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100_0121This is my driveway after a beautiful snow fall. This is what it looked like last Saturday afternoon when my wife and I left home in a blinding snowstorm to drive to Lexington, Kentucky to see comedian Jim Gaffigan perform. You might think it foolish to drive two hours in bad weather for an evening of entertainment. I would have to agree. But, this was a special trip – a birthday surprise for Melinda which I had planned for weeks. And, just in case the roads were bad, I gave myself two extra hours to get there.

Jim Gaffigan was a hoot! He came on stage in jeans and a shirt that were at least a size too small and started his routine talking about fat people. Being the self-deprecating sort, he made fun of himself. Even though I laughed at his humor, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own portliness. I thought to myself, “Maybe this is my sign to get busy and do something about it.”

On Sunday morning we left Lexington and drove back to Lebanon, Ohio and went straight to church for 11 o’clock Mass without going home. We got there a little earlier than normal so I had a few extra minutes to reflect before mass started. I usually follow Matthew Kelly’s advice and pray for inspiration from the Mass: “Lord, please help me to see in this Mass one way in which I can become a better man, disciple, husband, father, son, brother and friend. Amen.” That morning was no different.

It was the first Sunday of Lent and our priest talked in his homily about making sacrifices. Among other things, he specifically mentioned how he’s added a few pounds over the winter and that a sacrifice he needs to make is to eat healthier as well as eat less through fasting during this Lenten season. He pointed out that it takes more than good intentions to make a change in behavior, it takes action.

They say be careful what you pray for. There it was, another sign, plain as day, the one way in which I could become a better person, disciple, husband, father, etc. Of course, I’ve always known this; I just resist taking action to change my behavior.

On the way home from Mass I suggested to Melinda how nice it would be if, while we were away, someone had plowed the eight inches of snow from our driveway. As we approached our house we discovered someone had, indeed, plowed our driveway. But, as I drove down it towards the garage and parking area, I found they had plowed all three hundred feet of it towards the garage and left the snow in piles behind my other car and in front of the garage. I knew whoever did the plowing meant well, but I also knew what I would be doing the rest of the afternoon – digging my car out.

I normally shovel my sidewalks and the parking area in front of my garage after a significant snowfall. If I shovel it when there is only two or three inches of snow, I can easily “plow” it by pushing it to the edges. Not so this afternoon. Nope, I lifted and pitched one shovel full of snow after another for two continuous hours until I could back my car out and have room to turn it around.

During those two hours I had time to think about a lot of things. First, there was, “I probably ought to go to confession after all the bad things I’m thinking about whoever did this to me.” That was followed by, “This is work! I’m not as young as I used to be!” Then, “Young or old, face it buster, you’re just not in as good of shape as you ought to be!” And, then, my mind drifted back to Gaffigan’s jokes about being fat and they suddenly weren’t as funny as they were the night before. And, Father’s comment that it takes more than thinking about losing weight, it means taking action, hit me in the head like a slushy snowball.

Then, because I am so attuned to seeing God work in my life in mysterious ways, what I call “God-moments”, I realized that the dastardly no-good so-and-so who did this was really my “Snow-Plow Angel”. He was the exclamation point at the end of the story. By forcing me to take action, He made it clear that I needed to do more of this, in the form of exercise, to get back to being the better person I wanted to be.

It was nice to be welcomed back to the gym on Monday by some of the guys I haven’t seen in far too long.

“Lord, this year You have been teaching me to trust in You. You know when I need Your help and I thank You for providing it when it’s obvious my ways are not working. Help me to speak Your name, to call on You, when I am tempted to backslide into old, unhealthy behavior. Amen.”

(The Snow Plow Angel was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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