Playing the Part 

I remember back when I lived in Virginia I used to go to Blackfriar’s Playhouse pretty frequently because of the amazingly talented actors and authentic rendition of Shakespeare’s many plays. (If that makes me hopelessly nerdy in your eyes so be it!)

One night during a production of the comedy “The Merchant of Venice” I remember being struck by one specific actor. He was not the lead of the play. In fact, he was the opposite. He drew my attention because I realized during the course of the show that he played at least 6 different minor roles each with a different costume and having only a few sentences of lines.

I was especially impressed with his ability to keep up with that many characters because I knew that in his shoes I would have made colossal mistakes. Being a very dramatic adolescent with a lot of insignificant child acting under my belt, I imagine I would have walked on stage in the wrong costume or forgotten when I needed to be on stage or said the wrong line…  In short, I realized that a mistake in that role could have dramatically influenced the flow of the play and the overall quality of the show itself, even though the parts he played we’re deemed so insignificant that they only cast one actor to play them all.

Yet in a moment of theater magic, I was touched by the realization that without every single role in that show, without each minor character to offer a line of transition or deliver a message or provide a moment of comic relief the show would not have been everything it was that night.

We live in a world that has the terrible habit of trying to elevate the best of humanity to Divine heights. We “worship” leading men and leading ladies, the most athletic, the smartest, the richest, most influential, or the best looking. We place them on pedestals and endeavor to be like them, holding them as our models of achievement with our purpose in life tied to the degree of what we attain of that “glory.”

Yet, as often as the pride of humanity is flaunted as the satisfaction of our desires and a vindication of our existence I can’t help but stumble once more over my minor character actor and the nagging truth he pointed me towards. A truth that convicts me that this towering pride blinds to the humble reality of life, that in the quest to exalt the individual self we are blinded to our part in the whole story. Just like the minor characters each had a part to play in order for the show to go on, so too do we.

You and I are absolutely unique. Not only were we made by God we we’re made for a purpose and a glory that we cannot yet know as the story is still unfolding in time.  And I think a lot of joy gets lost in a quest for mere worldly glory for two reasons. First, because worldly glory does not satisfy and leaves one ever restless. Second, because it steals the dignity we inherently have from being made in the image and likeness of God by making that dignity conditional.

But I propose that this set of actors are wiser than our media pundits, celebrities, athletes and other influencers because when the show was over they each came out and took their bow with a smile on their face. While I’m sure they were content in their hard work and dedication to their craft which made the overall performance excellent, I think their true joy was not in being perfect but in knowing that they had been part of something amazing together, something that would not have been possible without each and every person on that stage playing their part exactly as they were meant to.

I think the joy of heaven, and the joy of life on earth, is not in finding ourselves but in finding God and realizing that not only is He perfect love, but He makes each and every one of us a part of that love. That our glory will be not a monument like a towering tombstone but a reflection like a mirror of the love we’ve chased after and at last embraced, the love we became by being loved first by God.

And I’m sure that whether we were a lead or held the door for them, whether we were noted for our poetic musings or for sheepishly cracking a joke, we will be perfectly content with our part once we see it in the light of that final vision and behold the majesty of Heaven, because “eye has not seen, ear has not heard what God has ready for those who love Him.” (1 Corinthians 2:9).

 

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The Hiatus

Hello again all.

So I sort of knew I was going to take a hiatus after writing Spiders Don’t Eat Steak and it’s sequel The Problem of Guilt. Sometimes you just get a sense for these things somewhere in the soul that knows it even when your brain hasn’t admitted it yet. I did not expect to take a break from blogging for as long as I did though and I am touched by the few who actually noticed I had stopped writing!

I’m a very unusual person I think, which I’m sure you’ve gathered if you’ve been reading my blog since the beginning. I started this blog in the summer of 2015 on a whim to chronicle something happening deep within that I did not want to lose touch with as I was transitioning into a particularly busy season of life. Blogging was a really fun way for me to express the little pieces of discovery that caught my attention on the day to day, in the midst of a very ordinary life. Things I noticed in society, things I noticed on my commute, things I noticed in debates while somehow becoming a small scale defender of my faith, and most of all the subtle changes I experienced in that place deep within, that place that was developing as I learned and continue to learn how to pray.

I know prayer has a bad reputation in our society as ineffective and a general waste of valuable time to a God who is largely indifferent- if He even exists at all. But that’s the thing about reputations, you can’t dismiss them as completely true or false, accurate or inaccurate until you really know the person, or in this instance the Person. And if you want to know God you have to spend time with Him in prayer; there is no other way.

