Moving from rural northern New York to my new suburban surroundings in Arizona took me a couple of months to get acclimated to the many changes I encountered, some of which I hadn’t fully anticipated. Slowly, I conquered one small hurdle after another – I got used to being three hours behind my family and friends, learned how to cook a meal consisting of more than Ramen and coffee, and assumed a normal grown-up sleep schedule. Nothing too terribly frightful there. However, the one fear I had over them all came from something I quickly learned I would have to do every day – Arizona driving.
No longer could I rely on two-lane country roads and relatively well-behaved drivers. Although my dad was still only a phone call away for roadside assistance, it became quite a bit trickier to do car diagnostics and directional coaching 2,500 miles from home. My first day off, I was so terrified to leave the driveway of our home that I sat in the car for 20 minutes before I had the courage to pull out onto a six-lane road, about five lanes more than I’m comfortable with. Even then, I only made it about five miles from home before my GPS died, and my nerves made me turn around and head back.
As the year progressed, I grew more confident. I learned what “rush hour” really meant (there is actually very little rushing done), how to change lanes without holding my breath in fear, and I slowly weaned myself off my GPS. My confidence was sky-high, and nothing – not even breakdowns, flat tires or wrong directions – could stop me!
A few days ago however, I was pulling off the interstate and onto the road near my home. First in line for the right hand turn, I took note of the “no turn on red” sign that I see a couple dozen times every week. It was a particularly long red light, and out of nowhere, the car behind me started to honk – a lot. A year ago, this would have caused me to panic, and probably blow through the sign just to make the honking stop. But being the seasoned and confident city driver I was now, I kept my cool and patiently waited for the light, which didn’t seem to want to turn green anytime soon.
One blast after another, longer and louder each time, the honking continued. I glanced in my rearview mirror and noticed the driver, a woman who was on her cell phone and very obviously annoyed with my refusal to budge. My patience quickly deteriorated, my pride overtook and I started to lose my cool. I thought to myself, and not very kindly, “Can’t she see the sign?” My mind screamed, “Cool it, lady!” Finally, after what seemed like forever, the light turned green and I legally (and to prove a point, perhaps a bit leisurely) made the turn. As she trailed behind me, I couldn’t help but gloat a little bit as I knew she was probably seeing the sign and realizing all her honking was for nothing. Way to go, MaryCatherine, you were right!
It wasn’t until I pulled into my driveway and went to grab something out of the trunk that I realized the frame on my license plate stated “Maggie’s Place – Driven By Love” – not what I wanted to see at the moment.
Aside from causing instantaneous guilt, noticing this simple three-word phrase on the back of a car I drive every day, made me stop and think. Am I “driven by love”? Do I live my life driven by the call to love others the way God loves me – even when it is hard, inconvenient or uncomfortable?
Sure, sitting in a car and getting honked at isn’t fun, but in my case, adding pride and arrogance to the mix didn’t result in my desire to love that driver in the least. I certainly wasn’t trying to see God in her; I was more concerned about identifying her fault and error. In retrospect, it served as a great reminder to me of what we do at Maggie’s Place. I am blessed to experience daily, and on a much larger scale, loving unconditionally and out of your comfort zone.
Following God’s call to love is certainly a lot easier said than done. Living in the homes, it can be difficult to remember to allow this love to “drive” our work, our interactions and intentions. Some days are easier than others, and some are just plain difficult. In those moments, I remember how blessed I am to be surrounded by such beautiful examples of love – from the corps member who offers to grab me a cup of my favorite coffee on her way back from errands, to the mom who surprises me with a hug exactly when I need one the most. Even more, I am continually inspired by the moms I live with, who have so much love for their children, and allow that love to be the driving force and deciding factor in all they do – a beautiful example of unconditional and unfailing love.
Wherever the road leads me, I will never again forget what my license plate frame states. By recognizing God’s love in the everyday – the good, the bad, the frustrating, the joyful and the trying – we are catching a small glimpse of the great love He has for us, and the call He has given us.
Father Pedro Arrupe, a Jesuit priest, sums it up beautifully: “Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in Love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in Love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.”
By MaryCatherine Jadlos, MissionCorps Member at The Elizabeth House