But that definition of "overwhelmed" was outclassed by having four teens with driving licenses and both Paul and I being too ignorant to realize they shouldn't SIMULTANEOUSLY be on OUR insurance policy. Add to that the fact that each kid seemed to be the innocent magnet for every driver operating with half a brain who caused an accident and then scapegoated our teenager, who just HAD to be the one at fault because he or she was - a teen! By the time the fifth had his license and second or third hand vehicle, he also was paying for his own insurance policy.
But then, "overwhelmed" became synonymous with the Dating Game and five young adults falling in love, having his or her heart broken, then finding Someone New and Incredible every other month. We'd just get used to one Heartthrob, his or her name, phone number, and food allergies, and then suddenly we'd have to learn a new name and pray to God we didn't slip and use the previous Heartthrob's name.. Or even, when exhausted and preoccupied, commit the unpardonable faux pas of using the name of the one before that!
The Dating Game of course was trumped by the Wedding and Reception Parade. Paul and I have fond remembrances of teary-eyed brides and grooms, different churches in different cities - even states, various clergymen, Father of the Bride dances and Mother of the Groom dances, unrestrained family joy and exhilaration at wildly differing receptions. Yes, Overwhelming. Trumped of course by the Overwhelming Shock and Awe at the arrival over the years of eleven fantastically different and beautiful grand-children.
Yet, the "Overwhelmings" occasioned by the inevitable growth of toddlers into teenagers into adults with loved mates and children of their own were never even imagined by the young mother (of only three children so far) who slaved over seven loads of wash in a dark basement dungeon.
Nor could she have imagined the other "Overwhelmings": the joy and fulfillment of Paul being ordained a Permanent Deacon while serving as teacher and administrator in city schools, and serving as Director of Deacons. My opportunities to be a Director of Religious Education in the white suburbs, a co-writer of musicals, a Pastoral Associate with African-Americans and Puerto Ricans in the city. The two of us serving as Co-Pastoral Administrators of a city parish and Being Overwhelmed by the scope of the needs of a pediatric clinic and food pantry serving people from every walk of life, race, financial condition, religious tradition, as well as immigrants from around the world. And Being Overwhelmed by various tragedies and deaths.
Slowly our vision widened and deepened from our family's to include concerns for the country and then also to caring for the world. Wars, A.I.D.S, 9/11, hurricanes, tsunamis, homeless veterans, illiteracy, diseases yet uncured, the country's financial crisis and lack of jobs, world-wide famine and lack of clean water, climate change. No, the girl in the dungeon would not have recognized the Paul-and-Mary-to-come. The Paul-and-Mary concerned and involved with first family, then friends, then country, then the world itself. She would have stared at us, perplexed.
The you whom you are now is only partly the you you will become. If today you could see your future, you would be overwhelmed by joy, fear, sorrow, or even awe. The people you have yet to meet or lose, the jobs, paid or volunteer, the journeys you have yet to take, the health crises, the accomplishments, the deepening prayer life, the widening circle of your caring. Your life ahead will be a call to you to rise to the occasion and grow into someone new and amazingly strong, someone with a commitment beyond the confines of his or her home and community, but to the world itself. To give beyond yourself and your own.
As you will. Because from the moment God thought of you, God thought of the perfectly mature, fulfilled, complete human being you could and would become. God knew the way you would walk and the way your life would unfold. Instead of anticipating or fearing the times you will be overwhelmed, think of a totally New Overwhelming: God knows how and when to Overwhelm you with Faith, Hope, Love, Peace, Joy, Patience, Wisdom, and Courage, all the Gifts of the Spirit, whenever and wherever you need them. So, be at peace during every step of your journey. God knows the way. God knows YOU!