That was my reaction when deadline for this column came and went, and the only thing I had to show was a draft that has since been deleted because it wasn’t worth letting anyone read. The subject of that column was a very dissatisfying experience in a restaurant, which I compared with some unwelcoming Catholic parishes I have been to, and how a warm welcome helps makes visitors feel at home, while inhospitality drives prospective parishioners away. It’s a topic worth writing about, but my words about it were whiny, so I erased them.
The same day as that unpleasant visit to the restaurant, I spent a wonderful two hours at Canyonlands National Park. I managed to be on the mountain just after sunrise between rainstorms, so the light was beautiful. The birds also were very cooperative about being photographed, and I added seven new bird species to my list. In addition, I saw a coyote – the only one I’ve seen in the wild – and a chipmunk was kind enough to pose for a cute picture as well. That time in nature soothed my soul, but didn’t give me any new revelations about faith to share.
Friday after work I wandered up City Creek Canyon, but the only bird that paused long enough for a photo was a spotted towhee, a species I’ve photographed at least a dozen times. I did take two landscape photos and one of a tarantula – like the coyote, I believe it’s the first time I’d ever seen one in nature. Then, as the sun set and I returned to my car, a Steller’s jay perched atop a tall pine tree. The light was so dim that the photo depicts only the bird’s silhouette, but you can tell it’s a Steller’s jay because of his crest.
Dissatisfied, I nonetheless posted the four photos on Facebook with the caption “The only photos worth sharing from tonight’s 90-minute walk up City Creek Canyon.”
It was a friend’s comment that woke me up. He replied, “Oh, darn, only 4 great shots?”
While “great” may be overstating things, his comment did lift my spirits. It also caused me to reflect on how selfish I’ve been. God gave me an amazing day on my trip through Canyonlands National Park. It was relaxing in that I wasn’t on any sort of deadline, rejuvenating in that I had time to pray in beautiful surroundings, and as a bonus I got two dozen good photos. I did remember to give thanks to God for the experience, but then the very next day my response was, “Hey! Only four photos? You need to give me more!”
That realization gave me new eyes to look upon why I was having difficulty with this column. God has given me amazing experiences to write about – one topic I considered was the myriad ways in which Catholics in our diocese live out their faith, from building churches to advocating for the rights of immigrants and refugees to praying for the unborn. I also could write about insights I’ve gained from my theology class, in which we’re studying Augustine’s “Confessions” and Aquinas’ “Summa Theologica.” All these possible choices God has given me, but I’ve just gobbled them up and looked for what else he’s going to present me with.
I think, I hope, I pray that my difficulty with this week’s column is God telling me that I need to do my part in this effort. He has given me the raw material to work with, but I am required to do the work of reflecting on these experiences so that I can share their meaning.
Lesson learned, God. Now, what are you giving me for next week’s column?
Marie Mischel is editor of the Intermountain Catholic.