Spiritual Hangovers

Believe it or not this fantastic expression was not invented by me but rather the wonderful Mother Angelica. I’ve included a link here where she explains it in detail but in summary, it’s the idea that just as one can overindulge in alcohol and experience a response of pain from the body one can also overindulge in un-Christian feelings from the past or projections of the future and live in a “spiritual hangover” of bitterness, resentment, hatred or fear rather than in the graces God provides in the present moment.

Mother Angelica in her writings always strikes a wonderful balance between an understanding hug and swift kick in the pants and I find on my spiritual walk that I am in need of both those things. I love her metaphor because I find it both funny and convicting. How often do we justify ourselves in our feeling rather than trying to overcome them? Certainly more times than I’d care to admit on my blog…

But rather than share any personal reflection (because I’m sure you’re sick of those!) I wrote this blog post more to share a resource that I think is just great and which I hope gives you something to think about as well as a sincere chuckle.

Hope everyone is having an excellent summer so far! I can’t believe how fast it’s going.

 

I’m not angry

So anyone observant living in the world today has probably noticed that it’s not so pretty. There are a lot of tough issues that are tough to navigate, but which require a response both as an individual but especially as a Christian.

And I’m all for some good “rabble rousing” to that effect. Nothing like some straight talk for motivation. But so much of what ought to be, and is often intended to be, motivational misses the mark. It’s accusatory and belittling. It focuses on what people ought to be doing, but don’t do. People who should be living a certain way, but aren’t. Becuase there is an anxiety that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and that we ought to be doing more to stop that. There’s some truth to that statement. But hell is not stronger than heaven, never will be.

And the purpose of the post and the title of the post is the same, to inform you that I’m not angry.  And I’m not angry because I’m not worried. Is there cause to be worried? Certainly. Is there cause for despair? Usually. Would it be easier to give up? Always.

But I’m not going to do any of those things. Because I know the truth. And the truth is just like the old adage that says you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink. (As much as people nark on all things traditional there is wisdom to be gleaned from those who came before us, and it is written off far too easily with our smug superiority and notions of progress)

Because the truth is God is love. And the nature of love is that it cannot be forced. You will get absolutely nowhere by demanding that people behave like good Christians. You can certainly try it. But it won’t be effective and there is a serious danger of becoming very cynical about human nature in the process. Because true Christianity is an invitation, it is a call to come and be absolutely transformed by the overflowing love of God. And invitations go two ways. You respond yes, or you respond no. And who would respond yes to someone who is angry? To someone who is making hard demands and expecting them to be followed through with machine-like precision and absolute perfection? Not me, my friends, not me…

Because I’m stubborn, remember? I can rarely be obedient unless I trust the person I’m obeying. And it would be hard to trust the person I just described, the angry person. The God who is only justice, and not mercy.  I think that’s why Jesus is divine mercy; as human as the rest of us, He understands. His heart is where the love of God and the justice of God meet, and it’s name is mercy.

And I’ll take it.

As much as He is willing to give me. Because I trust Jesus more than I trust the smartest, happiest, most successful person on earth (which, ironically, if you’re willing to take off your microbic human eyeglasses and view from a more cosmic perspective, is probably Jesus too- but I was thinking more in terms of self-help/businessman/celebrity culture when I wrote the phrase).

And therein lies the importance of the Christian witness. Because your life is not just about your acts, it is about your very being. Your whole life, wherever you are whatever you are doing, should be a witness to your invitation, your call to love. People should see your daily yes to receiving the love of God and the transformative peace and joy it brings you. Because it is your yes to God, like in the beginning of the New Testament with Mary the mother of God, that ultimately decides your destiny.

And just for fun I have a story to this effect. I described a strong interior conversion a couple posts back and do you know that every time I attempt to drink alcohol anymore, I get carded? I don’t go out drinking often, certainly not often enough for that to be a serious hindrance. But formerly, being the old-soul/controlling planner type I admit to being, people were always assuming I was older than I actually am. So after the night I turned 21, I rarely got carded. That is, until recently. Because since this interior conversion I have the heart of a child (at least I try to) and without intending to my entire demeanor has changed to the point where I come off differently than I used to. Perhaps the way to describe it is more innocent, more open, more friendly/approachable/understanding. Because you are what you eat right? (Yes that was a Eucharist pun)

And I only noticed this because people respond to me differently now, and I think it’s because they’ve encountered this subtle change where it’s not just me anymore who they’re encountering, it’s who I am in Christ. So now instead of coming across as a no-nonsense, extremely driven superwoman who is in control of every detail of her life, I come across as a joyful little girl reveling in the little mysteries of the everyday. And instead of being intimidated by me or thinking I’m perfect (which was equally common) people now talk to me like I’m a cross between a preschooler and their mom. And do you know in truth it’s kind of nice? 

And, in short, now I get carded absolutely everywhere I go.  And if that’s my witness to the world, I’ll take that too.