Mother Teresa – what her life teaches us about faith, calling and obedience

by Christine Sine

Joy Lenton

Mother Teresa of Calcutta at a pro-life meeting on July 13, 1986 in Bonn, Germany

Mother Teresa of Calcutta at a pro-life meeting on July 13, 1986 in Bonn, Germany

Mother Teresa has always fascinated me as a multi-faceted woman with seeming contradictions: small of stature and large of heart, enigmatic and charismatic, a shining light for others who spent her latter years in dark-night-of-the-soul territory.

On this, her feast day, we celebrate a woman of great faith, an Albanian nun and missionary who fervently lived out her devotion to Jesus and those whom she ministered to. She is widely admired as a carrier of compassion who lived out the Gospel, revealing the love-in-action character of Christ to a needy world.

She has inspired many with her humility and grace as she transparently breathed out the beauty of God’s hand on her life. Beatification came in 2003 and canonization was granted on September 4th, 2016. Her strong sense of duty, ardent desire to live out her calling and swift obedience to her Lord and Saviour are a wonderful example to follow.

We look at people like Mother Teresa and wish we could do more, be more, serve as she did. Yet each of us has an individual calling on our lives that can change over time. Our personal calling can often be challenging to discern and live out. It requires a surrendered heart, mind and life, and few knew this better than Mother Teresa.

When we submit to God, we develop a growing dependence on Him in a relationship marked by faith, love and trust. Mother Teresa eschewed worldly comforts and recognition. She lived a life of poverty and deprivation but she was content with what she did have – the joy of her Saviour’s presence and love, and her eagerness to support others.

Her burning passion was to help outcast, sick and impoverished souls, offering them the love, care and compassion of Christ. It was no easy task. For years she fought her own impatience and the seeming intransigence of her clerical elders, as she implored to be allowed to begin “His work” in the founding of the Missionaries of Charity. Now her influence is worldwide, with centres in many countries.

In my early days of faith I became involved with street evangelism and city missions. My calling seems to have evolved into one of predominantly staying put to pray and encourage others. I look wistfully at those who travel to distant lands to convey the fragrance of Christ, who work with their hands in a practical way.

It feels like Mother Teresa and I are worlds apart, until God reminds me of the wonderful words she shared, as He spoke His wisdom to and through her. Those words are still being noted and quoted. He reveals that thinkers, creatives, writers and word-smiths have great potential to touch lives in the here and now and leave a lasting legacy to come.

Lest we become discouraged by the paucity of our own faith-walk, we can be reassured there is room for the quiet contemplative, the extrovert, introvert, the physically active and those whose lives may be confined and constrained by chronic illness, for rich and poor alike as we all reveal varying aspects of the glory of God to others.

In the body of Christ we cannot all be eyes, a mouth or a hand, nor busy feet, but we each have a unique offering to bring to the table of grace, a place no-one else can fill. Our heart attitude matters more than our skill. God will fill in the gaps of our insufficiency as only He can.

Imperfect and inadequate as it may seem, you and I can offer more than we know, including: a listening ear, a hand to hold, intercessory prayer, a word of hope and encouragement which reveals Christ’s love to others. We play our part in God’s plans as He writes His greater narrative in people’s lives.

The quote below (attributed to Mother Teresa) reveals how our sense of smallness need not detract from our ability to shine the light of Christ in a dark world:

I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.

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jennethsuzanne September 4, 2016 - 11:18 pm

Dear Joy, thank you so much for this much needed message!! That we are not to compare, but to live out the grace of our unique calling which looks different for everyone! I am greatly blessed through your comforting and inspiring words, to embrace the expression of the Body in its fullness and to enjoy being the part God has for me to be. Blessings, Jenneth

Joy Lenton September 5, 2016 - 8:17 am

Dear Jenneth, we have much to learn from our spiritual forebears, don’t we? And as we each seek to leave a footprint of Christ in this world, a lingering fragrance of His presence, it’s good to know that it will be a unique offering which only we can bring. It is an awesome privilege and responsibility as we try to be faithful with our small part. We are one Body in Christ, though with multiple roles, a cohesive whole in terms of spreading the Gospel message to others. I’m grateful to have been a means of blessing to you, just as you are for me as you share your beautiful words, poetry and prayers.

Jody Lee Collins September 5, 2016 - 9:33 am

Joy, this is a lovely tribute….I like the ‘pencil’ quote at the end. I’ve never heard all of it, so it made me smile.

Joy Lenton September 5, 2016 - 12:08 pm

It’s a favourite one for me, Jody, and pretty apt for writers, too! There were so many I could have chosen from, because Mother Teresa’s words were both prolific and profound in their wisdom and spiritual insight. Thank you for letting me know this tribute spoke to you. Bless you.

BettieG September 5, 2016 - 6:38 pm

Dear Joy, I loved this thought: “Our heart attitude matters more than our skill. God will fill in the gaps of our insufficiency as only He can.” Together with the pencil quote from Mother Theresa, these words encouraged my heart to keep bringing my offering to God, no matter how small it might seem to me. Thank you so much for always offering hope-filled words! –Blessings!

Joy Lenton September 10, 2016 - 3:31 am

Dear Bettie, it’s a reassuring thought, isn’t it? We can all be encouraged to bring our small, imperfect offering and watch with amazement as God multiplies it into so much more in His capable hands. May you continue to be blessed and encouraged as you live and move and have your being in Him. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. Bless you, friend!

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