Awkward Grace

So I had an awkward moment today, not that that’s especially rare for me. After dinner I finished helping my grandma with something and she commented, “you’re very nice.” Her smile was so genuinely sincere that I felt awkward because I’m really not.

I know that sounds bad like I’m fishing for a compliment or have low self esteem but in truth I’m really not a nice person. I had a moment a few years ago that was a profound turning point for me where I saw who I was without God’s grace. And it was ugly. It came at the end of a series of lows both personally and professionally that had taxed me to my absolute limit and that’s what I saw before my eyes that day: limits. I saw a proud young woman who had rejected God thinking she would do things her way and didn’t need the suffering He was giving. And at the end of that ill-fated rebellion came the realization that every gift I had ever been given came directly from God and on my own I had nothing. All the accomplishments I had attributed to my various talents, even the personal things I liked about myself like being kind and having a sense of humor, were beautiful gifts that came as a result of the love that had flowed so freely from God to me and I felt the absence of it, the absence of that union with God the life of love and grace I had been living without realizing it, down to the absolute depths of my soul.

I was tempted to complete despair in my misery and wretchedness and the pride that had been so blind to it, but I was blessed by two wonderful things that saved me by completely turning it around. The first was a consecration to the Blessed Mother who gently guided me like a mother back into life. The second was the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the wellspring of merciful love I found within it which made that life worth living.

I’ve heard it said, regrettably I forget by whom, that “mercy is where love meets misery.” I’ve experienced that to be true and never before had I known a love so selfless and so completely forgiving, but what astounded me the most was how completely unchangeable it was. Jesus loved me as much at my best as He did when I was at my worst and I understood for the first time a little more of what real love was.

So now as you can judge for yourself I’m really not very nice. I’m genuinely nothing at all. But God loves me. And from that love I have life, the abundant life God promised in Scripture. And that life is what my grandma noticed when she told me that “I’m very nice.” I am very nice because God’s grace is stronger than my many many weaknesses and has been so transformative that I feel like a living miracle. I am very nice because the faithful love of God gives me great joy which circumstances cannot take away. I am very nice because the fountain of mercy from the pierced side of Christ on His cross has saved me and I look forward to eternal life in Heaven. I am nice not because of anything I am on my own but because God’s love is so perfect that it’s making me into His image which is not just “nice”, it’s perfect holiness which is an immersion in the perfect Love of the Trinity.

As a result of all this, what I am not good at anymore is accepting compliments because I always feel like the compliment belongs to God and to the love which He reveals by turning sinners into saints.

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The Incredibles

Hi all!

May I just say I have missed all of you readers terribly.  I started a new job and while I’m happy to say that I’m loving every minute of it I am busier than ever. Fortunately, my lovely and now Seattle based sister A.C. Wilson has written an amazing guest post that I invite you to read below. Please enjoy as our (mostly her) gift to you on the Feast of the Assumption:

One of my favorite movies ever is a Pixar movie called “The Incredibles.” It’s got everything- action, adventure, family values, coming of age…it’s a great movie (and I hear there’s a sequel coming soon! Yes!). And when reading the gospel, I found myself reminded of one of the last scenes in the movie.

The Incredibles family had just returned from their great adventure, and all is well, until they arrive home. Their youngest son Jack Jack, believed to be with a babysitter, had been kidnapped by the story’s villain, Syndrome. Just as they arrive, Syndrome takes off on his rocket boots with the baby in his arms, and the family is panicking. Suddenly, Mrs. Incredibleturns to her husband and says “Throw something!” and he replies, “I can’t, I might hit Jack Jack!”

But then an awesome revelation occurs, and Mrs. Incredible suggests “Bob, throw me!” and he does. It’s a perfect shot, and the baby, now tumbling from the sky, lands safely in his mother’s arms, and gets to the ground safely. Then Mr.Incredible, after hearing another threat to his son’s life, hurls his *new* car at Syndrome’s plane, and effectively destroys him.

And this whole turn of events reminded me of the parable of the wheat and the weeds, where Jack Jack is the wheat, an innocent baby who is nothing but loved by his Father, and Syndrome is the weed, which represents a person with evil planted deep in his heart by Satan. If Mr. Incredible had hurled his car at the retreating Syndrome too soon, it would have destroyed evil, but also his child. So immediately it was out of the question.

So it is with God and the problem of evil. He could toss his divine “car” and destroy Satan whenever he likes, but if it isn’t a well timed throw, he would, with his crushing blow, destroy our freedom to choose Him, making us little more than spiritual ants, with no say for our own souls. So immediately it is out of the question. Because God made us to be more than ants. And He can and will destroy evil, but not until the proper time.

But people don’t get this, myself included at times. We see sin in it’s ugliest, most base form, and naturally we are repulsed. As we should be. We have all grown up among the wheat and the weeds. But then we ask God “Why?” Why would a loving God make the world this way, with so much suffering and evil?  And that is a question we cannot ask.

