The millstone’s falling now. A few weeks more and that distant whistle will be like the scream of a tornado in our ears. Everything is going to shatter; the walls of glass we thought would protect us are going to be smashed, the golden ropes that tied us together will be tested to see if they were just cheap wire all along, and the sweet sense of togetherness and meaning is going to be drowned out by a world that doesn’t give a shit about anything but flimsy green paper, fancy-shaped boxes on wheels, and titles that you can tack on to your name to make it go on longer.
That’s what getting ready for graduation feels like for me, anyway.
To be honest, I’m not excited at all. I’m just not. There’s nothing exciting about loss. Loss is loss is loss; it sucks even if you get a cookie afterwards. Nothing I’m being offered seems like it’s worth losing what I have. And yet, society will have its way or crush me in the machine of modernity; I can keep moving or get stomped on.
Yes, I know. “Poor you, your life must be so hard, having opportunities.” Having money’s great and all, but what’s a career compared to friendship, to brotherhood? Kind of a crappy exchange rate. Lose people you care about, get a way to earn something that stands for the work you’re doing so that you can even eat and have a roof over your head!
Honestly, there’s nothing I want more than for the mad rush of everything to just stop already. The people I love are about to get swept away in currents that may never re-converge with mine. There’s no time left to live, to love, to heal, to have a good cry or a good laugh. There’s almost no time left even to talk about it all. It’s all slipping away, and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. That’s the worst part; it’s not just that I’m too scared to do something (which is the more usual case), I just literally cannot do anything to stop this.
All the wishing is killing me.
Bottom line, I’m not OK. I mean I’m OK, but I’m just not feeling OK at all. So I’m just asking the Lord right now to keep me going through all the stuff I just don’t care about anymore, to remind me that it’s going to be OK, even if everything I’ve known up until now is about to change so drastically.
I don’t know if anyone even reads this thing anymore. Which is probably for the best. Helps me be more honest. But I’m putting this out there in the hopes of letting y’all know, especially my fellow seniors, that it’s OK if you feel like this too, and I hope you’ll share that with me, because even though it sucks right now, I do still have hope that the Lord knows what he’s doing. And to those of you who are genuinely excited, that’s cool too; kudos to you for having that joy right now. We’ll catch up with you eventually.
For now though, I’m just prepping my hands and my heart for that pain of loss that burns like acid.
So there’s this awesome project that is going on this year, called The Common Year; search that or “Beauty in the Common” and you’ll find it. It’s basically a year-long invitation to find beauty in the everyday, to slow down and rediscover a sense of wonder for not only the magnificent but the common. Follow them on Facebook, Instagram, sign up for e-mail notifications–all of it. OK, plug is over.
Why is this so important? Because there’s a huge need in this world, and in a particular way in this country, to reawaken a sense of wonder.
Here’s the thing: it’s pretty clear our world is a mess. It’s just straight-up broken, with a lot of broken people (myself included) walking around half-asleep, hiding everything that’s real behind a screen, whether real or mental. Either we’re watching a YouTube video on our phones or acting our way through life like there’s a camera on us that just adores us. Life starts to feel bland after awhile of that; we get so used to the over-stimulation that real life seems to be dragging along. It’s difficult to face a world that feels like all its energy has been drained out of it. So we don’t. We cover it up with more and more distractions.
Why? There are a million reasons why a person starts to fall asleep to the beauty of reality–there’s something in it that is painful, the virtual world seems way cooler, cultural pressure–but it all leads to the same restlessness. But it’s always a half-waking sort of restlessness. We find ourselves either dragging through the mundane as it demands our attention or speeding through it just to get past it. Or worse, just ignoring it.
Chesterton recognized it in the 20th century man, and said the average man or woman of his age was just the same, trying any number of distractions and stimuli, no matter how abominable, to try and wake themselves up. “They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.” And I ask you, is there anything so nightmarish as a man who does not see a homeless child because he is busy watching a video about homeless children, or a woman who has forgotten how to have a normal conversation because she is too busy taking pictures of herself to talk? Is there anything quite so horrifying as the thought that, after all, a world man makes on a screen might be more exciting or real than a world God makes of matter?
