A common theme that has weaved itself through my entire life, but especially in the past three years, has been that of waiting. The other night on the phone, my friend observed that “much of life is waiting”—and it is. I’m sure most of you are in some sort of waiting stage right now, whether it involves your family or other relationships, your career, your spiritual life, or any other variety of life’s uncertainties.
During my three years of working toward my undergraduate degree in communications and writing, I had a burning (often antsy) desire to study theology (a desire which originated in the eighth grade). Waiting for that opportunity to come in graduate school took a significant amount of patience—and waiting.
One of my favorite quotes is from Fr. Robert Barron. He says, “God sometimes delays in answering prayers. Why? He wants the heart of the pray-er to expand so as to receive what God wants to give.”
The Holy Spirit often tries to stretch our hearts. Think about physical stretching for a moment. When we are out of shape and inflexible, stretching can be quite painful. Our muscles and tendons often ache at the mere thought of expanding them beyond their limits—challenging them to move in ways they haven’t before. Spiritual stretching works in much the same way. Tears and physical aching can even accompany the process involved when God tries to ready us for greater things to come in our lives. Just like in physical stretching, in spiritual stretching it is often hard to see progress or the fruit of our efforts (and the Holy Spirit’s efforts) to grow and improve ourselves. But we must have patience in the waiting.
When God stretches our hearts, He is doing so with good reason! He is trying to make room for something, or rather, Someone—Himself. God expands our hearts so He can fill them with more of His love, with more happiness, more peace, more trust in His will. The true beauty is that after much trial and stretching, we often find ourselves feeling gloriously empty and open to receive His outpouring of graces. But it can be easy for us to forget that these graces are gradually coming to us through the stretching, and that emptiness, though it can feel painful, is only a step toward receiving the fullness of what God wants to give us.
If God is stretching your heart, pray for endurance, patience, and hope for what is to come when He fills it. Pray for an overflow! If you do not feel the stretch right now, pray for it. Challenge yourself to ask for the spiritual stretching. Beauty is pain, right? Spiritual stretching pays off in the end—big time.