“Let God be God”

I remember the first time I heard those words, “Let God be God.” I was pretty young. And I remember thinking, “Well, uh, yeah. Like, who is going to stop Him?”

Older now and very slightly wiser, I understand that the expression is not about us allowing God anything, as though we could put limits on Him. It is rather about us. About recognizing the limits we have as created contingent beings of very imperfect understanding. Often the phrase is used, and correctly, to point out that we should not be attempting to control others, that forcing our will upon other human beings is a very different thing from the conversion that takes place internally when God works upon their hearts. We cannot play God in our relationships.

But it is also correctly used in connection with human attempts to usurp God’s place when it comes to the beginning and end of life.

We live in a society in which technology has enabled human beings to insert their own agendas, aspirations, and ambitions into the sacred moments of human life’s beginning and termination. We see more and more the resolution on the part of human beings to be in total control of reproduction, not just its timing, but even its fruit, determining not just that a child will not or will be conceived, but its sex, hair and eye color, athletic ability, intelligence, and assorted other characteristics. And at the end of life the buzzword is “control,” ending life “on your own terms” — playing God.

As Catholics, we understand that a human being is not a commodity at the beginning of life, nor is the gift of life to be weighed against some man-made standard of “quality” and discarded if it fails the test toward the end. And we rightly seek to have the law reflect our recognition of the inalienable dignity of human life. We fight for limits on, and the abolition of, abortion. We fight “assisted suicide.”

We are getting nowhere fast.

A Short Love Story in One Act

Lisa and Bob have three children nine and under, a girl and two boys. The youngest is 28 months and has just recently been weaned from night feedings and started sleeping regularly in his “big boy” bed in his older brother’s room. They are faithful. Their marriage is strong. They communicate regularly about their goals and plans for their family. And being practiced since their wedding in NFP, they are both used to the rhythm of her fertile and unfertile times. They have an agreement going back to just before the end of this last pregnancy that they would want the baby to be at least three before they discussed the possibly of having another one.

It is a Thursday evening and Lisa and Bob are getting ready for bed. It is late and Bob is exhausted — as he always is toward the end of a demanding week at work. Relieved the baby is finally no longer sleeping in their bed, he can hardly wait to flop down and close his eyes. He goes to hang his pants in the closet where Lisa is putting away her last load of laundry for the day and her fragrant just-washed hair falls over his bare arm. He reaches over to touch her tired face, “I love you, Sweetheart. Thanks for getting all my shirts washed and hung up.” As she feels his hand brush her cheek, there is a sudden light in her eyes and she leans into him. They are surprised at the unexpected warmth and energy they both feel. They know she is fertile. They could pull away. That is, after all, what they have discussed, agreed, calculated, reasoned, planned. But this night they do not have a discussion. Wordlessly, they search each other’s eyes. There is a tentative, questioning kiss and an answering, assured embrace. As Lisa closes the bedroom door on us, we hear the click of the lock.

It’s a Baby, not a Chance

Now some would say that that night they “took a chance” on another baby. But one does not gamble with life. Instead they entered into a deep and soundless dialogue with God and said, “You are God. You have given us our love for each other. You have given us this fruitful marriage. In this tired moment at the end of a rough week, with bills in the mailbox and uncertainty in the economy, we cannot fathom what this sudden burst of warm desire means, Lord. Perhaps it is what one poet called ‘life’s longing for itself.’ We only know that our hearts overflow with love and we surrender them to You. We accept that You might choose to bless us with another child this very night. We cannot imagine how this timing could be right according to our calculations. But we know that we are weak and selfish and very limited. You are God. You know our future and our children’s future far beyond anything we could calculate. Thy will be done.”

God does not operate in the realm of “chance” but in the realm of Providence. A Providence that would have been unavailable to them if Lisa was on “the pill” or “the patch” or if they were otherwise incapacitated by artificial birth control. Which brings me to my point:

Unless, unless, unless…. Unless, and until, Catholics let God be God, we cannot, and we will not, see any progress in getting our society to turn from playing God with life. Neither at its beginning nor at its end. We will have embryonic stem cell research, abortion, terminal sedation, organ harvesting from living people, and horrors we cannot yet imagine — unless, unless, unless, we convert. And convert on this very thing.

Judgment, yes — but mercy, too — begins with the house of God.

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  • Cheryl Dickow

    This is so beautiful and so powerfully said. I pray people notice that the list subtly goes from embryonic stem cell research to “horrors we cannot yet imagine.” This is where our own arrogances have gotten in the way of understanding what is happening with this most recent presidential election.

    To believe that a president who so supports abortion that all his closest female confidants are stricly pro-abort choices would care about us as we age and experience terminal illnesses or just ill health is to be completely self-centered. (See the full TCW article here: http://woman.catholicexchange.com/2009/04/01/820/)

    How can a person believe that his or her life is more valuable than the most vulnerable among us — those in the womb? Only through arrogance.

    A good friend was asked by her mother what the future would hold regarding their finances and health care should all the new administration’s policies — that are spun to look like the golden egg — come into effect. My friend replied, “Don’t worry mom. You’ll be euthanized before you know what happened.”

  • http://catholichawk.com PrairieHawk

    Embryonic stem cell research is a form of cannibalism–it’s hard to imagine a
    greater horror. But I suppose they’re out there.

