Friday, January 9, 2015

Goal for 2015... and well, the goal, I guess

I want to be a saint.

There. I said it. It shouldn't be so terrifying to say. To become holy. To truly become. To live forever in the presence of God. To be perfected.

It's funny how this has been following me around for awhile before I could even write the words on December 31st. It sounds so... out of reach. Difficult. Impossible.

I'm just a normal person. A normal person, living a normal life, with nothing big or grand about it to speak of. But that's the thing. That's the thing about reading the writings of the Little Flower, and so many others. The path to holiness is the path I'm on. (Video on a similar idea from Jennifer Fulwiler )

It's not an easy path for anyone. It's difficult. And it's not usually the "big" things that are hard. It's the easy things. the things where you have to weigh two good things and pick the one that is better. Or where you have to push aside yourself to favor those around you. To put God first in all your actions.

It's impossible for me to be perfect. But it's not impossible for me to be perfected.

So while I've been mulling over this for the last few weeks (or months, or couple of years), the same idea has just kept cropping, to the point where now I am daily seeing how this truly plays out in all aspects of my life.

I'm reading a book on motivation for work and tonight this passage struck me:

"...A little kid's life bursts with autotelic experiences. Children careen from one flow moment to another, animated by a sense of joy, equipped with a mindset of probability, and working with the dedication of a West Point cadet. they use their brains and their bodies to probe and draw feedback from the environment in an endless pursuit of mastery. Then, at some point in their lives-- they don't. What happens? "You start to get ashamed that what you're doing is childish."" Drive, p 128.

Wow... reading that tonight hit like a weight of bricks. Children love freely, and without shame. They are motivated to become their best. To improve, not to compete, but have "an endless pursuit of mastery". That, too, should be our attitude toward the spiritual life, and toward our physical lives which are a means to the spiritual life as well.

It can be difficult to remember that there is a reason God gave me the gift of my family, of my town, of my job, of my friends. Each of these people are in my life for a reason. To help me to become holy, and for me to help them along the same path. Sometimes that is through a word of encouragement, but other times, it can be through a thorn in our side. Thorns, too, can sanctify us. St Paul said this in 2 Corinthians 12: 6-10.

"Although if I should wish to boast, I would not be foolish, for I would be telling the truth. But I refrain, so that no one may think more of me than what he sees in me or hears from me because of the abundance of the revelations. Therefore, that I might not become too elated, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” I will rather boast most gladly of my weaknesses, in order that the power of Christ may dwell with me. Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong."

The thing is, at least for me, it's really easy to follow the "big" things. It's easy to not murder, or steal, or lie, or break any of the "surfaces" of the commandments. But to truly die to myself? To truly put others first in my esteem? To put their needs and desires ahead of my own? 

To be at school by 7:30 because that's when a student wants extra help. To patiently, and calmly ask yet again for a student to get out their pencil, or to quit blurting out comments, or to come to class on time. To respond graciously when cut off in traffic. To have chicken for dinner when you want a steak. To make pizza instead of trying the new recipe with strange vegetables no else would want to eat. To watch the sports program when my favorite show is on the other channel. To smile at the stranger in the shopping line. To make small talk with the grouchy clerk. To hold back the criticism and uplift those around me instead. 

These are little things. Little, tiny, completely unimportant things. And these are the things I've been given, not as a punishment, but as a gift to offer cheerfully my obedience and to participate in the work of Love. 

To put my phone, and Facebook down and read a spiritual book, or pray the rosary, or simply sit silently in the presence of God. To choose to use less cream in my coffee on occasion to remind me to be more thankful.

Little, tiny, unimportant things? Not so much. Not when they can be so very difficult to do precisely because of how "little" they are.

I often think it would be "easier" to have been given a larger task. Something tangible, where I can see the end goal more clearly. Where I can see exactly what I should do in an instant that would be the right thing. 

Because that's the toughest thing right now. The toughest thing is to serve God here. In this moment. In this part of my life without looking for something bigger to do, when I haven't mastered the little things I've been given. These little gifts, these small tasks... they change me. They conform my will to the will of God. Through surrendering my will. Sin, I read recently, is when we do not give back to God our free will. It is any time we do not act in Love. Such a simple definition. So difficult a teaching.

He willed to let us choose. But we are to choose Love, if we are to truly choose Him. In each little, tiny moment, we are to choose Love. And if the word vocation means the way in which we live out that movement to choose Love, well, then, the decision is simple. Love wins. Love wins through sacrifices, through smiles, through patience and trust. God gave us free will, that we, too could will Love into being. How amazing is that?!?! That we can choose so great a thing! In every moment. Through every action. We can take the mundane, the ordinary and choose to use them to make us holy.

A year ago, I started a blog post on sacrifice. One line, really, and it's interesting to me now to read it again.

"It's easy to say I want to sacrifice... that I would give Jesus everything I have. But if that were really the case, I wouldn't struggle with the little things."

I disagree with that last part now. I think the little things may always be a struggle. Maybe there was more to that thought last year, maybe not, but I think the main point is that the strive for holiness is something I was seeking then, am seeking now, and pray I will be seeking a year from now. It's not something that happens in an instant. 

Saying I want to be a saint shouldn't be shocking. I once heard a priest at a baptism say that for us to be anything less than holy, to become anything less than saints is a scandal. This is what we were baptized into. This is our heritage. 

Saying it shouldn't be difficult. Choosing to become a saint? Well, that's the tough part.

So this year, I'm working on it. And I'm going to keep working on it. And keep working on it. Step by little step.

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