I want to know God because God is the only Person I ever found that can satisfy that place deep within my soul that was so incredibly restless and always seeking even before I knew exactly what I was searching for and in learning to share that center with God I got some fun blog posts but even better a whole new life in Christ that I honestly wouldn’t trade for anything. And now to finally get to the point, this journey of late has gone from something exterior to something much more interior and the subtle change has been pretty exciting but not exactly easy to put into words. When I write I always try to capture a feeling or experience with words and where I am now, words fail me. So until further notice I wanted to officially confirm that I forsee myself being on hiatus for a little while where posts won’t be as frequent (if they happen at all) but I hope to return when the words finally come rushing back because one day I hope to share even the tiniest piece of my soul’s latest adventure with you so that you can discover it too.

The Struggle is Real

The following is a guest post from A.C. Wilson:

As a college student, I hear a lot of slang, funny phrases and strange trends. Everything from “on fleek” to “ratchet” or “the dab.” One of those phrases is “the struggle is real.”

You describe a long homework assignment to your roommate and they look at you with pity and a dash of humor and say “the struggle is real”

You run out of ice cream: “the struggle is real”

You trip and stumble at the bus stop: “the struggle is real”

A form of college casual empathy for mostly the mundane, everyday problems that we may encounter. There are memes about it. There’s a whole “struggle” movement.

Sometimes I wonder where this phrase came from. Why do we feel the need to identify which struggles are legitimate and which aren’t? Shouldn’t all struggles be “real” by definition of a struggle? Can there be fake struggles? Are we so jaded by so many complaints and “struggles” a day that it is necessary to identify the “real” ones? Perhaps it is part of our culture. Maybe we are so insecure that we need to validate what is acceptable to “struggle with” and what’s not?

More to the point, for those of you seeking the holy life: “The struggle” really is real. And God bless you for undertaking it because it is freaking difficult sometimes.

But why does God, who is all peace, allow this difficulty, this pain in the struggle?

I think it is for our good. If God just gave us all the virtues without the fight, then they wouldn’t be virtues anymore, because virtues take practice and perseverance. If He didn’t allow struggle, we wouldn’t know peace and if we did not know peace we would not know Him, at least not as fully and intimately as He desires. God wants the struggle for holiness to be “real,” otherwise there would be no glory in it.

The struggle gives God glory, and “The glory of God is man fully alive.” -St. Irenaeus.

According to St. Irenaeus, this fight, this struggle, is what makes us fully alive. We would be dead and despondent without the love of God always calling us forward, to stretch ourselves, to turn to Him in everything.

And yes, He is calling you. Yes YOU.

Before a whole host of objections and hesitations, I would beg you not to back down from the struggle. God loves you and calls you, wherever you are at on your journey, whatever your struggles are. He can take your everyday “struggle is real” moments, whether it is a call to change your life or having no way to cook bacon and transform them into real grace and true blessings. How? By uniting your everyday life to Christ, you can make a productive homework session a heavenly accomplishment. If you stub your toe and don’t immediately profane God’s name, that is an accomplishment. Truly, all of heaven cheers for your smallest accomplishments.

So he is calling you, you can be certain of this. But this knowledge requires abandoning yourself to God through habitual prayer and the sacraments as you fight to maintain His presence in you.

It is true God asks for everything and nothing less, but this does not mean He will take everything from you. It doesn’t mean that He will break off your engagement, end your career, or sever your ties to your family and friends. Saintliness doesn’t automatically mean a dramatic cutting off of everything familiar to you. Quite the opposite. Saintliness, or living the life God calls you to (your “vocation”), is about God entering into the everyday moments of your life, and your efforts to make a home for Him in your heart. From there, everything else will flow. You might have to leave things behind, you might not. Either way, it is for your betterment. If you have to break it off with your fiance and go into religious life, it will only be because God wants your particular love and affection purely for Himself. If you give up your job, it is because God wants to glorify you on a new path. If you live a life of isolation from your loved ones for God, He will provide for you all the closeness and intimacy you need. For any attachment we give up in this world, God will give us something greater from His very own tender heart. The less worldly “security” of money, power, etc, that we have, in the name of God, the more securely we are attached to his pierced heart, that beats for His children.

Be not afraid to trust. “The Lord is my Shepherd. There is nothing I lack.” (Psalm 23). If we really believed that, what could we do? How would the world be different?

So from one cliched expression to another, go fight the good fight, work on your prayer life, watch the graces flow, and know that I love you.