Thursday, March 13, 2014

Eternal Sunshine

Yesterday I finally made it to confession. My goal for lent was to go every 2 weeks or so. But that stretched out to 3 weeks, and then after almost a month I faced the facts that I'm sinking in some of my habitual sins and God's grace is the life preserver I need to get out of that mucky pool.

In the confessional, after I finished listing all of my failings, the priest said something that really struck me. He told me: "Life is so short but after death will be an eternity, which is beyond what we can imagine! The struggles we face now pale in comparison. Keep your mind fixed on eternity, offer up any struggles that may come up and just keep persevering." I think those are some of the most encouraging words I have heard in a long time! When I think how this life is a mere droplet compared to the vast ocean of eternity, I suddenly feel the strength and motivation to continue in the midst of any hardship or temptation that might strike.


A song I was listening to recently also moved me with a similar theme. All Sons & DaughtersCalled Me Higher is about how we could get all comfy in our little lives, we could hide away, be safe, never do anything different or challenging. But God has called us to more! So much more! We can't even imagine.

Furthermore, today's readings spoke of depth that goes beyond ourselves and our worries. In the first reading Queen Esther cries out in a desperate prayer: "O my Lord, you only are our king; help me, who am alone and have no helper but you...O Lord, [who] took our ancestors...for an everlasting inheritance, and you did for them all that you promised." The psalm continues: "For You have exalted your name and your word above everything. On the day I called, you answered me, you increased my strength of soul....The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever." Finally, in the Gospel Christ affirms this omnipotence and faithfulness of the Lord, "for everyone that asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened." God is infinite and in our short life on earth seeking Him will be the most fulfilling thing we could do. We will always be able to know Him better. 

A life focused on God and eternity with Him does not mean a floaty, mystical, out-of-touch existence. On the contrary, it makes us live out the nitty gritty daily details with more purpose and love. And that is just the thing. Sometimes I try to fight the reality that life is nitty, gritty, tedious and repetitive. But that just leads to anxiety, fear and avoidance...and sin. Accepting these facts of life, with the realizations that it is a tiny portion of our whole existence and doing even the smallest tasks with our God-centered mindsets is the most freeing thing!


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

March Forth!

The gloom of winter goes on, with a few days of sunshine foreshadowing spring here and there. Sometimes the stress of work, the prevailing cold weather, the ho-hum of the mundane routine, and the heart-ache of being in a long distance relationship, makes me quite tempted to give up at life. Sometimes it seems like too much for my little self to carry.

But then, I step back. Wait a second. In the words of admiral Akbar, " It's a trap!" I've walked into a trap again; one that seemed so true, but really it was a wolf in sheep's clothing, a lie disguised as warm fuzzies. Giving-up and self-pity and complaining appeared to be the easy way out, or at least the only way to cope. But behind the appearances is a rotten sham, seeming to comfort in the short term, but corrupting and sapping all goodness in the long run!

So what is the alternative? When I step back and look at the big picture, I imagine a camera zooming away from me, up to the sky and further and further up into space. I fade from a dot to a speck to nothing in the scheme of the world, or the solar system, or the cosmos!

cos·mos

 [koz-muhs, -mohs] 
noun, plural cos·mos, cos·mos·es for 2, 4.
1.
the world or universe regarded as an orderly, harmonious system.
2.
a complete, orderly, harmonious system.
3.
order; harmony.

I realize that while I get caught up in my own miseries, self provoked or otherwise, there is a masterful, miraculous harmonious system going on around me. Every atom, every molecule, every
cell, every organism, every ecosystem, every galaxy, is moving to a rhythm, like a choreographed
dance. It's organized. Deliberate. Beautiful. Mind-blowing! But before I get off on a tangent about  "cosmic dancing," that starts to sound a little new age, let me get to the point. The best part of all this is that all this motion comes from the one who made it move in the first place. There is a all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God that knows the ins and outs of every piece of this huge puzzle. In other words, He's got it under control! This whole mental exercise of viewing myself from outer space helps me to remember that God is the boss. I don't see the full, unbiased picture of reality. But He does! Remembering that reminds me I need to surrender my childish pride, my over-complicated mind games, and to just simplify: all I need to do is put Him first and trust Him. Just as everything in the universe is designed to act in a certain way, we were designed be loved by God and to love and trust Him back. Period. Accepting our humble place is so freeing and fulfilling!

"To be near God is my happiness, to place my hope in God the Lord." - Ps 72 

All this reflection is what has stood out to in my prayer time, bi-weekly adoration and discussions with friends over the last few months. All we really need to worry about is placing God first, being open to Him and being willing. It is a constant battle to seek Him first, but through that everything else begins to fall in place and it is what gives us the persevere and patience to keep going our daily lives.

This March 4th, which happens to be Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday), the day before lent, I am inspired to keep marching forth! (Pun completely intended!)  I can't believe lent is already here. But the timing couldn't be more right. After weeks of slipping into bad habits, including: eating way too much junk food, staying up way to late, getting grumpy over work, slacking off with prayer; it is time to refocus.   Today's readings provided a nice little formula for getting back on track this lent:

"Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace the Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed." - 1 Peter 1