Listen with the ear of your heart

For nearly a year, my dear hubby has been having unusual difficulty at work. Unusual because he is one of the most affable fellows you’ll ever meet, and yet he could not seem to “click” with the new bosses who ended up above him during one of those corporate shuffles that happen every so often.

He is a very hard worker, a exceedingly bright and energetic, someone who has always left his mark. The people below him love working for him. The people above him have always appreciated his broad experience and tireless output…until, as I said, the past 9 months or so. Suddenly, nothing seemed to be working and – for the first time in his life – there were clashes-of-personality that seemed to be threatening to overwhelm everything else.

Not good. A bad way to go about making your living. No one wants to go to work every day hating it, particularly when the job is stressful to begin with, and this situation was really beginning to take a toll on my husband’s energy and concentration.

I watched my husband seem to become the captive of a whirlwind, and I couldn’t do anything for him. Encountering a professional discourtesy he’d never before endured, he couldn’t make heads or tails of things. He felt like he was working harder than ever but could not escape the currents that had picked him up and were carrying him, forcefully, where he did not wish to go. Sometimes I would watch him try to express his frustration to me, and I knew he could not even articulate his thoughts, because the whole experience was so new, and so miserable. It was like watching someone trapped in a swirling maelstrom, barely able to break to the surface, bobbing and sinking and straining to stay alive…and having no way to rescue him.

So, of course, I did the only thing I could do, aside from trying to feed him a decent meal when he got home. I prayed. And prayed. And prayed.

But my prayer was unformed. “Please help him with his job…” “Please help him…please show him…” It seemed like my prayers were in a whirlwind of their own – my thoughts went whooooosh, whooooosh, and I found myself depending on St. Paul’s promise that “the spirit intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express…” because I knew that my own prayer was lacking. But I kept praying.

Then Sunday, at Mass, suddenly, my prayer became focused, thanks to the OT reading from 1 Kings 3:9, “Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart…”

Suddenly, I understood that Solomon’s prayer was the one that was also meant for my husband. After all, what had been most frustrating him over the past few months was his confusion: what was it all about?

And so I prayed that he be given an understanding heart, as regards his problems at work, and that with this understanding might come resolution and – finally – contentment, whether at this job or another.

During the homily, our pastor made the point (one that can never be made enough) that the Lord communicates with us, not with thunderbolts and lightening but, as we see in this story, through the people He puts in our path. And it could be anyone – the mailman, the kid who hands you change at the grocer. One of the reasons St. Benedict advised to treat everyone you encounter “as Christ” is because you never know who it is before you that is meant to do or be more than you ever supposed.

So, tonight, my husband is off to run in a corporate fund-raiser for charity. Driving there he called me…”an interesting thing happened to me today,” he said.

What happened was, someone at work said something to him that he really needed to hear, about himself and the way he sometimes responds when frustrated. And…he heard what was being said. He had the understanding heart that allowed him to really hear it – to take in what was being said – and to understand his own role in creating this whirlwind of unhappiness in which he has been revolving. An unanticipated remark, from an unexpected source…even three weeks ago, had this same person said the same words to him, my husband would not have understood it.

But today…his heart heard and understood.

I was so glad! “It’s just like Fr. Mike said last Sunday!” I reminded him, “God uses the people in our path to say to us what we need to hear…and this might finally be the key you need to understanding and fixing the problems you are having, so that you might be able to stay in a job you’d rather not leave!”

The difficulties are not over. My husband got the word and is internalizing it, and I am very proud that he has the humility to do so. But that’s just the first step. Now the hard work of amending and repairing must begin. But I know he is up for that. It is a start.

Prayer has power. It changes things. It enlightens. It heals. Pray in all circumstances. And be mindful after you pray, so that you do not miss the gift that is the answer. And have faith. We, all of us, are not orphans, but children of the King, and no one who asks for a loaf of bread will be given a stone.

I am grateful. And thankful.

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About Elizabeth Scalia