Rev. Jean-Pierre de Caussade (Abandonment to Divine Providence) writes that “. . . the soul that recognizes the will of God in every smallest event, and also in those that are most stressful and direful, receives all with an equal joy, pleasure, and respect. It throws open all its doors to receive with honor what others fear and fly from with horror. . . . for faith cannot be said to be real, living faith until it is tried and has triumphed over every effort for its destruction. . . . To consider God equally good in things that are petty and ordinary as in those that are great and uncommon is to have a faith that is not ordinary, but great and extraordinary.”
De Caussade’s words ring true for me both at the intellectual level and also at the visceral level. Perhaps that is why I could forgive my mother for her long-term, daily physical and emotional abuse and my grandfather, Pop for his long-term, frequent sexual violation of me. As I wrote in my book, Blest Atheist, "With time, Pop receded into an emotional grave where he lost his last shred of control over me. Dispassionate understanding helped. Even as a teenager, I could understand Pop's inability to control his sexual urges because I careened through childhood in the attire of unsatisfied emotional cravings. Much later I would come to understand that I was loved as a child. I was loved by God. Those understandings made forgiving Pop possible."
I can forgive and even love these people who hurt me for one clear reason: God’s use of these experiences to grow in me the skills and courage to help others, not only those in abusive situations but also those with any kind of problem, including my own son, whom I had to steal from a hospital intent on letting him die. Those experiences were used as well to provide encouragement to my then 10-year-old paraplegic daughter to speak out before a congressional inquiry into violations of special needs regulations, and to have the impulse to insist on ethical behavior from all with whom I come into contact.
Through my children with birth defects, God prepared me to help many other parents and ultimately to rescue a dying child artist from Siberia. Those experiences were essential in supporting my son Shane and his wife Lemony through five surgeries for my grandson Nathaniel, who was born with hydronephrosis, and many continuing surgeries for my granddaughter Nikolina, who was born unassembled and with OEIS Complex, spina bifida, and hydronephrosis.
Through these experiences, God taught me sufficient humility (although I am still working on that trait) to rely on Him and not on my own self-confident independence through the ordinary ups and downs of life, including the current siege under which the Mahlou clan finds itself as a result of Shane being fired (seemingly because of Nikolina’s medical condition). As the Twenty-Third Psalm says, “Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me.” This is something I do not have to take on faith for I have experienced God with me through all the ordinary and extraordinary events in my life, making the extraordinary ordinary and the ordinary extraordinary.
My favorite ordinariness?
(1) The minutes during the day when I am in communication with God through ordinary prayer;
(3) God's breaking through my barriers to enlighten, love, or task me; and
(4) the subtle manipulation of events such that I can “see” His hand in every moment and act of my daily life.
Were I only to be more aware, what else might I see!