The tides that carry a person toward God or away from him move along the invisible shores of the human heart.
The shot didn't hurt; in fact, I couldn't feel it at all, but tears welled up in my eyes just the same as I put the CDC vaccination card in my purse and drove away. Just like that, without any drama or fanfare, the threat of COVID-19 was functionally eliminated -- at least for me and the million-plus people in my state who have received a vaccine. Thank God for human willpower, ingenuity, scientific research, and yes, even businessmen and policymakers.
As the numbers are already beginning to show, this strange and unseen enemy is losing strength. And as it does, the deepest fears and anxieties of the past more-than-a-year are waning and those that remain seem more manageable. Sure, the Great Pandemic isn't over yet; victory is rarely a straight line and prudence and precaution are still-needed allies. But it does seem, at least, that victory will come.
Nothing lasts forever -- not the best times, and not the worst, either. But it's ironic that the difference between the tide coming in and going out is mostly imperceptible. The truth is that we do not usually notice the biggest sea changes until they are well underway, until we can do little to influence or even respond to them. The tiny virus that has overtaken the whole world will be defeated by something just as small.
That principle holds true for the spiritual life as well. The Son of God walked the earth mostly unseen and in relative obscurity. The tides that carry a person toward God or away from him move along the invisible shores of the human heart. The fruit of prayer, the choice to forgive, the loving sacrifice of self-gift: all these are imperceptibly small. Like flowers growing beneath the earth, they are hidden until spring comes and the whole field of vision explodes into color.
Most of us don't pay attention to the small things that have the power to change everything. Our eyes and hearts are drawn to dramatic storylines with identifiable heroes, villains, and payoffs. Daily crosses, disciplines, and choices don't make for sweeping narratives. But in reality, they are the only things that do. They are the things that enable us to set sail, and they are the things that eventually bring us to port, secure when the voyage is over.
Lent is a time for small things. It's a season to gauge the unseen currents, to notice the waves that wash in and out of our lives; a chance to walk the beach at low tide, gather the treasures we find, and leave the rest to be taken back out to sea. Lent is a time to give up drifting, to tether our boats firmly to the shore.
Small movements make for great change. The struggles we've fought all our lives can still end in victory. The progress that seems to have been beyond our reach may be ours, but just too small for us to perceive. We may be winning, and not even know it. The small acts of love, the extra prayer, the little bit of self-denial can move us further than we think.
We do not always see things the way they are. In fact, we rarely do. Our hurts and fears and expectations can get the better of us. The shiny big things that pass by often distract us from the things that can and do bring lasting incremental transformation. The unseen tides of the Holy Spirit are at work in us. We may not see them. We may not feel them. But they are there.
- Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.