I invite you, brothers and sisters, be open to the beauty in the mundane. The easiest way to do that is to put away distractions and find some source of magnificent beauty, or beauty that is hard to miss, like a breathtaking scene in nature, or a masterful work of music that lifts your eyes to heaven.
It takes time to see beauty, and I promise you, if you do it right, it will hurt. Beauty pierces the heart with the two-edged sword of truth about our littleness, the grandeur of things not of this world, and the ways in which we have both beautified and wrecked ourselves and the world around us. Don’t be afraid of that; let it cut away the shell you’ve built up against reality, the shell that hides the real you. Stand exposed before the storms of life, and you’ll find anchors against the winds and rain all around you. Beauty has a way of showing up all around you if you have eyes to see it.
Then, once you’ve seen beauty, treasure that encounter with it, and reflect on it. Let it soak you with its truth. Write a story about it, keep a journal, or write a poem, like this one I wrote about this very topic. Tell a friend about it so you can ponder it together and enjoy a moment of closeness together. Find a tune that you think expresses the moment. Beauty ought to beget beauty, even if that beauty is simply the beauty of two souls uniting in wonder and awe, or a single soul moving a little closer to God’s heart through Mary, who pondered the mysteries of Christ’s life so perfectly.
Finally, give thanks. True wonder only comes when we are grateful for having encountered beauty. Rejoice before the Lord for this moment, and every moment like it. Let every moment of beauty come flying up to carry you into contemplation of its source in the very heart of Christ.
The best part is? This is exactly the same for beauty in the mundane. Beauty is beauty, wherever it graciously arises. You’ll know it once it’s touched you. Just keep your eyes peeled and your heart and mind open.
What was that, like, four or five steps? OK, recap: 1. Look for beauty in the magnificent, and don’t quit even if it hurts. 2. Reflect on that beauty and share it, even if it’s just with God. 3. Give thanks for the beautiful moment(s) and their source. 4. Repeat with all encounters with beauty, magnificent or mundane. See, just four! Easy, right? OK, easier said than done sometimes, but make a habit of it. It’s an awesome way to enrich your life, both in general and especially spiritually, and it keeps you connected with things as they are and away from the abyss of distractions that threatens to swallow us.
Keep walking, fellow pilgrims; don’t afraid to drown in the sapphire ocean of His beautiful love. You’ll wake up a better person for it.
P.S. Here’s one of my favorite choral pieces to get you started. Enjoy!
Once upon a time, I thought the hardest fight would be through my dreary and sad moments, the miserable downturns on this roller-coaster of life. OK, so that once upon a time was only about a year ago, but it feels like a lifetime ago, because life has been so different since then. God brought so much healing to my sadness and brokenness that I feel like my life is entirely new; I don’t feel like the same person. It’s like I finally came out of the chrysalis.
But the light of Christ…His two-edged sword of truth…His love that cuts to the heart…it isn’t satisfied with mediocrity. He loves us too much to just leave us at just “OK”. So after piercing through the lies I’ve been telling myself for years, He’s been piercing my heart right in the places where I shoved Him (knowingly or unknowingly) into the corners and blocked Him out. And to be totally honest, I’m disgusted with myself.
That being said, this year was unbelievably full of joy, of grace, and of opportunity. And I am so grateful for that. I’ve grown a lot, and made some progress in uprooting some nasty habits. I’ve made new friends, and strengthened old relationships. It’s been a truly positive year.
Now it’s gone, and here I am, full of joy but also really aware of how far I have to go. What now?
Back into the fray, of course.
Here’s the thing: that once upon a time, I forgot that there would come a time when those really intense struggles would be much less intense or even go away, because that’s generally how life goes; it fluctuates, up and down, round and sideways and backways and all the ways imaginable. Some stay in certain seasons longer than others, but everything is a season; it comes, it goes. And then there’s everything in-between. The afterwards, the mundane, the life-as-usual, that’s a hard fight too.
This life gets boring, long, stressful, wearying–all the lot of it, but not enough usually to tear us to shreds, just enough to annoy us but little enough to let us fall into complacency. It’s that fight against complacency that’s hard, and it’s that fight that I want to resolve to fight this year. I want to end old, unhealthy patterns and forge new habits, true virtues.
