Tag Archives: Christ

The Un-Perfected Art of Not Holding a Grudge

2 Sep

Grudges are hard for me. When someone wrongs me I chew on what they did for a really long time. Then when I’m done chewing I take it out of my mouth and I put on my bookshelf so that I can look at it whenever I feel the need (or when the wrong-er asks me to do something for him or her…in this case it’s a her).

I would try and explain how hard I try to let go of things…but the truth is, I don’t really try that hard at all.

Somewhere along the way I picked up this idea that if I were to forgive someone, then that would be opening myself up for that person to hurt me again. Or that if I were to do something nice for someone who had hurt me then that person wouldn’t learn his or her lesson and would just go and do the same wrong thing again to me or to someone else. And of course I have more little justifications for why it’s okay for me to cling to my grudges.

And then I remember the words of Christ…

“But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. To one who strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also, and from one who takes away your cloak do not withhold your tunic either” (Luke 6:27-29).

I learned these words when I was 6. I can still hear Mrs. R reciting them with us over and over.

These words were easy then. Because they were just words – words that I could mindlessly speak as a child but that I now find haunting me as an adult.

It’s really hard when you know exactly what it is that Jesus wants you to do and it’s exactly the opposite of what you want to do. Such a Jonah day…

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Spiritual Normalcy

23 Apr

I’m in a weird spiritual place right now. Honestly, I’m in a normal spiritual place right now. It just feels weird because for the past few years I’ve either been in a spiritual low place or in a spiritual high place. I’d forgotten what normalcy feels like. I’d forgotten the feelings that come along with being in the spiritual “middle-ground.”

I spent most of my teenage years in this same type of “middle-ground.” I hated it. I fought against being there. I was so afraid of being like the church in Laodicea that is neither hot nor cold, that John talks about in these verses, that I would do almost anything to keep my faith “hot.”

I went to camps, retreats, conventions, and Bible studies where I would grasp at anything that I thought would give me a constant desire for God. And of course, I thought that I had to feel on fire for Him. I thought that if I didn’t feel hot, then surely I wasn’t hot. I’m so glad to be free from that mindset…if I wasn’t, then life right now would be a lot more difficult.

I don’t feel God’s presence right now – but I have no doubt that He’s with me.

I don’t feel like obeying God. I don’t feel like respecting my parents right now. I don’t feel like being a good steward with my money. I don’t feel like being kind to hurtful people in my life. I honestly don’t even feel like praying or reading anything of spiritual worth.

But I am. I don’t feel like doing any of those things, but I am still trying my hardest to be respectful, to save money, to be kind, to be patient, to fill my mind with words of goodness and peace.

The other day I obeyed God and I really didn’t want to. My roommate was privy to the whole situation and she was surprised that I did what God wanted me to do – I had some pretty good justifications for being disobedient. We were cleaning the kitchen together and talking off and on about my choice. And then I had a strange moment of clarity.

“You know,” I said, “Jesus made me do it. You know how sometimes as a kid you like to blame Satan for your bad choices? In this instance I can really only put the choice I made on Jesus’ back. I didn’t do it because I felt like doing it or because it would make me happy. I just did what Jesus told me I needed to do.”

I think that maybe that’s what God was trying to say when He spoke through John to the Laodiceans. I don’t think that God was worried about whether or not His people felt like obeying Him. I think He was more concerned with whether or not they actually were obeying Him. Even though I feel like a lukewarm, spiritual mess of a failure, I am not one. My feelings will never change the fact that I am God’s child, and through His strength I can seek obedience and perseverance. 

Some Teensy Changes Around Here

12 Apr

Six years ago I had a mentor sit me down and give me some advice. I was fourteen at the time, and not nearly as mature as I thought I was, so I’m afraid most of that information went in one ear and out the other. But one phrase has always stuck with me: “Become what you are.”

I’ve thought a lot about those words over the years:

You are God’s child – become a child of God.

You are full of God’s graces – become a person who is full of grace.

You are forgiven – become one who forgives.

You are whole in Christ – become whole in Christ.

This past week I saw something in myself that I didn’t like – I am a woman who has not become a woman.

Now then, I’m not being hard on myself in saying this. I don’t feel guilty or that I’m any less of a person – just that it’s time to do some growing up.

