Sharpen Your Pencil- You’re not Broken

The other day my 3 yo daughter said to me, “Look Mom, I found a pencil, but it’s broken.” Well, the pencil wasn’t broken it was just new and unsharpened!

Instant analogy sprang to mind about how sometimes we might think of ourselves as broken, when really we just need to be sharpened! A pencil has a purpose: to write. We all have a God-given purpose as well. I am reminded of a St. Mother Teresa quote, “I am like a little pencil in God’s hand. He does the thinking. He does the writing.” But how does the pencil get sharp?

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” Proverbs 27:17 (in case the graphic doesn’t show)

The people you surround yourself with can help you reach your new year’s resolutions. Whether they are personal or professional, goals for the body or the spiritual life, a community can help you get and stay on point. This could be the accountability of an exercise buddy/class or a small faith community listening to a podcast together like “Bible in a Year” or “Catechism in a Year” by Fr. Mike Schmitz. Shameless plug, I love that guy!

Suffering can also sharpen our pencil. There is a saying: Your scars are someone else’s signs of hope. As we all struggle through trying to bear the sufferings of this desert world, some of us find that the tough times have brought us to an acute realization of the supernatural. The best things in life aren’t things. God draws us; He draws us close to him. And the greatest blessing in my life has been when I have felt him drawing with me.

If you’ve followed my blog, you know I like to say…put things in God’s hands and you will see His fingerprints! Well, the other thing that can happen in God’s hand is that He may use you to write in the stories of others! And it is an overwhelming honor to play a little part in God’s plans. I will admit it is hard to bear suffering and I am not holy enough to ask for it like St. Therese the Little Flower, I am holy enough to not be mad at God for the opportunities suffering brings along with it.

“O Mother, it’s very easy to write beautiful things about suffering, but writing is nothing, nothing! One must suffer in order to know! I really feel now that what I’ve said and written is true about everything….It’s true that I wanted to suffer much for God’s sake, and it’s true that I still desire this.” (1) ~St. Therese of Lisieux

In this “Happy New Year” we wish everyone health and happiness. But as the Brother Isaiah song says, “Every good thing is born of a struggle.” He goes on to say, “I see you’re struggling, but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing.” So instead of health and happiness, cupcakes and rainbows, maybe we should instead wish that for every mountain you face you find Love walking by your side. Love made incarnate through your family and friends helping you through the climb. It is not the American way to be anything but independent. We so often want to present ourselves in that perfect light, strong, and with it all together. But behind so many of glossy (and matte) Christmas cards are unseen struggles and shortcomings. So, while we wish for health and happiness what we need to do is pray for each other to increase our confidence in the Lord and His plans for the new year.  

Last year I found a new way to use my Christmas cards to pray for our family and friends. After the Christmas season is over, I reluctantly take down the Christmas cards, but I save them for a bit longer. I write down a family a day in my planner and then that family is my special prayer intention for the day. Particularly, we include them and their needs in our nightly family Rosary. There’s no doubt families can use all the prayer they can get. I know mine can!

Sometimes life is hard, and it’s ok to fall apart! Tacos fall apart and we still love them! (A fond meme, not mine) In seriousness, if you feel broken- you are not- you are probably just being sharpened for a mission! A mission God has specifically assigned to you with perhaps an unavoidably painful preparation. We can’t rewrite our past, but we can write a new chapter, and if we let God be the Author we can write a happy ending beyond our wildest imagination!

Cheers to the New Year, stay sharp!

(1) I also wanted to note: The essence of the Catholic view on suffering is that although suffering in itself is not inherently good, God allows us to suffer for the good of our souls. Suffering refines us and help us to get to heaven if we allow it. 

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