By Sister Diana Rawlings, ASC

Who knew that the mind of God would speak to me through a 2-year-old?I learned about exercising God’s gift of free will from my great-niece, Naomi.

I was babysitting this energetic child a number of years ago and we were in the living room. We had so much fun playing catch with a medium-sized rubber ball. Yes, she missed the catch and the ball rolled under the couch. I could not reach it but I could lift up one end of the couch and if Naomi would bend down and get it, we would be back to our fun.

I lifted up the end of the couch and asked her to get the ball. She said no. I asked her again a bit more firmly. She said no. I asked her a third time with a tone of pleading. She said no. I thought to myself, “well, that little pooh-head! Come on Naomi, I can’t do this myself, don’t you want to help me?” She said no.

I communicate reasonably well and have influenced people in the past, so I was confident that if I just hit the right combination of words and tone, she would obey me and we could get back to the fun.

With renewed commitment, I tried again using flattery, coaxing, sweet talk, motivation, wheedling and finally a threat to get her to help me. “Naomi, your mom will be really disappointed to know that you didn’t help me when you could.” She said no. (In hindsight I realize that is so typical of Catholic guilt!) Apparently, I had met my match in someone who would not be influenced by me.

I put down the couch, sat on it and took a deep breath, peeved that I could not persuade this 2-year-old to help me. Again, I thought, “that little pooh-head!” I gasped with a staggering insight. Oh my gosh, is this what it’s like for God when I say no?

Through events and various people, God asks to work through me for God’s people. Like me with the couch, all I needed was a little help from Naomi but instead she said no just because she could. All God needs from me is a little help to bring about the great Kin-dom. God loves me, speaks with flattery, motivation and sweet talk all in encouragement to bring about the Good News. I sometimes use my free will and actions and choose not to respond to God’s invitation to me. Just like Naomi who said no because she could, I say no to God just because I can. I use this astonishing gift of free will to be defiant, prideful and rude to God, the Source of all Being.

The life-altering conversion from this experience is about Lent. The verb convert means “to transform or turn around.” Lent is a time to turn toward God, described by the late spiritual writer, Nan Merrill, as Most Gracious, Divine Presence, Eternal Flame of Love and Beloved. I’ll think on this next time I want to say no to God.

By the way, I wonder if God ever wanted to call me a “poo-head.”

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