My friend, Kimberly (Catholic Family Vignettes) has a wonderful post, "Bigger bolder..." where she talks about faith and the knowledge that to have faith, one must be tested in it. Faith, she says, is a gift. This is so true and she says it so beautifully. It reminded me of this:
And one of the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a dumb spirit; and wherever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able." And he answered them, "O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me." And they brought the boy to him; and when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, "How long has he had this?" And he said, "From childhood. And it has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us." And Jesus said to him, "If you can! All things are possible to him who believes." Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, "I believe; help my unbelief!" And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse; so that most of them said, "He is dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. (St. Mark 9:17-27)
I always loved this story because it is so real. At a certain level, we know that Jesus can do anything He wants. However, there is this inner critic that constantly comes around when we're at our most vulnerable and whispers, "Really? Is He really going to pay any attention to you? Truly?" For some reason, that inner critic seems to trump everything else. That's why I love the response of the father: I believe, help my unbelief - help me get rid of this inner critic that says You can't or won't do it.
Jesus lovingly and compassionately answered that request by delivering the boy of an unclean spirit and setting him on a new path with his father. I know sometimes I forget to ask Jesus for that help to believe. Sometimes I feel as though after all these years, I should know better and shouldn't have to ask. But the inner critic is strong and the spiritual battle, I suspect, will continue until my last breath. This is why I will always need to ask for faith boosters. We have been given an opportunity to humble ourselves before God in our need, knowing that when faith comes, it indeed is a gift.
One last thing. Be careful about praying for patience. We learn by experience and I discovered that when I was younger. I asked for patience and by golly, I was thrust into the most exasperating situations that left me no choice but to be patient. (And waiting until I was 39 before marrying for the first time was just part of it...) Still, I learned lessons that strengthened my spirit and matured me in surprising ways. Asking, and submitting to His will - will help us conform to the image of God's Son.
And along the way, I do believe that inner critic is going to be left out in the cold.