Sometimes God's timing seems so beautiful and clear, like the day and the way we meet a friend or the person we'll eventually marry. Or a woman's sudden ability to conceive a much-wanted child. Or the near avoidance of an accident. Those memories and events bring tears of joy and trust to our eyes.
Other times, His timing is so hard to understand - and believe in.
I remember April 2012, and my husband and I on a plane landing in Rome, Italy. Rome, the trip of our dreams, where I'd always wanted to walk on the ground trod by my Italian ancestors, and Paul had always wanted to see one of the cradles of Christianity , where his namesake Paul had preached, been imprisoned, and died - for the love of Jesus Christ.
But after we had scheduled the trip, our son had unexpectedly died. We both thought "What terrible, insane timing, God!" Our loving St. Lawrence parishioners had raised the money for this trip as a gift to us, to thank us for our years as Co-Pastoral Administrators. We'd already had to cancel once, in February, because our son had needed surgery. We could not cancel a second time. So here we were, about to experience the city of our dreams through a haze of shock and paralyzing grief.
We prayed together, asking God how we could - and should - do this. And the same answer came to both of us. This was God's timing, not ours. We would make our time here a pilgrimage,and experience everything as our prayer and God's gift.
Once we'd accepted that God's ways are mysterious and unfathomable, for a precious week, grief lifted enough that we could experience the gift of life itself, radiant with sunshine, lush with flowers. We experienced the fascinating winding alleys, courtyards and fountains, art and ruins, of an ancient civilization. We prayed with wet eyes near the glory of the Pieta, and knelt in awe in Assisi in front of the cross of San Damiano, and its crucified Figure that moved and spoke to St. Francis.
God showed us on that trip that even though part of us wanted to go down into the grave with our son, God chose for us to still experience life abundantly in this world. He had won the victory over death already and would still trample down Death itself one day. God still had work for us to do here while our son already rejoiced with Him in Heaven. We came home renewed. Because we trusted, God had blessed us. Psalm 90: "In the morning, fill us with Your love...Give us joy to balance our affliction."