September 15, 2023 - Marisa Guerin, PhD
The Little Way is a path of deep honesty, working with the reality of our life at each moment. Like a lot of us, Thérèse never fully outgrew her tendency to hold tight to her own idea of what should be happening and overreact when her plans were frustrated. She was a willful child and only gradually came to a more open heart. But the better she came to know herself, the more prepared she was to drop her controlling attitude and abide a situation with a willing spirit.
For Thérèse, a spirit of willingness and gratitude was actively welcoming and engaging God’s providence as she found it in each moment, no matter whether it was pleasant or difficult. She realized that a grateful spirit doesn’t erase all pain and suffering from our lives. If we love, we will experience joy, but also sorrow.
We may have to confront grave illness, or tragic suffering may come from the violence of others, a child lost to drugs, incarceration, war, natural disasters. Suffering is what Thérèse often referred to as “fire” that purifies the heart. This is not because she believed God is punishing us, but because life, as it unfolds in the natural world, will inevitably include sorrow if it is lived with love.
Thérèse’s grateful welcoming of every experience of her life offers us a liberating viewpoint. We don’t have to be afraid of reality. We can face what is real and live through it.
This spirit of gratefulness for our real life can free us to live faithfully in a world of imperfect people, relationships, and circumstances. Anyone who has worked up the courage to commit to marriage, parenthood, or a lifetime vow has come face-to-face with the same huge heart risk: the promise to give one’s love and one’s life now and every day, in the midst of whatever real life presents to us. There is no need to wait for the perfect tomorrow – when our house is in order, or we are thin, or the world is not in a crisis. We are called to receive and share the gift of a loving life as it is available to us in each moment, in this moment.
Let us hope for the grace to do our best and to embrace our life as gift through light and dark, trusting that we are always accompanied by the love of God.