I want to start by giving myself a challenge here on this blog: I want to commit to putting out at least one prose and one poetry post each month, rather than whenever the fancy strikes me. I can’t keep living for the highs and the lows in any aspect of my life; I’m hoping that consistency here will aid in consistency in other aspects. So we’ll see how this new year goes.
I apologize for the incoherence of this post; 1:30 in the morning is no time to write anything, much less an actually thought-out and cohesive post (although some of my recent papers may testify against that). Part of me wanted this to be impressive; I suppose that Litany of Humility is kicking in a bit now. This is all for Him; He’s the one piercing my complacency with His love, He gets all the glory here.
I suppose this is as good a place as any to simply stop. May God bless you and yours abundantly this year, and happy Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God!
Optional Hymn from Today’s Morning Prayer
Mary the dawn, Christ the Perfect Day;
Mary the gate, Christ the Heavenly Way!
Mary the root, Christ the Mystic Vine;
Mary the grape, Christ the Sacred Wine!
Mary the wheat, Christ the Living Bread;
Mary the stem, Christ the Rose blood-red!
Mary the font, Christ the Cleansing Flood;
Mary the cup, Christ the Saving Blood!
Mary the temple, Christ the temple’s Lord;
Mary the shrine, Christ the God adored!
Mary the beacon, Christ the Haven’s Rest;
Mary the mirror, Christ the Vision Blest!
Mary the mother, Christ the mother’s Son
By all things blest while endless ages run. Amen.
Happy Feast of the Nativity of Mary, everyone! Mama Mary, please pray for me and for all the little musings I post here, that I, like you, can always point to Christ. Keep Him always first in my vision and my mind. Wrap me, those who read this blog, and all your children in your sapphire mantle of protection and peace. Amen.
What fools are we, inheritors of grace
and singers of th’eternal song. We string
our beads of love at someone else’s pace
and find our good intentions shattering.
We proudly stitch our garments, ’til the seams
are torn by lazy hands and frail remorse,
and carry tinder-boxes full of dreams
but hide the flint, and halt conversion’s course.
A fellowship of fools are we who swing
from Calvary into Eternity;
in foolish love our empty hands we bring.
Beloved, broken jesters all are we.
The greatest of all follies rescues us:
the shadow of the folly of the cross.
I found out today why I’m always running.
My last post, “A Thought About Farewells”, came from a place where I think my heart has secretly been for many years–hiding from the truth that goodbyes really do happen, that we cannot go back and reclaim the moments we’ve lost. It hit me like a brick wall this summer (while playing mini golf, of all things) that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t soak in every part of every moment that we’d like to. We only have so many eyes to see, so many ears to hear, so many hands to embrace. Things will be missed, and before we can try to grab them back, the moment will fly from us just as every moment has since time first began to turn its pages.
There are so many beautiful things about being part of a large family, both close and extended. One of the harder parts is feeling like you just blinked and suddenly the baby you were holding in your arms is toddling around, and the little tykes are suddenly going through puberty. The new moments aren’t bad, but the ones that are gone were pretty darn good too.
Moments just don’t last forever. And if you let yourself be fully invested in them, your heart is going to ache. This is the truth I’ve been running from, as time and time again I’ve come to love and then to lose.
Honestly, left just with this, I’d be crying myself to sleep right now. Which is what I did for years at the end of the days where I either hid from this truth in any corner I could or just let it completely overwhelm me. Truth be told, I’ll still probably cry myself to sleep many more nights in the future; it’s the price to be paid for letting yourself feel loss.
But if there’s anything these years are finally teaching me, it’s that this is not the end of the story.
The answer here is hope. It’s not a fix-it sort of answer; it doesn’t make the hurting stop. It doesn’t even really give a reason for the hurting. What it offers is something much bigger: a future where moments DO last forever, a future where there AREN’T goodbyes, a future where somehow a single glance at the face of God will quell every question and leave our hearts in complete peace and utter love.