    I am reminded of when my uncle was in the hospital a few years ago. He was dying after an unsuccessful heart transplant. The doctors had implanted two ventricular assist pumps to help keep his heart going, but they were saying that the pumps had to come out after ten days. The pumps coming out meant my uncle’s heart would stop. They were going to turn him off! The doctors saw no problem with this.

    We started praying and my uncle’s heart started beating strongly enough on its own to safely remove the pumps. He lived another six months. Who knows what that six months of God’s time bought my uncle? Salvation, even, perhaps? He spoke very little during that time so we don’t know what was going on inside him. But I am convinced that that six month period was put to good use by my uncle’s Creator.

    I bless God for all the good that medical technology has done for the human race. I myself am dependent on medications developed by science, and I am very grateful for them. But we’ve crossed a line, and now that it’s crossed, it’s nothing but a steep slope into I fear the Abyss. May God have mercy on us all.

  • wgsullivan

    A gentleman freshly moved into our parish and diocese asked at a Lenten Roundtable why our parish and diocese is so wrapped up in the abortion debate versus the social justice issues (feeding the poor & the like). The parish he came from was, in his opinion, emphasizing a more locally prevalent problem, the poor. Many points were tossed about but in light of what I’ve read here maybe I should have mentioned not to worry about the poor. Obama’s eugenics program being implemented is supposed to eliminate the poor and less worthy before they’re born. Cutting short this gentleman’s calling to assist the poor.
    On a side note, Dr. Janet Smith has a great 12 talk series that speaks directly to these issues. The most enlightening talk for me was one entitled, Hormones “R” Us. You can find these talks by going to mycatholicfaith.org and clicking on the resources tab, clicking on Dr. Smith’s picture, then looking for the MP3 download (most affordable).

  • guitarmom

    Mary -
    This is by far the most beautiful article you’ve ever written. It is a reminder to me that a gentle voice is often heard the loudest. The other side recognizes this, hence they present their evil ideas in flowing, gentle language.

    I had a good chat with my (very liberal) mother about what Obama has planned for her generation. I was not gentle, as Mary has been, nor was I clever like your friend. Fortunately, I seemed to get throught to her nonetheless. She is taking it on as a mission to let her friends know what Obama is saying and how the actual translation of his flowing, gentle words is a great danger to her and her peers.

    Cannibalism: You have nailed the perfect description for embryonic stem cell “therapy.” “Cannibalism” is the perfect soundbite and will help people understand why ESC “therapy” is so wrong. Well done.

    Thank you all. This aritcle and its comment section has made my morning well spent.

  • pgohn

    Thanks for a great read for all the Lisa’s and Bob’s out there: an example of “show, don’t tell”… we will convert the world more by our actions, than by our words.

  • Claire

    guitarmom, I sure wish I could influence my also very liberal mother the way you did yours!

  • Warren Jewell

    First, permit me to graciously thank all of you who are still working and giving your payroll deductions for Medicare – without Medicare-D, I’d be forced to give my physicians choices about which Rx would continue. Let your children and grandchildren know that I am aware that I have cost them grievously – they will not be forgotten from Home when I get there.

    What with my Medicare costs for a congestive heart and diabetes, I anticipate that I will not actually be euthanized, if it comes to that. No, they will just cut off my monthly check and my eligibility for anything Medicare or Medicaid, and I will just slip away without great charity from others. But, who will be able to afford such charity? That is being nipped in the bud as we write here.

    If an innocent cannot be protected, then I who am ‘guilty’ of being ill (expensive, expendable, uselessly eating) cannot hope for mercies from governance determined to play its own messiah card. Not one of those who drank the sour Kool-aid to any point of influence with these tyrannical monomaniacs, I can see that I may look forward to Kool-aid similar to that served in Jonestown some years back. However – rest assured that I will be in as full an array of civil disobedience as I can manage.

    Babies can’t fight back – old folks can.

    With our lives already sought for forfeit, what would we have to lose? Plus, already, some of their children, too – like my own daughter – see the handwriting on the wall – where of course no Ten Commandments may be listed – and are ready to fight for their own. The powers that be are arousing some more energetic folks than us old ‘useless eaters’. Add to that – we are all voters – before they can act, they just may be turned out.

  • Heidi

    Dear Mary, I have to go with guitarmom on this beautiful article: “It is a reminder to me that a gentle voice is often heard the loudest.” We do need to be warriors, armed with truth and capable of defending our faith; yes we do. But when we believe even more strongly in the marvelous, transforming power of He who is Love, and act on that belief by we allow ourselves to be melted by the warmth of that love instead of hardened by those who battle against it, that’s when it seems that our Catholic faith is at it’s best and is most attractive even to those are Christ’s most hardened foes. Thanks for writing such a moving reminder to let God be God, that is to let love in from the very beginning.
    -Heidi Bratton

  • KMc

    Hmmmm….its late, been a long week, hubby got back late this evening and still had work to finish so he can take Thursday and Friday off, just got off the treadmill myself and showered, finished putting away laundry as he finishes his work in our room, the kids are all asleep…..and I’m fertile! Hope that isn’t tacky for a faithful website but your article just mad me chuckle at the similarities this evening:) Who knows…..:) Thanks for the beautiful article!