Love Like God: Considering Our Gifts for 2021*

December 27, 2020

*Yes, we ARE finally entering a new year!

In the crisp winter air with the warm sun shining down on us, we celebrated Mass outside. We were standing outside, some of us in the grass and some in the rich dark mud of South Louisiana. In an instant all was calm and bright. The clutter and chaos of 2020 melted away. Yes, we were socially distanced. Yes, we were masked. But, grace broke through the abnormal patterns of 2020. Grace always breaks through! Even though these times are abnormal, we, as creatures created by the gentle, intimate, and loving God, remain richly gifted. We are gifted even when our world or our circumstances are frustrating or overwhelming. 

We remain creatures of God, our Creator.

It has been a long, muddy, and messy year. So many of us have been plagued with difficult times as a result of our Covid-19 pandemic. Some have felt health woes while others have felt financial woes. Some of us have felt the compounding of both or added difficult experiences this year. Many of us feel stuck in this muddy place. 

When someone is stuck in the mud, the mud forms around your feet and it is difficult to gain traction to move. It feels as though you are doing lots of work, but are going nowhere. Over and over again, we have felt like we are stuck in the mud and highly unproductive. As co-creators with God, we flourish in times when we meet God’s creation in us and feel productive and useful as contributors. When our gifts and creativity live loudly in the world, we are assured of our own worth.

 Often, when we feel unproductive, or feel as though our gifts are not a felt contribution to the world, we become restless, unsettled, and detached. As a mother of two school aged children I have felt the frustration of watching my kids stuck emotionally, academically, and spiritually in response to Covid-19 restraints. As a daughter, I have shed tears in the distance between me and my mother. As a friend, I have struggled watching my friends tend to big moments of sickness in their families. I have felt stuck in the mud!

I might even call my experience desolation. St. Ignatius describes desolation as those moments when we turn away from God and the good, turn into ourselves, cut ourselves off from our community, or feel depleted . One wise Dominican Sister said to me recently, “Who in the world today doesn’t feel a little desolate in 2020?” In this muddy space the desolation feels strong. As we approach the new year, how can we remind ourselves that we are gifted creations?

We can ask ourselves, what is God inviting us to do with this muddy place? Could God be inviting us to consider how our gifts might be used again in our current world? We remain creatures of God, the Creator, even among the mess. Our gifts and talents have not changed. Is God inviting us to find new traction as co-creators? Or, is God inviting us to wait? Or, is God inviting us to reimagine the use of our gifts?

I invite you into two Ignatian prayer practices: The Prayer of Consideration and the Discernment of Gifts.

Prayer of Consideration

  • Consider the beauty of this muddy place. 
  • Consider the beauty of mud. 
  • In this muddy place, what do you notice? 
  • What does your world look like right now? 
  • Consider the people and situations in which God has placed you. 
  • Consider what gives you joy, peace, and hope.
  • Consider what gives you restlessness, agitation, and hopelessness.  
  • Consider your gifts and your creation. 
  • How is God inviting you into our world right now? 
  • Take some quiet and set aside time to do this prayer. 
  • Journal your thoughts and lean into 2021.

Discernment of Gifts

  • Consider reassessing your gifts. 
  • How are you uniquely created? 
  • How are you uniquely gifted? 
  • How is God continuing to make you now? 
  • What is God calling you to NOW?

As we approach the end of the year, let us consider our concrete circumstances. In such a troubling year, 2020 has proven to be an extraordinary circumstance. Let us consider how God has uniquely made us for this time and this place. Let us consider how we have all been uniquely formed for this time as we are called forth to 2021!

 

 

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

 

Stephanie Clouatre Davis graduated from Loyola University New Orleans. Stephanie speaks to adults and teens around the nation at parishes, high schools, and dioceses in various venues including retreats and conferences. With humor, joy, and stories, Stephanie not only fully engages her audiences but also inspires them to challenge themselves and build a stronger relationship with God. She lives in Covington, Louisiana with her husband Michael and two girls Emma and Abby.

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