By Christmas afternoon, the nine of us had attended Mass, enjoyed a sumptuous Christmas feast, and exchanged presents. The whole group piled into two cars and headed to the movie theater to see Marley and Me. What a fun movie! Of course, it probably helped that we have our own “Marley” at home. The animal shelter named our Labrador mix Marley but we changed her name to Athena when we brought her home. After seeing the movie, I now understand why she initially earned the Marley moniker. There is something about that breed that just exudes mischief. Do all Labradors find lingerie tasty?
The movie explores much more than the exploits of a rogue Labrador. John and Jenny Grogan move from being a couple of “yuppies” to parents of three. Their values and priorities mature throughout the story. Jenny starts out with a checklist of events and accomplishments that she feels are required for a successful life. Several years into the marriage, John asks Jenny how she is doing on her life’s checklist. After all, the dog, living in snowy Pennsylvania, and having three kids were not on her list. She responds with great wisdom. She has tossed the list. John is right. The dog, the snow, and three kids were not on her list. But what she has is so much better than anything on her list.
I love that scene. The movie never mentions God or Divine Providence, but that is really what Jenny is talking about. We can try to control everything and come up with all kinds of plans and schemes for our lives. Yet if we think we are really in charge we are deluding ourselves. If we trust our lives to God’s will and quit insisting on imposing our own will, we will find that God will provide so much more than we could have imagined for ourselves. On the one hand, it seems so obvious that an all-knowing and all-loving God would have the perfect plan for our lives. On the other hand, the pride inherent in our fallen human nature makes it difficult to humbly submit to this Divine plan. We prefer to stumble along towards our own agenda.
As we resolutely march into the new year, may we do so with the humility of God’s obedient children. God’s gifts of grace far exceed anything our human efforts can fashion. May our hearts be open to accept these gifts.