I’m twenty years old. I have a fiance with whom I am hopelessly in love. I have held down a difficult job for over a year now (the average retention rate is a semester). Not only have I held it down – I’ve excelled. I have submitted a proposal to my school’s research committee for a book I want to write. Not only have they approved it – but I’ve had multiple professors tell me how excited they are to see more of my work.

So why do I feel like a ten year old when I see an e-mail from one of my parents? Why do I squirm when I see “Mom” or “Dad” on my phone’s caller ID? Why do I have so much trouble believing that when they’re upset it’s not my fault? I am so afraid to tell them that I’m different from them – that I want different things, like different things, believe different things, know different things, hope for different things. Why does that seem so impossible to me?

Because I have to learn how to become the daughter that I already am.

I have to learn how to become the Catholic that I already am.

I have to learn how to become the woman that I already am.

So I’ve changed my description ^ up there to remind me of this. Pray for me, dear friends and readers.

7 Apr

My parents’ words are poisonous…

“Don’t you dare tell your grandmother. Don’t tell anyone even.”

“You might as well have become a Mormon. In fact, I wish you had.”

“This is just a phase. I’ve signed you up for a conference that’s going to fix you and get you through this faster.”

“You’d better not be thinking about becoming a nun.”

“You’re wrong, and you don’t know what you’ve done.”

~~~

I’m just not responding to them…so far if I’ve said something they’ve twisted it. It’s hard to twist silence. It’s hard to turn unsaid words into something ugly and poisonous.

I’m trying really hard to keep in mind that they haven’t even known for a week yet. There’s plenty of time for them to calm down.

S, on the other hand, is still furious. I’m trying really hard to keep him informed without telling him too much. I don’t want to make it hard for him to be a good son-in-law to them…but even based on the overview I’ve given him of my parents’ behavior this past week, he’s started to say that he doesn’t want them involved in our children’s spiritual lives at all. He also wants us to start saving so that we can pay for our own wedding.

I agree with him…is that wrong? Will that just cause further un-doable damage and hurt?

Father, Spirit, Jesus, help me. Save me. Love me. Guide me. Give me grace for my own sins so that I can extend grace to others for their sins against me. Give me words of comfort and wisdom for myself so that I can give those words to others. Help me to know when to be silent and when to speak. When I am to be silent, help me keep my mouth shut. When I am to speak, give me words. 

Feelings

30 Mar

When I was growing up I went to a lot of churches who were out to make me cry. I went to churches who existed to evoke emotion – to make their congregants feel something.

In a culture where we are constantly in touch with our feelings, sometimes it’s difficult to actually feel. Emotionally driven books, movies, TV shows, Facebook and blog posts, songs, and pictures bombard us. People respond to emotion, so those who want to be heard appeal to our feelings – and while it works for a time, eventually we become desensitized.

We’ve felt  so much – and our hearts need a break. Years of exposure to emotional appeals leave us needing time away from feelings – a repose from the ups and downs. So we allow callouses to form on our hearts. We allow them to become hard.

I think this is why I’ve seen so many churches that wanted the attention of my feelings. It’s good to feel. It’s good to have catharsis – to purge our emotions. It’s good to be excited. It’s good to have a nice long cry. Churches know this – and they also know how to evoke feelings. They know how to stir up our hearts and get us excited, or how to make us feel as guilty as Hitler, or how to reduce half of the congregation to tears.

And while those things aren’t bad, per se, I’ve seen a lot of churches who made evoking emotion their main goal. If people weren’t running or dancing or crying or expressing some extreme emotion by the end of the service, then the church had failed.

The problem is that when we focus on creating a feeling, we’re not focusing on God.

This Holy Week I’ve found myself feeling. I have felt joy at the grace of God, I have felt uncontrollable sadness over the pain of Christ, and I have felt overwhelmed by the love and goodness of the God I serve. But no one set out to make me feel those things. Rather, in meditating on the Lord and the things He has done, I found those feelings flowing as a natural result.

And you know what? If I had felt nothing it would have been okay – because God doesn’t command us to have a feeling. He blesses us with feelings, but He only commands that we obey Him.

In her book Little Book of Life Lessons and Everyday Spirituality, Mother Angelica says, “Spiritual dryness is a gift from God, because it removes the soul from the emotional level and puts prayer on the level of the will, where I am a child of God who does the things of God because I decide to do so, not because I am depending on emotions outside of me.”