The most marvelous part about hope is that the Holy Spirit gives us the first tastes of that hope here and now, in these fast-fleeting moments. When Christ came, He brought eternity into time, and now the Holy Spirit draws us out of time and into eternity. He brings us Christ Himself in the Eucharist to feed us as we walk with him through the moments of life into the unbroken joy of Heaven. The glory of our sorrows is that we are not alone in them; Christ has entered into every moment, every ache, every joy, every pain, and has given us the Holy Spirit as a promise that we will eventually pass out of all that is passing into the place where nothing passes, and we are in the very embrace of God.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
What more is there to do but give glory and praise to God for loving us so unfathomably much? Not a drop of our pain goes unnoticed. We are not echoing voices in a hollow universe latching onto others and onto fantasies. We are beloved children, never for a moment left alone, always heard, always laughed with, always cried with. Brothers and sisters, we are loved with a love that is unlike anything this world can ever even begin to offer; every moment of every life is held in the hands of a God Who literally died for us, who pines for us always and will never stop wanting us to be with Him in eternity.
And if you feel that you are too far away, that this is just too good to be true, know that even in that you are not alone. I was not kidding when I said that Christ is with us in EVERYTHING. I know that it is not always easy at first to believe that God loves or even cares about us. I didn’t, for years; He had to prove it to me. And He did; He finally got through my stubbornness and my doubts. He found me after I said my first really painful goodbye years ago, and he cried with me. When I finally, flailingly, asked Him to help me, even though I wasn’t sure He loved me, He gave me the strength to survive and began walking me down a path that I never could have foreseen, a path of healing and freedom. And He wants to do that for all of us.
Ok, I know that basically sounded like an altar-call. Consider it a personal testimony to assure you that all the craziness I spout on this site isn’t really about me. It never was, and every post I’ve written that tends in that direction is flawed. What it’s really all about is trying to give an account, a reason, for my hope, hope that I have not always practiced. It really isn’t easy to choose, in every moment, to live as though death is not the end of our story, to love with God’s love so as to bring the God of eternity into time and men of time a step closer to eternity. But it makes all the difference.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
Being the avid Disney nerd I am, it no longer surprises me when, in movies, within the first half hour or so, someone important leaves or dies; some sort of goodbye takes place before the plot can advance any further. Which means that Marvel movies have majorly screwed with me, because NO ONE IMPORTANT EVER ACTUALLY DIES (and if anyone says Agent Coulsen, you clearly haven’t seen Agents of SHIELD…spoiler alert…), so it’s like, “Goodbye–NO WAIT WHAT OH MY GOSH YOU’RE ALIVE”. And in retrospect, there have been a fair amount of movies, Disney or otherwise, that do sort of the same thing (mostly Disney, because typically there’s some sort of magic or prophecy involved).
But there’s one Disney goodbye that still haunts me and tears at my heart: when Widow Tweed says goodbye to Todd in The Fox and The Hound.
Because not only is that goodbye accompanied with Tweed’s reminiscences and a tear-jerker of a harmonica-led song; it’s a devastatingly final goodbye. When she drives away from Todd, leaving him alone in the woods as she cries, and he just looks after her, confused, there’s no question in anyone’s mind: this is it, the last time they’ll ever see one another. There is no sudden return to the way things were; the film ends with Todd looking down on his old home from his new home in the woods.
Now there are two quotes about goodbyes that I have wrestled with: that sickeningly sweet “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened” dealio, and a quote by C.S. Lewis that says, essentially, “Christians never say goodbye”. The first is pretty easy, in my mind, to question. It’s all well and good to say that we ought to rejoice in the good times that have been had, and there is no doubt that I look back with a (bittersweet) smile on the friends to whom I have said goodbye. And yet, when you stand before the ones you love, looking them in the eye and knowing that you may never see them again, feeling like your heart is being ripped from your chest, even if you can manage a smile, how can you not (at least internally) shed tears? How can you ignore that you are about to lose a person who has been precious to you? What greatness is there in denying to yourself that you will miss their laugh, their smile, the way they used to talk and walk, and just their very presence?
