(The following is the letter I wrote to friends on the occasion of my 40th birthday.)
I just celebrated my 40th birthday and I’m happy to report that I am still here. My Aunt Arlene (my father’s sister) flew out from New Jersey to be a part of the celebration, and we were all very glad to have her. There was a small party with a barbecue and an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen. It was a fun time for everyone.
I am still living in my apartment in Moorhead, and I am working at St. Francis de Sales Church where I am an administrative assistant. I still teach the Catholic Faith during the winter months to people entering the Church at Easter Vigil, and I take my turn from time to time as cantor at Mass. Mom and I have planted a vegetable garden in the community garden on the edge of town. My cat is well and everything seems to be pretty much O.K.
All is very ordinary, but nothing is truly ordinary with God. Everything has a depth to it, a life not its own, and a glory that surpasses everyday life as much as a real dog surpasses a stuffed one. The trees outside my window are alive with a life that comes from the Holy Spirit, the Lord of life, that bathes them with playfulness and inner luminescence. Their leaves are green, and the green is vibrant, possessing a beauty that touches the onlooker in the depth of his heart. Nothing is ordinary; nothing could ever be ordinary—for God lends his glory freely, and every creature under the Sun drinks deeply of it.
I wonder how it is that someone can step outside on an early summer day and then go back in and talk about politics, work, school, what have you, as if nothing else were more important. I do pay attention to the news, because I’m concerned about our country and the direction it’s heading, but my caring is not an all-consuming worry; rather, it’s a concern, one that fits into a larger picture of my life, and the larger picture of my life is informed by the glory of God. God is the backdrop into which everything else fits; and most of the time, everything else seems relatively small. I know where my next meal is coming from, and that is enough. Tomorrow I’ll worry about tomorrow.
I guess you could say I am more than “O.K.” I am very happy. Those of you who know something of my background will know that “O.K.” and “happy” did not come easily to me; this is the culmination of many years of struggle and difficulty. I am very grateful to God that happiness has come into my life, and I do not take it for granted. But it is time for happiness, just as there was a time for suffering. I am grateful for the suffering as well as the happiness; in fact, I might even go so far as to say that true happiness is impossible unless you’ve suffered something. So it is that suffering is truly a gift. We should not shrink from it; if it unavoidably comes our way, we should allow it into our lives with trust and let God work through it. Thank God for everything, and be not afraid.
Affectionately yours in Christ,