Way back in the early days of TV, there was a comedy duo named, “Burns and Allen,” made up of George Burns and Gracie Allen.
Gracie was portrayed as a bit of a dimwit and yet just below the surface, Gracie possessed a profound and simple wisdom. One of her best lines was, “Never put a period where God puts a comma.” As I reread that line and thought about it, I have been obsessed by the wisdom and insight of this thought. It made me really think about my own life and how often I tried to put periods where God was putting commas.
Let me share with you a few personal examples. When I first become aware that my drinking was getting out of hand, I tried many ways to stop or at least control my drinking such as never drinking before 4:00 p.m., changing from scotch to wine, giving up booze for Lent or at least no booze on Good Friday, and limiting the number of drinks. All of these attempts failed, and I began to believe that just like my dad, I was a drunk and just couldn’t quit. I was putting a period on my struggle with alcohol. But then I was confronted by the Diocese, met an incredible human being who became my sponsor who saved not just my life but my priesthood, Bill D. I began going to AA meetings, got sober and began a whole new and wonderful life. You see, I was going to put a period where God was putting a comma.
Another moment occurred years ago when I was diagnosed with “end-stage kidney disease.” That phrase, “end stage,” ain’t never good, and I was scared. My treatment began with dialysis – first 6 months of dialysis where you go to the dialysis center 3 times a week for treatments, 4 hours each treatment, and three years of peritoneal dialysis, which you do at home on a machine for 8 hours every day. At the end of 3 years, I was getting weaker and was preparing for my death. My quality of life was diminishing. I was putting a period, but God was not.
Out of nowhere, a lady in my parish came to me, said she had been tested and we were compatible and would I take her kidney. WOW! I was overwhelmed that it was 3 ½ years ago I am still here and my life is great. Thankfully, I was not able to put a period where God insisted in putting a comma.
I share these personal stories to remind you that so many of the obstacles, challenges and even perceived failures in life are not the end. Often, that is where God puts the comma.
Many who are struggling with addiction try desperately to “get sober.” They go to 12-step meetings, rehab, work the program, but still have relapses and go to multiple rehabs. They feel stuck in the muck; they want to give up. They want to put a period, however, maybe God is putting a comma, and that comma is hope! Saying don’t give up! Believe in yourself, even in the midst of your struggles and failures because God believes in and loves you, and that love can never be lost.
The idea of “never putting a period where God puts a comma” applies to almost everything in life. Sometimes we want to stop! Give up! Move on! However, God may be saying to us that in this time of pain, crisis, confusion and failure, there is an abundance of grace!
Now, faith is living a mystery; it is being able to live in the question so that you may never know until after the fact if God was putting either a period or a comma, but that is not up to you. Trust God enough to let God decide where to put the comma and where to put the period.
“Never put a period where God puts a comma”