; it is trust even in the face of fear and uncertainty; it is a "yes" that is our fundamental disposition even when we cannot see where we are to go and do not know how we are to get there.
May we seek the humility to follow that example.
(Kathleen Giffin email@example.com)