by Arminda Au
You are driving and see a homeless man holding a sign. You are in the left lane waiting for the green light where he is standing on the traffic island. You decide to give him your unused Subway gift card. You roll down your window and happily hand it to him. He says a hasty thank you, then asks, “Is there enough on the card?” What is your first reaction?
This happened to me recently. Initially, I was taken aback. My surprise quickly gave way to feeling annoyed. The man had some nerve. He showed little appreciation for my generous gesture and wanted more. (It did cross my mind that he probably had been given gift cards before with little left on them.) Nonetheless, I thought him impolite and ungrateful to ask.
After a few moments of feeling peeved, I began to view the incident much differently. I got off my high horse and came to see I am no different from this man. When talking to God, I probably come off as an ingrate, too. Not all the time. I do say prayers of gratitude and praise. But I often ask for more.
This is not about feeling guilty when we ask for things in prayer or not being grateful. If I may be bold enough to say, perhaps this incident gave me a very, very tiny glimpse from God’s perspective. Grace allowed me to understand my encounter with the homeless man through God’s eyes. He hears us asking, wanting, expecting, even when He blesses us with much more than we need. I imagine God does not get huffy or offended when we ask for more. God is ever patient, generous, and loving with me – with all of us – even when we respond to His gifts with, “Is there enough?”
This realization prompted me to look anew at an Ignatian prayer I learned of a few years back. When I first came across it, I thought it was unrealistic for regular, everyday Christians like me. It was not just something I could never attain, but something for which I didn’t even aspire. It was an esoteric prayer of an extremely holy person, who lived a long time ago during much simpler times. I could not relate the prayer to my complicated, modern day life and faith.
As with all things bestowed by the Holy Spirit, the prayer is timely and relevant as ever. I now appreciate it. The prayer helps imbue my conversations with God with gratitude, humility, and above all, surrender.
Here is the prayer.
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
You have given all to me.
To you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.
There is enough – perhaps something to keep in mind when we are called to give, pray, and sacrifice this Lenten season.
Arminda Au lives outside Los Angeles with her husband and two sons. She was an IVC LA volunteer serving at Get On the Bus last year and is now a part-time IVC LA, Program Associate. She previously worked in public policy.