A Can’t Do Attitude

For as long as I can remember I’ve been told all about the power of positive thinking summarized by many an older and wiser person telling me, “the trick is to have a can-do attitude” in order to achieve everything from my short-term goals to my deepest held dreams and desires.

The older I’m getting (I turn 27 in ONE MONTH) the more I’m discovering that this well-intentioned advice may have missed the mark. Or maybe it’s just that my goals have changed. Regardless of the reason, I’m finding at the forefront of my desires is a desire to love that far exceeds my actual capacity to love. In short, I want to love like God does, and I can’t.

I just can’t. It’s something I’ve lamented to my spiritual director to varying degrees over the course of last year and I’ve had about a million temptations to discouragement. Not the kind of discouragement that tempts me to stop altogether, the kind that tells me to lower my aim, shoot for the middle, keep my head down and be “normal” (never my forte I admit). Yet the desire persists.

And with the help of many, I am finally coming to understand that I have come to end of what I can do and it is time now to let God do everything for me. It’s time not for strength but for weakness, because God’s power is made perfect in weakness, it’s time not for success but for humility, a time of total surrender and not control, but most of all a time to empty myself totally to receive unconditional love so that I may give it as totally and as generously and mercifully as God gives it to me.

It sounds counterintuitive and it may be the hardest thing I’ve ever done after a lifetime of plans and project management, of selfishness and pride. But as I join Christians around the world in preparing for Advent I can’t help be full of joyful hope and a sincere desire to wait in confident expectation for the coming of my Lord. And I hope this can’t-do attitude remains with me as I grow in deeper trust. I hope you have a blessed season of Advent!

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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. 

Nothing Original

Some days I may use this thing just for me. Days like today where I really need to trust in God. I apply for jobs and while I suppose it’s good to have backup plans I have back-ups for my back-ups. And if this past year has taught me anything it’s that even the best-laid plans fall apart. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because I think my planning is a way to hide. It’s a compromise to hope. I settle for a half hope because I don’t want to be disappointed. How sad. I was such an adventurous little kid. I biked, I climbed trees, I played outside. Most of all I imagination played. Re-enacting scenes that would play in my head from movies, plays, books, or even my own imagination. And I would force my siblings to play with me. And when one act was over I would just start the next one.

When did my game change? Was it when I grew up? Because I still haven’t. I still dream. I just give more weight to the opinions of others who say that dreams aren’t real. Because I am starting to think that maybe all dreams require is not magic or a denial of reality, but patience. And if I am going to have to wait I might as well wait in hope. I am Catholic after all.