At that time, my wife Anna worked for hire at weaving cloth, the kind of
work women do. When she sent back the goods to their owners, they would
pay her. Late in winter on the seventh of Dystrus, she finished the cloth
and sent it back to the owners. They paid her the full salary and also gave
her a young goat for the table. She said to me, “It was given to me as a
bonus over and above my wages.” Yet I would not believe her, and told her
to give it back to its owners. I became very angry with her over this. So
she retorted: “Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous
acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!” (Tobit 2: 11-12, 14)
My work as a chaplain brings me into regular contact with folks who are in transition. Whether it be a change in physical or cognitive health, moving from home to assisted living, becoming the care-receiver instead of the care-giver, life transitions bring unsettling change that leaves the person feeling unanchored in identity and functioning.
In the Bible passage quoted above, Tobit had to cope with a loss of control in his life when he lost his vision. Always regarded as a good and charitable man, when he had to depend on the kindness and care of others, he became morose. Relying on his wife to work and earn a living for the both of them was too humiliating on top of being blind. Anna calls him on his bad attitude when she says, “Your true character is finally showing itself!” (Tobit 2:14).
Having a sense of mastery of one’s life and functioning is a normal part of being human. It ensures some sense of psychological safety and identity. Whenever we lose control over some important aspect of our lives, we may feel threatened or fearful. When mastery over one’s own life slides into trying to control others to feel safe, then one’s relationships can suffer – especially one’s relationship with God. Tobit realizes this, and he turns his emotional energies away from his blindness and loss of community standing toward remorse for hurting his wife.
In Ignatian spirituality, whatever we cling to and value more highly than God is to be surrendered, no matter how intrinsically good it might be. We are not asked to surrender all control over our lives to God or to others, but rather “loose” control.
Sister Ann Marie Wainright
Sister Ann Marie Wainright is a Benedictine Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. Originally from New Orleans, Louisiana, she worked as a CPA for many years before earning dual masters degrees in counseling and pastoral studies. Sister Ann Marie is interested how people encounter God in their daily lives and how they use their faith and spirituality in meeting difficult challenges.