These past few months I have been a mess of feelings. (S is worried I have a hormonal imbalance.) I have spent Holy Week weeping for God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. I have wept for the pain of the Blessed Mother, and I have wept for the sins of humanity. And I am absolutely overwhelmed with excitement for when I enter the Church tonight.

But I know that in a little while these feelings will fade. The dailiness of my spiritual life will take over. But that’s okay. Feelings are not the goal. Jesus is the goal, and feelings may or may not be a result.

Hardest Day of My Life…

27 Mar

At 10 PM last night someone at my school made a website where you can anonymously submit a post. It was supposed to be a secret admirer thing or something. But it turned into a place for people to say all of the racist, sexist, cruel things that tend to come out when anonymity is involved.

I was furious when I heard some of the things that my Christian peers were saying – that they wished someone would get divorced so they could have her, that they wished someone would die, that they it would be funny if the deaf kid walked out in the street and couldn’t hear a horn honking and therefore got run over.

I was also ashamed to be counted as a student here.

This is Holy Week. This is the week when we’re supposed to be honoring what our Lord did for us, and instead I felt like I could only hear echoes of Crucify Him! Crucify Him!

There wasn’t a thing my school could do about it.

So five of us decided we were going to take this website on. We started with posts of our own – about our desire to be a group of people who love others and who desire to respect and be respected, about the need to use humor appropriately and at the right place and time, and about how this is not what Jesus wants.

Our posts were answered with taunts – those directed at me were of course about my conversion.

Then we began to pray that people (especially the site administrator) would think about the things we had said.

And at 4 PM this afternoon, the site was deleted.

I’m happy that the battle is over…but the damage is already done. Over 1,000 posts were made on that site in the 18 hours it existed.

How does our campus begin to heal now?

I am a Catholic now.

26 Mar

I go to Mass on Sunday – it’s in a church, but I call it “Going to Mass,” not “Going to Church.”

I have become friends with the Church Fathers – when I have a question about Scripture I turn to Sacred Tradition and the Catechism. What a joy to be free from the chain of Sola Scriptura!

I rest in the knowledge that Jesus never disinherited my Church or my faith. In spite of all the flaws of the Catholic Church, she has never once been abandoned by God.

I have the Eucharist instead of Communion. I have Jesus’ actual body and blood instead of a symbol. No more “snack-pack” or “self-serve” Communion services – instead every Sunday I honor Christ’s commandment to eat His flesh and drink His blood in remembrance of Him.

I have the liturgy. If I faithfully attend Mass on Sunday, within three years I will have heard the entire Bible read. Never again will I have to endure a three year sermon series focused on one book of the Bible. Now I can look forward to partaking in every part of the Word of God.

I have rest and peace. I used to leave Protestant churches feeling emotionally drained and physically exhausted. It was a challenge for me to endure the ups and downs that often accompany Protestant services and sermons. I also often found myself being asked to clean the church kitchen, work in the nursery, teach Sunday School/Children’s Church, and usually afterwards there was something else to clean, someone who needed a meal cooked, or a Youth group project to plan. While ALL of those things are good things, they were what I focused on when I went to church – and I often missed out on having time to spend with Jesus. I don’t miss that.

I have a rosary. I still cringe a little before I begin to pray, but afterwards (and throughout) I am filled with an indescribable peace. What a joy to meditate on the lives of Christ and His holy mother, and to think on the glorious things the Father and Spirit did through them!

I have more books in my Bible. Honestly this was the most exciting part of becoming a Catholic for me! I’ve flipped through them but haven’t had time for a sit-down read. I absolutely cannot wait to dive into these new books.

I see the Holy Spirit helping me to work out my Salvation with fear and trembling. I find myself falling into the habit of examining my conscience and making peace with God, others, and myself. It’s a beautiful (but still rather painful) process.

I love the Cross more than ever. I love Jesus so much, and I am more in love with Him than ever. I cannot describe for you the joy I have always found when I fall at the feet of Father, Spirit, Jesus. Becoming Catholic has increased that joy ten-fold.