The second quote is less troubling, but still makes me uneasy. Essentially, the quote is recognizing the intimate bond we share as members of the Body of Christ, which keeps us always united no matter where we are, and is the source of our eternal union in Heaven. Still, even as we Catholics say to each other, “I’ll see you in the Eucharist”, even as our eyes of faith see the one to whom we have said goodbye in Christ’s Mystical body, and even as our hope tells us that we will see our loved ones in Heaven someday, isn’t there an ache? Can you deny that there is a hole in your heart where the other used to be?
Brethren, for anyone who has said goodbye and known that it was a truly final farewell, life afterwards is the life of an amputee. When we give another person a room in our hearts, we can’t help but feel the cold drafts through the open door and the cobwebs in the corners when they have gone. We have to go on living, knowing that we will never be the same.
That’s just it, though, I guess…we will never be the same. That is the glorious thing about our friendships and our familial bonds. The moment they are forged, we are changed. Love is a strange thing; once it enters your heart, you will never know a deeper ache, and yet every heart-wrenching moment is pure bliss, because you get to look into the eyes of the one you love. So when that terrible, inevitable moment comes when you have to say goodbye, and every part of your being is moaning for just another moment more with the beloved, we shouldn’t hide behind melancholy reminiscence or joyful hope, no matter how noble either might prove to be later. No.
When your universe suddenly seems as if its very light is about to be sucked away, when the air you breathe is about to be torn from your lungs, put every ounce of love you can into that last embrace, the final moment in which the one who brought music to your life pulls you close to them, letting your heart bleed out in one final, painful, blissful rapture of a moment. Then let them slip away, like rain slipping through your fingertips, burning like acid, and smile, because the tears that are sure to come mean that you have been lucky enough, in the few years of your life on this strange and beautiful place called Earth, to have met another person who entered into your life and you into theirs so deeply that your parting is torturous.
Finally, if you can stand it yet, say a prayer that you may both have the strength to go on to love again, and begin to find solace in the love of God, the one and only lover about Whom you can truly say that you will never have to say goodbye.
Make me unknown to me, myself, and I,
may self-pitying tow’rs that fight the sky
collapse upon my ego, laying bare.
O Mother, sweet and blessed, wholly pure,
within whose tender mantle now I lie,
make me unknown.
Slow, slouched, I wait for pity as I try
to battle inner wars. Oh let me die
to self, this secret pride. These shadows lure
me to demise. While I yet stir,
make me unknown.
“Broken beyond repair”. Part of me is always tempted to say that whenever someone asks that ever-stupid question, “What three words would you use to describe yourself?” It’s basically the way that I view myself when I don’t have anyone to tell me otherwise. I have my flaws before my mind’s eye often, swirling in and out of the crazy noise that is my inner life. It gets really loud in here sometimes, and it’s definitely not particularly pretty.
And I find myself asking “why” a lot. I ask myself why I’ve made such stupid decisions, or why I bother to try so hard. I ask God why He didn’t stop me from breaking myself from within, or why He made me the way I started out, the way that wasn’t ready for what life had to throw at me.
So now here I am, sitting at my family’s kitchen table, 21 years old, and not knowing how to move forward.
I’ve made it past some incredibly dark years in my life (or at least they seemed to be incredibly dark; I’m still trying to see that darkness as the shadow of Calvary), and I learned during those years how to just get by, to continue living while I felt wracked by a ceaseless storm inside. Now I’m on the other side of that storm, trying to figure out how I’m supposed to actually LIVE my life. I’m in completely uncharted waters here, carrying crosses I don’t understand and scars that haven’t faded yet, trying to take a step, any step, towards a future that is completely unclear to me.
So now what?
This past semester, it’s really begun to dawn on me that much of my life has been one long trust exercise with God. He set me on solid ground, then asked me to trust him as I was suddenly thrown from my footing on a cliff. For years I’ve been falling, but I realize now that that fall was long because it was always on the wings of the angel armies. Now that I’ve found solid ground again, now that I’ve become comfortable, God is asking me to trust Him again, and I can feel the earth trembling beneath me, and it sends my soul into terrified spasms.
But if I really listen to the voice that’s asking me to trust, I can hear the music my soul has been thirsting for. I can sense the lips of my Beloved murmuring peace to my heart. His arms are outstretched, and even now wrapping around me.
All that’s left is to have courage and trust enough to leap into the arms that have always held me.
