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.

 

The Gypsy 

So today as I was doing my best to respond to my kind and inquisitive new dental hygienist she remarked, upon hearing bits of my life story, that I have a bit of a gypsy lifestyle.

By that, she meant I don’t live in the same place for very long and am not on a traditional career trajectory (where I’m holding x job in order to reach x goal in 5 years etc.)

It about made my day because, to be honest with you, my life has since become much more settled and routine the past year or so and I realized as she proceeded to grind my teeth to shimmering perfection that I had lost a good bit of courage in the past few months.

To backtrack, as I have recently been on a hiatus from blogging, I find out whether or not I can be considered as a candidate for something I really want to do in late January (pray for me please!) and I’ve been feeling the anxiety of the million reasons I could be rejected. I really have my heart set on it and so, being ever the optimist, I felt that as I’m now an adult on the wrong side of her 20s (I just turned 26) I should have a comfortable back-up plan to console myself with should I not be allowed to pursue said candidacy.

In the interim, as I’ve been sifting through a million different lives (because choosing a lifestyle is the essence of career planning) I’ve been really overwhelmed by all the uncertainty. There is nothing so exhausting as trying to secure your future happiness forever based on what you know in the tiny sliver of the present.

And I have been so busy that I didn’t even realize I had wandered so far down that primrose path. I slip so easily into living in the future that I did not catch myself in the act this time. Fortunately, my perfect stranger of a dental hygienist was there to do it for me.

While I’ve already admitted that my past from college to present does sound rather “gypsy” the adventurous, non-linear path was not the path I choose for myself. It was the path that God gave me through circumstances of life, job, and health. It was the path where I met God on the littler way and I would not trade it for anything. What the dental hygienist called gypsy, the Catholic Church calls pilgrim and that was the way of life I did not know I had been seriously missing until I ended up drooling on myself while facing a poster that read “Dental Diva.”

From living in the present moment with God I can attest that God does not always break through into your life via the painstakingly dramatic and obvious, sometimes He slips in through the ordinary people and events that make up your day. And I appreciated that He used my time as a captive audience to my unexpected but thoroughly appreciated benefit. Because it is so easy to forget the glorious truths I profess as a Christian and a Catholic. It is so easy to look back or look so far ahead of myself that I forget to look at God Who is always with me right now, whatever now happens to be.

And it is so comforting to think that the God of the universe is so humble that even in His majesty He descends to go with me to the dentist because it is so much easier to trust in the love of God when I remember how purely selfless it is. I always enjoy the act of remembering that truth because it gives me the courage to truly live.

 

Those People Who Call Everything an Adventure

Recently I read something somewhere that was complaining about people who call everything an adventure. The tone from the author was a sort of mocking and directed towards, “those people who call everything an adventure and by that they mean going to get ice cream at 1 am”

I don’t know what the rest of the world was doing while in college, but that is an accurate description of many of my Friday night adventures with friends and I loved every minute of it. Moreover, I still fail to see the problem or why she felt the need to address this in the first place. I could tell her words were meant as a sort of loving critique but I feel like critiques are baseless if the alternative is not something better but something worse.

One of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, once said,

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

Chesterton defied his realist, naturalist, and materialist contemporaries by seeing adventure everywhere, even in the most mundane moments that strike others as insignificant, and his reward for living with the adventurous enthusiasm and curiosity of a child was a wisdom and a joy that far surpassed that of his contemporaries.

The fruits of the seeds planted in Chesterton’s age, the turn of the twentieth century, are fully grown and blossoming now and despite the pleasant picture such a metaphor may conjure I do not necessarily mean that as a positive thing.

The problem of realism, naturalism, and materialism is not that they are inherently bad but that when practiced to such a narrow and exulted degree they are confining. I know this to be true because their more zealous subscribers lose the very thing Chesterton had and the very thing I seek to have also: the mysterious and sublime adventure that can be discovered veiled amid the ordinary routine of everyday living. And the charm of the adventure comes not from knowing all the answers but seeking them and discovering them more profoundly as one goes about his ordinary life. The sense that there is more to the eye than what you can see with your eye.

And it almost saddens me that we live in a world that discourages silliness and imagination in favor of “growing up” into people who see but don’t see, hear but don’t listen, and live without living.