Caught Out

January 29, 2010

It’s a frightening thing when your priest discovers your blog. It’s not actually frightening, but more like that weird rush of adrenaline you feel when you see a cop sitting at the side of the road, even if you’re doing the speed limit and always do the speed limit and make an effort to obey all traffic laws. Then you go through your mental checklist of whether or not you’re on the right side of the law. Ah, good times!

Thankfully, though, Father Andrew, our “new enthusiastically orthodox ‘baby priest’” (which he quoted back to me) generally approved of my and Chris’s blog and encouraged us in it. It helps that he’s laid back and seems to be fully aware of the human condition. Although honestly, I’ve never heard of a priest who’s not fully aware of the human condition. And he could unknowingly sympathize with my nerviness since the Archbishop was at the daily mass yesterday, giving Father the unnecessary jitters around authority. Gosh, if we get like this with our earthly spiritual superiors, can you even imagine going before Christ at judgment?

But Father Andrew, if you do occasionally read my blog, I’d be grateful for any comments and direction you can give. That is, if you’re not completely overworked and exhausted from the demands of our over-sized parish. You honestly have a gift for helping people understand spiritual matters and I’m glad God has placed you at Prince of Peace.

Thy Will Be Done

January 26, 2010

Because of the generous gift from “cyurkanin” to his readers, I have a copy of He Leadeth Me and am in the middle of reading it. Already, I can recommend the book for those who struggle to find God in suffering. It is written by an American priest Fr. Walter Ciszek who spent 23 years in Soviet prisons and labor camps, with (at least at this point in the book) very little outward profit to show for his sufferings. It was only by being broken in these experiences that he learned to totally rely on God.

When I was young, my parents would talk about people having to “hit rock bottom” before they would turn their lives over to God. They were right. And this is one reason why suffering is such an integral part of our redemption. It seems that all too often, we have to be lying in pieces and completely unable to control our lives before we finally give up trying and let God work. Our pride must be crushed, and our insufficiency revealed before we let go. Ah, if it only wasn’t so. But my new theory is that all saints goes to purgatory. It’s just that sometimes it’s here on Earth where we are scorched by purifying flames.

Fr. Ciszek says in his book, “We are afraid to abandon ourselves totally into God’s hands for fear he will not catch us as we fall.” This describes me perfectly. I’m a control freak, although less so now than I have been. In the past, I had a “plan” and an idea of how things should go, what the good life was, and what things were of value in this world that I would spend my time chasing after. It was remarkably similar to the plot of a romantic comedy. This wasn’t anywhere near an attitude of total abandonment to the will of God.

I chased and I grasped at an illusion and made a big mess for myself. Horrendous story short, I ended up in pieces, heartbroken. I was destroyed by my utter failure to find love and happiness and my inability to control or even trust others in my life. I was in the place that Fr. Ciszek describes:

For my part, I was brought to make this perfect act of faith, this act of complete self-abandonment to his will, of total trust in his love and concern for me and his desire to sustain and protect me, by the experience of a complete despair of my own powers and abilities and abilities that had preceded it. I knew I could no longer trust myself, and it seemed only sensible then to trust totally in God.

I had certainly made stupid decisions that led to my downfall. It was my fault, and through it I knew I could no longer trust myself. I had nowhere else to turn, but to God, and so I did. It’s not that I was perfectly surrendered to Him, or even that I could recognize His will for me at that point. I had so far to go. But I will forever remember my utter despair in my own abilities and my simple, earnest, even urgent prayer. Show me what you want God. Your will, your truth. I don’t want anything else, because everything else falls apart.

It was a beginning for me, in which I asked God to take over and lead me forcibly in His will. I actually asked for that, because I knew I’d kick and scream against it, but didn’t want to be allowed the power to resist. It was less than two months later I met Chris. I was nowhere near spiritually strong or even stable, but there was something about marrying Chris. I knew I should do it. It was natural, peaceful, a decision made without effort or anxiety. It was God’s will. Once the decision was made, I began the kicking and screaming process. I fought God’s truth in the Catholic Church. I fought motherhood and giving up a career. I fought the obscurity and tedium of staying at home. Despite all the fight I put up, God has answered my prayer perfectly because it was my only perfect prayer. A heartfelt “Thy will be done.”

