by Theresa Notare
December 21, 2001
"If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito." Isn't that a terrific quote? It's from The Prayer of Jabez. Perhaps you've heard of this popular Christian devotional written by a Protestant minister, Bruce Wilkinson. Wilkinson's main point is to remind people that God loves them, that there are real benefits and responsibilities to our status of being baptized Christians. There is one catch however: it is critical for Christians to freely cooperate with God. In other words, we have to accept Gods love, ask for his blessings and share those blessings with others.
So what's news about that? And why begin this article with mosquitoes? Since its New Years I thought you may be thinking resolutions. A good spiritual practice is to do a little internal housecleaning and ask how well do I accept and show Gods love in my life? That exercise can lead to many needed changes. If you are willing to add to your New Years resolutions, then you might consider the mosquito quote. It aptly represents the nature of mosquitoes--persistent and effective. Applying that image to oneself, one may ask: how well do I persevere in faith? Or what do I need to do to persevere in faith? How you answer this question can be especially helpful for those who labor to build the Culture of Life.
For example, those of us who spend our time and energy on Pro-Life and Natural Family Planning ministries can fall into many traps, such as works righteousness, when we think everything depends upon us. We may reject the help of good people because we think that only we can do the work correctly. Worse, with this do it myself attitude, we may completely forget to call on the Holy Spirit for help. Burn out can be another trap when the ministry becomes just an issue. Despair in my opinion, is by far the most dangerous trap. Despair can occur when we consciously face the amount, strength, and prevalence of the evil we daily fight. Despair can literally freeze all our activity. Traps such as these abound when the Christian disciple fails to implement basic spiritual exercises. Enter mosquito perseverance.
What do you need to do to persevere in faith? Of course, no one else can answer for you. But I find that a fundamental spiritual exercise is perseverance in prayer. What is prayer but communication with Father, Son and Spirit? If God is the source of all and we are the disciples of the Son of God, certain benefits are ours. But we have responsibilities too. If we commit to practice the simple exercise of spending time with the Lord (five minutes here, ten minutes there) in our daily lives, of speaking with Him frequently (a running conversation), silently sending spiritual hugs and kisses (contemplation), and eating His Body and drinking His Blood (Communion) you may find the ability to avoid all these traps, and eventually they may be gone from your life forever.
Once you commit to persist in prayer, you will discover your own gifts from God and glean insights into what spiritual exercises are best for you. The Holy Spirit has a way of helping you out, of showing you what you need to go the distance. Some may find that they have a renewed desire to read and study to fortify their work. Some may discover that they need to spend more time laughing with friends to keep a balanced perspective. Others may realize that they have to take better care of their bodies--getting enough sleep, improved nutrition and physical exercise.
Ultimately, it is God who gives faith. But we can do our part. Be like the persistent mosquito. Persevere in faith.
Theresa Notare is the Assistant Director of the Diocesan Development Program for Natural Family Planning, Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.