The waves are rolling, my Savior beckons, and it’s time to step out onto the waters. Duc in Altum.
Impetuous, my lately love, am I
in letting love this fragile frame imbibe;
your sapphire eyes are water to these dry
and burning bones. I wish I could inscribe
your name upon my heart eternally,
but nay, ’tis not to be. You? I? My dear,
the love I wish for us can never be–
love? Nay, nay, but mere passion…fierce, I fear.
Dear one, may I yet stay, and love thee true,
with kindness, care, and groaning heart? Though strung
like harp strings, heart aflame, my song to you
shall be restrained, with few notes ever sung.
Unbridled though my yearning ever be,
I shall but love and let thy heart by free.
From the desire of being loved, deliver me, Jesus.
By far the hardest words for me to pray.
As far as I can tell, not feeling loved has been the source of most of my problems in life. Doesn’t always mean I wasn’t truly loved; just that a lot of my life, I just didn’t feel it, didn’t believe it.
So how can I seriously ask God to take away my desire to be loved?
This is something I’m still not sure I have the answer to, but I have little hints now, I think. I find myself desiring love that I shouldn’t have, love that, in the long run, isn’t really love but just something that serves to fuel my ego. It sounds weird put that way, but I think that’s the only way to describe it. There’s a part of me that just wants to be loved in ways I shouldn’t want, or at least ways I shouldn’t be seeking to accomplish.
Even that word is problematic: “accomplish”. Love isn’t “accomplished”; it’s not just a task or activity that has a definitive end. It’s more like a dance. Because love only happens when the one loved freely returns that love as best they can. What I might picture in my mind as the only way someone can show me they love me isn’t truly the only way I can be loved. It might be the way (or something close to the way) in which I know best or for sure that I’m loved, but I’m not that other person I’m desiring love from. They have their own ways in which they show love; I can’t force them to love me the way I want them to.
In other words, maybe it’s been me all along that hasn’t been loving. Maybe I’ve just been selfish, immature, greedy. Maybe I’m even more broken and twisted inside than I’ve dared to admit.
And for that, I owe everyone who has known me an apology. Because I think the cry in my heart hasn’t been as noble and devastating as what has come out of my lips or my actions; I’m actually pretty crummy in a whole heck of a lot of ways.
But light has shone on that darkness now, and the darkness won’t overcome it.
I think I’m learning humility far greater than the little moments of humiliation I was expecting this Lent; I’m learning that I really am pretty small and dirty and just…I don’t even know if there are words for things as low as me.
And yet, I’m also learning that the Lord has seen this in me all along…and somehow still sees someone worth saving, someone worth loving, and someone worth dying for.
The more I know myself, the more I have to weep at the immense love God must have for me to see me and still want nothing more than to have me with Him forever, even if He has to bleed out on a cross for me.
So to those who have stuck by me and loved me with love that still staggers me, even now, thank you. You are truly vessels of God’s grace, and you seriously deserve so many blessings.
And now I guess I’ll just awkwardly end this here. And it’s OK that I don’t have some sort of impressive final word of wisdom. It’s even OK if no one reads this. It’s all OK, because God loves me, and even if no one else does, I have a soul full of love and grace, and that’s plenty reason to be happy.
I am firmly of the opinion that true humility comes in the moment when you stop whining about the size of your cross because you suddenly find yourself floored under the weight of the cross of another, and you both realize together in a gloriously gut-wrenching moment that Christ carried the weight of both already with Him to Calvary.
The Litany of Humility has pretty much become infamous among Catholics for being one of those prayers that gives you exactly what you ask for in exactly the way you don’t want to receive it. You know, like when you pray for patience in the morning and immediately spill your coffee as you get in your car, get stuck in traffic on your way to work, have to deal with that one guy who just won’t shut up on your shift talking about some anime show you’ve never heard of (but now know its entire cast of characters, plot, subplot, and existential significance), and come home to find your front lawn TP’d by the neighborhood kids…and it just started raining. You learn patience fast…or else completely break down.
So when I started praying for humility this Lent, I already had my teeth gritted and body braced, waiting for a little disaster.
…I’m still waiting.