Because the real question we should be asking is “Why not?” In a world tainted by original sin, why do we not expect sin and evil to manifest itself? And this is not meant to be callous or unfeeling toward the suffering in the world. It is truly shameful that we allow certain sufferings to persist, heartbreaking when we can’t predict or mitigate it, and all around contrary to how God originally designed us to live. But the question remains, why should we expect the world to work in harmony and goodness, while the worldly, respected powers that be tried and convicted the true source of harmony and goodness (see: Christ’s Passion and death) for the crimes of mankind?

And that is the most extreme case, but I think it has real bearing in our lives today. How often do we blame our problems on God? How often do we neglect our prayers, and then blame God for being the cold and unfeeling one? How often to we distract ourselves every which way, and blame God when our lives have no direction? I know I do. Often.

But that acknowledgment is exactly why God holds back his judgment. Because we are sinful and sorrowful, weak and in need of a savior. He knows that, and He is our loving Father. When we truly believe that we are weak but God loves us, and rely on him, then the world becomes a less dark, sinful place. Plus, when we choose Him over all the temptations and delights of the world, a love that you know is true and unselfish is able to form.

Going back to our metaphor, when Mr. Incredible couldn’t throw the car, he sent his wife. So God sent His son, to save us from the seemingly insurmountable plot against us. It’s our job to resist evil, to allow Jesus to rescue us, and live the mission in gratitude. God will take care of the rest.

 

The Middle

Does anyone ever get the feeling that they are at an important crossroads in their life yet continue to feel desperately unprepared to move forward?

Asking for a friend…

Lately, I’m getting that special feeling that only introverted over-thinkers can truly sympathize with, that feeling of needing a vacation from yourself because you are driving yourself insane.  It’s a feeling that often follows or even accompanies a struggle.

Fortunately, it is also a feeling once shared by St. Paul which makes me feel better since I like him a lot:

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. (Romans 7:15-19) 

I am actually not blogging to write about the particular struggle because I already have.

Rather I’m writing to vent my particular frustration with my own limits. I know I can’t do holiness, certainly not the level that I want and strive for. I know that may sound odd considering the attitudes I’ve expressed in the past regarding holiness, so for the sake of explaining away any perceived inconsistency I’ll briefly add:

I believe that the end for which every person is born is eternal life with God in Heaven and that all are called to be holy even now in time because we have to be holy in order to be in Heaven (good and evil can’t coexist so to be with perfect good all my imperfections have to be left at the door). However, I also believe that this transformation is brought about primarily by the gift of God’s merciful love and the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross which forgives sin rather than our own efforts. I think even wanting to make the effort is a grace.

I know that’s pretty lofty but that’s what makes religion fun and much less confining than a purely material world view.

However lately in spiritual life I’m moving away from things that are difficult for me to things which I already know are impossible to do on my own. I’m having a Carrie Underwood moment where I really need Jesus to take the wheel if I want to keep going (I do) but I’m very afraid to let go. And that fear comes from a sincere lack of trust in God which makes me feel ungrateful. In spite of all that God has done for me my faith feels very small and inadequate compared to the faith I know I need to move ahead. 

Yet I’m past the zone where I can do anything about it. If I want greater faith I have to ask God for it and then wait patiently for Him to answer my prayer, which includes me saying yes to the graces He offers in the moment rather than respond how I would on a natural level. This is hard to do especially when the natural response is so close at hand and so much easier for me.

It’s an important part of the middle of the journey, but I think it’s far from my favorite because I am very undisciplined in sticking with the middle. I look back to the exciting beginning of my life in Christ, I look forward to a future in Heaven, but I struggle to want what I’m getting in the middle which is a steady stream of trials with no immediate end in sight. Yet these trials are so important because they make me the person God is calling me to be, they make me more like Jesus. And I hope it goes without saying why I’d like to be more like Jesus… I’m sure anyone who has a relationship with Him understands what I mean, and if you don’t I’d highly recommend beginning.

Because even though from this post it may sound difficult it is so incredibly worth it. Even though I whine every step of the way in my soul and resist with the stubbornness that is my hallmark, I already know I am going to keep walking….chalk it up to the mystery of love. I also know that the only way I am going to part from these trials is to stop bristling against them and embrace them as the things that are going to rid me of what I’d very much like to be rid of: my pride, my fears, my temper, and my impatience to name a few.

Though I confess it is funny that even though I sometimes tend to hate my weaknesses and lose patience with them as they manifest themselves in myriad surprising ways. However it almost seems like God, rather than wanting me to overcome them with my own strength (my default response) wants me to trust Him to the impossible for me. This is perhaps the hardest thing of all. In order to do it I have to rely not only on God’s grace but I have to remember what I all to often forget the very simple truth that God loves me very much.

And I wrote this post to help me remember that truth as I’m in the middle of the middle, in the hopes that someone else in the middle would remember it too.