Stepping out and stretching out.

((by Malissa Winkowski))

Since late last fall, I’ve been helping with a project to archive articles Dorothy Day wrote for The Catholic Worker publication.  I get hard copies of articles in the mail about once a month and I digitize them.  “Digitizing” involves simply rewriting the articles in Word, saving the file, and sending it back to the gentleman who sends me the articles, via email.  He looks them over, fixes them up if they need it, and adds the articles to the online Dorothy Day Archive.

When I tell people about this, the first question usually is, “How much do you get paid?”  “Nothing! I love it!” is my usual response.  The reaction to this response varies.  Surely, if I could find a way to get paid for such work (and I’m sure such a career field exists, I just haven’t gone looking for it) I wouldn’t mind it.  But right now getting a chance to read articles written by Dorothy Day that most likely haven’t been seen by too many people in this decade (or, perhaps, several decades prior because they’ve only appeared in print so many several years ago) is payment enough.  It’s a dose of spiritual reading as well a history lesson at the same time.  It’s really exciting.  It’s almost like I’m being let in on a secret.

From one recently digitized article, a certain section keeps haunting me.  Keeps coming back to me and I keep thinking about it.

“……But Peter’s faith was invincible.  God would supply our needs, provided we were generous with our work and sacrifice.  He had never failed any of the saints, and we were all called to be saints, as St. Paul said.  Again he would call our attention to those who should be our leaders and teachers, the saints……Also, such a crisis, he would point out hopefully, could lead us to a truer practice of poverty so that we would set a better example to the destitute……”

This was an article in particular about Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement with Ms. Day.  His philosophy of work predates any kind of back-to-the-land movement of the 60’s and 70’s, as well as any localvore ideals and sentiments any of us subscribe to today.  In the paragraph prior to the one quoted, Ms. Day wrote about the anxiety she and others living in the Mott Street House of Hospitality (in New York City) experienced over scraping enough money together to pay bills, keep the soup kitchens full of food, etc.

What hit me about that excerpt is the faith required (demanded!) for living your love out loud even when it seems you have nothing to offer.  The Catholic Worker folks chose a life of poverty with the purpose of serving the poor.  Dorothy Day didn’t go into the slums of New York with a million dollars (which would’ve been, like, a bazillion dollars back in the Depression) and then served the poor.  She didn’t wait until she had corporate sponsorship or anything akin to that.

I draw inspiration from this.  So many times in my life have I waited to step out in faith.  Waited until I was comfortable enough.  Waited until it seemed a plan was 110% foolproof and failsafe. Waited until I had “arrived.”  Waited until I had attained another skill (while denying the ones I already had) before I offered to help someone.  I don’t dwell on how many opportunities I may have missed.  (And I’m certainly not suggesting people throw every sensible bit of caution to the wind in every single situation.)

Our God is not the God of “Those Who Have It All Together” and I thank Him for that.  He wants to love us, He wants us to love Him, and this relationship will grow into trust, trust, and more trust in Him.  He wants us to trust Him enough to step out farther than we could possibly on our own (because we’re never without Him, never alone).  He wants us to trust Him enough to stretch our limits beyond imagining (because He is limitless).  How this is expressed in every individual varies. He will use you wherever you are.  Physically, mentally, whatever you’ve got.  It all belongs to God, anyway.  All that’s required of us is to give it right back to Him, stepping out of our comfort zones and stretching out to meet Him.

2 thoughts on “Stepping out and stretching out.

  1. Great article malissa. It blesses me to be reminded that we do not have to wait till we have everything in “order” before we step out to do the things the Lord has placed in our hearts. Dorothy Day and the Catholic Worker are such an inspiration.

  2. Beautiful reflections. Truly inspiring reminder about Gods love for us – as we are – and the responsibility we all have to then share our gifts with others.

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