The past few weeks have been less of a living awkward-fest and more of a self-discovery. Time after time, God has placed events and people in my life trying to tell me to love myself.
See, the thing is, I’m not particularly a fan of myself. I’m your typical perfectionist, and in the last few weeks, I’ve been particularly scrupulous for various reasons, and generally just tense and upset and frustrated. And I think this is exactly what God is trying to help me not to do. He’s trying to teach me real humility.
Because humility isn’t just knowing your weakness and smallness. It’s knowing how much God loves you, at every single moment. It’s less about stopping yourself from seeking approval and more about being so secure in God’s love that you just don’t need that approval. It’s seeing yourself for who you are before God: a beloved child. Weak and small, yes, but so remarkably precious. It’s letting yourself be loved with the perfect love that casts out all fear, all frustration, all scrupulosity.
Funny how our greatest pride, sometimes, is thinking that we’ve managed to create a mess so big in ourselves that God can’t possibly overlook it. Funny how we swell ourselves up so much in our self-pity and self-loathing.
Funny how God simply turns us to the cross and says, “I already knew you would do these things, would end up here after all these mistakes, and I still did this for you. Any reason left not to let me love you?”
Well, brothers and sisters, is there?
I fell again.
These clumsy bones marching under a wobbly head just collapsed, throwing me headlong into the same old snake-pit. The fight was just too much, and I found myself having to fight a new fight with the voices that tell me I’ll never be good enough, that this battle with myself just isn’t worth fighting.
Of course I’ll get back up again and keep walking; I seem to be finding my footing a little more, and this new way of walking is starting to undo old muscle memory. But somehow I always seem to fall again.
And still you’re asking me to be humble?
How much lower can I get than the dirt beneath my feet?
But then that’s not humility. That’s stupidity. An old, old stupidity that’s settled into my flesh and still hasn’t completely washed out, and just keeps dragging me back down.
And it seems like I forget that. I get a few paces away from my last fall and get so caught up in making my feet walk the way I want and forcing my body to obey that I forget to lean on the hand that helped me back up in the first place.
So, Lord, this time, don’t let me forget that I just fell.
But don’t let me forget that you’re right next to me, either.
O Jesus, meek and humble of heart…
This Lent, something I’m really trying to work on is humility. And I just want to share things as I go, based on the prayer I’m praying everyday: the Litany of Humility.
I’m not really sure why. Maybe part of it is a selfish or prideful desire to be noticed, I suppose. But I’d like to believe I’m not entirely stuck in the mire of my ego and sinful desires, and that somewhere in this is a noble desire. So we’ll see how this goes together, brothers and sisters, if that’s OK with you.
When I was first introduced to this prayer my freshman year, I was told that it was a good prayer both for the more egotistical types and for people who were insecure (I fit more into the second category, although I’m finding out they’re not mutually exclusive). I prayed it for about two weeks and then just stopped. I just felt like I couldn’t keep up such an intense prayer. How could I honestly ask God to deliver me from things that I craved with my whole heart, like love and acceptance? How could I ask Him to take away things that I had yet to truly experience in my life? And what was so bad about them anyway?
But now, things are different. I am loved, and I am accepted, by so many beautiful people. And still my heart reverts to seeking and craving more and more of it. My heart and mind are so hell-bent on it that I’ll do anything to get it, even when I already have it so authentically and fully without trying. It’s as if part of me still doesn’t believe it’s possible, part of me still just wants to be picked up and held until I know beyond a doubt that I can stop searching, stop grasping.
So now I desperately need to pray this prayer.
I need to be delivered of this false humility that’s built up inside me like a cancer, to be truly humbled, where I recognize my own weakness and frailty, and yet feel truly secure in the love of my God.
I need to look to Jesus, Meek and Humble of Heart, and beg Him to hear my voice. That’s all I really want, anyway: to know that I’m being heard, that the little cries my heart makes silently throughout the day don’t just pass into the void or get lost in the cacophony in my head; that someone, the Great Someone Who looks into my heart and loves me, hears me even when I don’t think about Him.
Jesus, You Who humbled yourself to know our life and flesh and the burden of sin, who humbly accepted even death on a cross for love of me…