The Gift of Understanding

Anna Dunikoski // Tales From the Trenches


December 22  

After the morning rush of getting the kids ready for school and myself out the door to teach for the day, it is not uncommon for me to be so distracted during morning prayer that only during the final Sign of the Cross do I even register that prayer has begun. As such, it has been odd that all during the fall, a particular line from one of the morning prayers—“I offer you my freedom, my memory, my understanding”—keeps popping in my head throughout the day. When it does, for a fleeting moment, as I am distracted by other things, I know—without knowing why—that those are words for me.       

However, these words came back to me on a recent weekend when I sat down to “pray” and quickly turned my mind over to my issue of the moment. I don’t remember what it was. Maybe I was puzzling over the sad division among faithful Catholics about issues in the Church? Perhaps I was thinking about my son, who was crying after being told that he couldn’t eat chocolate chip waffles without breaking the communion fast, and once again I was wondering about the efficacy of my formation efforts? Maybe I was thinking about a homeless woman at a nearby shelter whose exquisite six-week-old baby recently took a nap and never woke up, and asking how someone can endure such suffering? Whatever the content of my thoughts, the theme was familiar: How can this be? How does it work? As I seek answers, I simultaneously fend off the anxious doubts that inevitably surround my questions.

Yet, there it is. That line: “I give you . . . my understanding.” In a moment of insight, I suddenly know why the Holy Spirit has been injecting that line into my head. It’s because I do what Job’s friends did. I do what Eve did. I do what the Pharisees did. Sitting here, in my suburban Texas bedroom, I put God to the test. Unless my middle-aged, sometimes malfunctioning, very finite mind can discern the plans of an all-mighty and omnipotent deity, I question if God can even exist. As I sit, I realize that although my questioning is rooted in seeking truth wherever it might lead me, my methods reduce God’s mind to one I can comprehend. My logic is akin to an ant deciding that “reading” must be a myth if it cannot make sense of words written on a page. Reading is not nonsense, but it is for an ant.

Thus, the prayer line “I give you my understanding” is for me. If I want to step out into the deep, I need to let go of my constant desire to see how it all will work out. I have to do what Abraham had to do when Isaac was on the altar. I have to do what Mary did at the Annunciation. I have to say, “Okay, I don’t get it. I might not like it, but I trust you, God. I am yours.”

Lord Jesus, this Christmas, help me to give you my understanding; Jesus, help me to trust in you.


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