Now it’s so easy to lose sight of. I was talking to Chris last night about how we don’t make many big decisions anymore. We’re in a place where we’re just living out our path, day after day. I don’t tend to seek God’s will so much now that I just climb onto the hamster wheel every morning, because there doesn’t seem much will to be sought. Yet, Fr. Ciszek says, “God’s will was not hidden somewhere “out there” in the situations in which I found myself; the situations themselves were his will for me.”

God’s will comes to me now in the form of petty spats over the toy triceratops that roars, my 3 year old is screaming on the step, cleaning the mud off our spastic dog when she comes inside now that the snow’s melted, my 1 year old tackling my 3 year old to the floor like a linebacker, a constant barrage of “mom, mom, mom, I’m hungry, could you get me some crayons please? mom…” It’s frustrations and demands on my patience, done in obscurity. It’s the perfect opportunity to relinquish my own idea of how the day should go and eradicate the “self”, learning to see myself “in proper perspective before God and other men” as Christ himself showed me how on the cross. Hopefully, God will continue to answer my prayer and teach me humility, because “humility is truth, the full truth, the truth that encompasses our relation to God the creator and through him to the world he has created and to our fellowmen.” This is what all our struggles on this Earth, though they come in wide range and different forms, are leading us to. The ability to humiliate ourselves and pray, “Thy will be done.”

From the Mouths of Babes

January 4, 2010

At dinner last night, my three year old daughter asked her Daddy if Mommy was right, was he indeed only joking when he told her she couldn’t eat any more because she had to stay little and not grow anymore? Then finishing her dinner for once, she went over her plan for her life. She has already declared with great urgency and to the exclusion of all other possibilities that she must grow up and have babies. Lots of babies. Apparently, she won’t have any time for anything else in her life, like traveling or learning gymnastics. Then her poor little mind turns to, as she sees it, the immediately successive events of growing old and dying. It’s amazing how such a new little mind of her age grasps these ideas so well, with only a few oddities thrown in, like how she thinks when you grow old, you should get small again like a baby.

Then she says, “Daddy, I need the magic bread so I don’t die.”

Daddy: “What magic bread, sweetheart?”

Daughter: “The one at Church, silly! With Jesus in it. So I can live forever.”

Daddy: “Oh! Yes, you’re right.”

We’ve explained to her, as we did again, that we all have to die, but it’s alright. Jesus brings us back again.

Daughter: “But there’s not enough room in our house! Can Jesus stay with us?”

Daddy: “Of course, honey! there will be plenty of room for everyone. In fact, Jesus staying with us is the reason we can come back.”

When it gets too complicated, she usually heavy sighs, head in hands and finalizes it with, “But, I just don’t want to die.”

Neither do I, sweetie. We weren’t made to die. And though we have the hope of the resurrection, the great unknown still scares me.

I wish that I could stop all the painful little realities of life from affecting my babies. I have hope to offer them, but there is so much difficulty that they will go through before they see it. What more, although I wish it weren’t necessary, I wouldn’t stop the pains of life for them if I could. Adversity is good for them, shaping them into better people, which is more important than living an easy, pleasant life. Which is also why God the Father allows us to make our own messes. We’re on Earth for a reason. From beginning to end, we change, which could mean our eternal salvation or eternal damnation. At least my daughter has already figured out that her recourse is to Christ in the Eucharist. Beautiful, with a tinge of sadness.

Occam was Wrong

January 3, 2010

Occam’s Razor: “Entities must not be multiplied beyond necessity.” or more simply put: “The simplest solution is the best one.”

In my experience, the simplest answer is usually missing something. Consider Newtonian physics. It is, by far, easier to grasp than Quantum physics or Relativity. Newtonian physics is a special limited case, missing the complete picture of physics as seen close to light speed or at a microscopic level. Where am I going with this? I see the same problem all over, including in Protestant thinking. For instance, concerning faith and works or grace and free will, the balance of which are too complicated, so in Protestant theology one is done away with to provide a simpler, more straightforward solution. But a wrong answer because it’s missing something. Same thing with modern thought on ethics and philosophy. All nuances are sacrificed for a straightforward system of thought. This simplicity of thought demands “either, or”. Science or religion, not both because figuring out their relationship would be too complicated. Not Scripture and Tradition because we can’t quite understand exactly how it works.

In short, then, Occam is wrong. The truth is complicated.