The Cross

So I will admit that I am a very cranky person on the inside sometimes. I go through phases where my patience runs thin and I am sharp as a knife with all those I encounter, if not in speech then most certainly in thought. Most people who know me put me on the pedestal of being rather like Snow White because they are not subjected to my private internal life. In fact, there are only two people who are constantly subjected to my int.jpgsometimes porcupine interior, myself and God. And with that in mind, I find it absolutely astounding that God loves me. I believe it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t blow my mind a little bit most days. Because I love in a very human way in that my love is subject to being tested, whereas the love of God is constant in that it is and, when God took on the form of a man and was put to the test, remains eternal, sealed by a covenant, and by its nature unchangeable. God’s love doesn’t shift based on whether I am particularly loveable and at my best or particularly unloveable and at my absolute worst, and thinking about that really makes me want to be better, to have that capacity too.

And I know this will require no small amount of grace, because my nature is not predisposed to be kind or humble. I can remember when I was a little girl really admiring two women, my mother and the Blessed Virgin Mary, because they both had a sweetness and an unassuming ladylike quality about them that I recognized was not in me, but that I hoped to have because I loved them both and I too wanted to be a lady.

It’s a battle I still wage today because I certainly have my mother’s capacity to be sweet and innocently kind, but I also have the sharp wit, strong opinions, and limited patience with others that are perhaps more stereotypically Celtic (thanks Dad, lol). But above all, I’m strong willed. And it bothers me how even though I do have the capacity to love and to do good, and maybe even to be a lady, there are a few times on this spiritual walk where I don’t want to do the right thing. For example, choosing to love someone I don’t like. It is a true talent that my mother (and I imagine the Blessed Mary also) possesses, the ability to be gracious to all, patiently trusting that you should love each person because you only know a part of their story and have no right to dole out love as you see fit. It’s founded on the idea that true love is not at all based on worthiness, and I know that’s the truth because of the relationship I just described having with God.

Yet it is so hard to remember to do this, to look past my own vision of what the world should be and into the heavens, and to try to bring a piece of that kingdom back down to earth by authentically loving my neighbor. The enchanting mystery of this endeavor gets lost because it cloaks itself in the mundane and insignificant, Jbecause if you truly paid attention to your surroundings you would notice these opportunities present around you all the time. In traffic, at work, on the phone, in the grocery store, or even when you are just taking a walk. And it is so easy to be so distracted by the worldly idea that glory consists in great things, your enduring mark on the world, that it is easy to forget heavenly glory, the truth that sometimes the best crown you can wear is a crown of thorns. The scars that come from breaking your own heart and your own self will as you learn what it truly means to love.

And it is my ongoing frustrating efforts to do this for a few people in my life that inspired this post in the first place. Because I want to want to love them in the same way that God very generously loves me. But I’m mad at them for the way they treated me and the last thing that makes me feel is generous. Because if I sign on to love them, not only do I have to forgive them and treat them the same as I would people who are easier for me to love, I have to do so without the guarantee that they will change, that I will gain anything by it, or that it will be reciprocated in any way. To love for the sake of love, to love because I love God and it’s His command which, although difficult, is just. It is the tough road of perfection, not the superficial worldly kind that I find so incredibly cheesy, but the path that leads to perfect love and requires the sacrifice of supplanting my will with God’s.

Please just pray for me that I might have the grace not to turn back now.

Merry Christmas Charlie Brown

Today was a very interesting day at work because a woman came into my office and started preaching.

Unfortunately, it was not any religion that I found interesting. It was the religion of the new atheism, that secularism with a religious fervor, and believe me, this woman was on fire with the love of the world.

To give you proper context, she was discussing the previous evening’s Christmas party hosted by my office with a coworker of mine. She was so enthralled with the “good vibes” given off by the party and as part of her extremely self-important yet vague title (the corporate equivalent of a life coach) she was very passionately committed to the idea that people ought to give off good vibes and be given opportunities to work in places that give off good vibes. It was certainly positive support to the claim that in the absence of believing in absolute truth people instead opt for passionate commitment to whatever holds true for them. Which is why you just can’t judge, man.

All I can say to that attitude is girl please.

Because I’m not sure what party this woman went to last night, but the one I attended was not an inspiring show of universal love and brotherhood. Nor was the purpose of that party to relax and have fun together. It was Christmas themed networking, a show of solidarity in an office where most of us champwork remotely. It was quite the performance on a stage of glimmering (but tasteful) wealth, well-dressed bragging, and generous amounts of alcohol slipped into many a festive drink. It was essentially like a cocktail party before a wedding, except that there was a table with a delicious dinner spread. The company certainly outdid themselves by every worldly standard. It was a perfect fit for my boss and a perfect expression of what he envisions our company as representing. We’re good at what we do, we’re nice, we’re professional and yes there are probably good vibes all over the place.

Honestly I like my coworkers, I really do. They are good people and I am very blessed to be working with them. But everyone at that that party had themselves on their mind. It was that classic office networking experience
where people would say some jovial greeting and walk away half way through my scripted response to their greeting. Your surroundings may sparkle and make you feel important, but it’s shallow and superficial. Like a mirage in the desert that is appealing because it seems like it’s everything you want when in fact it is appealing because you are so thirsty. Thirsty for the real thing.

I know my inner Charlie Brown is coming out as I talk about how, amid a commercial Christmas, I can’t help but long for the true meaning of the season. But it was hard to hear these two grown women speaking, both so excited over an illusion. Because there is more to life than good vibes and networking and careers, life should be so much deeper.  Life should be about love, the type of love present at the Nativity in the humility, hope, charity, wonder, and joy shared by a family.

And being more “spiritual” than “religious” is almost a tragedy in my mind, a tragedy I saw unfold many times last night, because it detracts from the truth that God is love and subtly spreads the lie that it is possible to find the type of love and meaning your heart truly desires, with or without God as long as it “works for you.” It sounds well meaning and “open minded,” but that sort of talk is meant to keep you from finding what you seek by convincing you that you are fine where you are. It leaves you sitting in the mirage showing off how comfortable you’ve made yourself when the true oasis is right there waiting for you just beyond the edge of your comfort zone.

But since it is nearing Christmas I can’t help but retain my joy and my hope that love finds you this holiday season no matter who or where you are.

cb