Life throws hard punches at everyone, but have you ever wondered how some people are never defeated?
For every expatriate working in Saudi Arabia–the annual vacation is the highlight of the year. I too was looking forward to my trip back to India, which always took place around Christmas.
There were just a few weeks left for the trip when I received an email from my family. Nancy, a close friend of ours, had called them to say that Jesus was asking for special prayers for my vacation. Of course, I added it to my daily prayer list.
Nothing eventful happened during most of my stay. The weeks at home went by quickly. Christmas came and was celebrated with the usual gusto. After a month and a half of fun-filled days, my vacation days were almost over. Nothing extraordinary occurred, and the message was slowly forgotten.
Two days before my return trip, I decided to start packing my bags. The first item on the list was my passport, and I could not locate it anywhere! Then came a numbing realization: I had taken it to the travel agent that morning to confirm my flight, and it was still in the pocket of the jeans I had worn. However, I had earlier thrown these jeans in the laundry basket without checking the pockets!
I ran to the washing machine and opened the lid. The jeans were whirling around. I pulled them out as fast as I could and pushed my hand into the front pocket. A feeling of dread spread over me as I pulled out the wet passport.
The official seals on most of the inside pages were damaged. Some of the travel stamps were displaced and, most distressingly, the ink on the Saudi entry visa was smudged too. I had no idea what to do. The only other option was to apply for a new passport and try to get a new entry visa upon arrival in the capital city. However, I didn’t have enough time left for this. My job was on the line.
I laid the passport open on my bed and turned on the ceiling fan, hoping to dry it out. I told the rest of my family what had happened. As usual, we joined together in prayer, entrusted the situation to Jesus, and asked Him for guidance. I also called Nancy to tell her about the mishap. She started praying for us too; there was nothing more that we could do.
Later that night, Nancy called me to say that Jesus had told her His angel would see me through to Riyadh! Two days later, finding strength in prayer, I said goodbye to my family, checked in my luggage, and boarded my first flight.
At the Mumbai airport where I changed flights, I joined the line for the immigration clearance at the international terminal. Feeling a bit anxious, I waited with my passport open. Thankfully, the officer barely glanced down before absent-mindedly stamping the page and sending me off!
Filled with divine grace, I felt at peace. After the flight landed in Saudi Arabia, I continued to pray as I collected my baggage and joined one of the long lines at the immigration checkpoint. The line moved slowly as the officer carefully examined each passport before stamping it with an entry visa. Finally, it was my turn. With my passport opened to the proper page, I walked toward him. At that very moment, another officer walked up and started a conversation with him. As he was immersed in the discussion, the immigration officer stamped my passport with the entry visa, barely even glancing down at the pages.
I was back in Riyadh, thanks to my guardian angel, who had “led me through the fire” at just the right moment.
Undoubtedly, the trip boosted my relationship with my guardian angel. However, Jesus underlined yet another lesson for me: I am being led by a living God who foresees every puddle in my path. Walking hand in hand with Him, listening to His directions and obeying them, I can handle any obstacle. “When you turn to the right or when you turn to the left, your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it”’ (Isaiah 30:21).
If Nancy had not been listening to God’s voice, and if we had not been praying as instructed, my life might have swerved off track. Every Christmas since then, every trip back to my home country serves as a fond reminder of God’s leading providence and protective embrace.
Zacharias Antony Njavally holds a Master's degree in Communication & Journalism and has worked as a journalist, public relations officer, and marketing director in India and abroad. He has been involved in the Charismatic renewal for many years and lives in Bangalore, India.
I was driving home when I noticed two street signs that seemed incongruous. The train station and shop signs were pointing in the wrong directions; the exact opposite ones, to be precise. If I were a tourist, a traveler who is not familiar with the suburb, I would have followed the sign and got lost. I guess somebody had moved the street signs as a prank or even as an intentional deception. In our walk with the Lord too, we need to know who is navigating us—God, ourselves, others, or the evil one. If we are not aware of our surroundings, we can easily get lost or misled. This Lent, whose voice will we listen to? Judas…the crowd…Pilate…or Jesus…?
To be good at anything, we have to put time, effort, and practice into it. The same applies to our preparation for eternity. How well are we going to do at the end of year exams if we have put little or no time towards studying during the year? Similarly, how well will we stand up on judgment day when we are held accountable for our lives? In our preparation period on earth for eternity, how much of our life was spent in prayer, good works, and sacrifice? Our Lord paid the ultimate price for our salvation, but we have to play our part. As He has graciously allowed us to be part of that sacrifice, let us not waste this valuable opportunity. He, through Calvary, has given us a chance to be part of His redemption, to be part of His sanctity, consequently allowing mere humans to be called into sainthood. What a privilege! As my mother would always remind us, children, this life of ours on earth, short or long, is but a preparation period, the springboard to eternity. How we fare in the structure of eternal life will be determined not only by Jesus’ death and resurrection, but by every thought, word, and deed we perpetrated during the time we spent on earth.
If your sacrifices are dragging you down and causing you to dread Lent—take heart. Our Lady at Fatima gave the children a prayer which offers compelling reasons to sacrifice. Her words may help dispel your Lenten dreads. The prayer begins: “O Jesus, it (this sacrifice I am making) is for love of You.” Why not borrow those words and make them your own? Telling Jesus you are doing this hard Lenten thing for love of Him may remind you why you are denying yourself in the first place: you are making room in your heart, so that you may love Him more. Further, the prayer helped the children offer their sacrifices for “the conversion of sinners.” You can do the same. When you make a Lenten sacrifice, offer it for a specific loved one who is living far from God. “O Jesus, this is for love of You, for the conversion of......” Praying in Our Lady’s words will not lessen the difficulty of your sacrifices; but, because it sweetens them with love for Jesus and for lost souls, her words may truly help to dispel your Lenten dreads.
I am not one of those holy souls who look forward to Lent. However, I do have a few friends and family members who do. So, I try to take note of why that is the case. Just last week, my mom mentioned she was looking forward to Lent so she could invite her band, who are all senior citizens, to her parish fish fry. She said she’s really looking forward to it, since most of them aren’t Catholic but have mentioned that they like attending fish fries. After enjoying their traditional fish and chips, my mom is planning on reserving a room in the parish hall so the band can make music together after dinner. They call themselves the Silver Foxes and often visit nursing homes together to spread a little joy. My mom is a joyful evangelist, even at age 80! And she has unlocked the secret that Lent is for more than making penitential acts, but it is a time for growing the Kingdom of God by growing the Body of Christ.
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