I had an opportunity to listen to a speaker today, who asked a simple question, “are you emptied out to accept God’s love, or are you filled with the non-importants of life?”. I thought at first this question was a basic platitude we all hear when listening to an inspirational speaker, but as he used a prop of an empty and half-full glass, I was struck by its profound implication. I will admit, I fill my life with a great many useless points of thoughts and worries. All of which no more make me a better version of myself, nor do they create an atmosphere of learning and growth as it pertains to God. In other words, I’m selfish, I would rather spend my time on activities where I can be entertained, maybe I worry about events at work as though through my worrying I can change the past and make everything better. Ok, so what was his overall message, love, God’s love is waiting on us to accept it, and all we must do is accept it. No one’s life was ever fully realized or fulfilled without the love of God.
Our fulfillment depends on every choice we make. I chose, many years ago, perhaps in my ignorance, but ultimately the greatest choice of my life, to be a father and a husband with an opportunity to become a man somewhere along the way. What’s interesting about our choices is they are ours, and ours alone. We truly can’t blame anyone for our choices no matter how good, bad, or ugly they might be. Let me give you an example of what I’m thinking. Say you are the only witness to a grisly murder, and the police need your testimony to convict the murderer, and without your testimony they will go free. One more complication to your decision is, you’ve been told, by an anonymous source, if you testify, your family will die. So, what do you do? Many people might say, “no thank you, I have a family to worry about!”, but others would testify and face the potential retribution for their choice, by those who listen more to the deceiver than to the truth. Now I know this is an extreme example, but you always had a choice. Extremity is the point to which I’m trying to get us all to look at. In any good argument, we should be able to argue an extreme and still find the same philosophical answer, this is what makes for a good argument. There should be a linear logical point we can draw from argument inception to conclusion. This is what gives us a clear thought pattern when it comes to making moral and ethical choices.
So, how does our choice pertain to the ability to empty ourselves out? Here’s how I see it. The first thing we must do is to recognize we have baggage and in some cases more than we should handle. This weighs us down, and creates a spiraling discord which keeps our life out of harmony with others and our surroundings. This discord, creates tension, and sets up barriers to prevent others from reaching us. It also prevents us from seeing the true light of Christ in what we do, and posits an understanding whereby we look within ourselves for answer where we just don’t have any answers at all. This spiraling effect then begins to create dysfunction our lives and then an unbalance occurs. Ok, so imagine there is a glass of water, the water represents everything we try to fill up within ourselves, other than God. There is a stipulation to filling the glass up though, the glass is constantly spinning on its edge in one direction while you stand on a platform which spins in the opposite direction. This unbalance becomes more pronounce the more we fill our glass with the water of circumstance and selfish decision, eventually falling and spilling everything. When we try and fill ourselves with the unnatural wants and desires of this world, all the while mixing in our problems, it keeps us off balance, and unable to fully set ourselves and focus on the here and now. We’re always worried about trying to put things right, or trying to just get to the next day. We always hope tomorrow will hold the answers. Unfortunately, tomorrow is just another curvature of the glass and half spin in the opposite direction, and we are just a little fuller of the things we don’t need, and one step closer to losing everything. This is our decision to attempt to fill up on those things which can’t provide stability or the focus on what we have before us now. At this point, we must decide to stop, and truly start again. Stop all the spinning and balance ourselves, so when we begin to become filled up with God’s love, we can accept the proverbial water of life till our cup is full and even overflowing with the graces which are poured upon us.
To empty ourselves, we must give of ourselves. In Luke 6:38 “Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full–pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.”
The formula exists, we must all give of ourselves and the measure with which we will receive more than we could possibly imagine. This means as family men, we must give everything we have for our wives and our children. I once heard it explained, relationships aren’t a 50/50 proposition, but instead a 100/100% dedication. As a husband, you must give everything you have, and never wait on her to capitulate or meet you, you must always be the example of what should be done. With our kids, we should be setting an approachable father figure, but one who keeps expectations high and is willing to accept failure in the pursuit of those expectations. When we can accept the impossible, and forgive the inevitable, then an opening in our hearts begins to accept the light of God. Opening ourselves to receive grace, by giving everything we have in us to all who enter our lives, presents us with an awesome choice, God or no God. When faced with a perspective of God within our lives and the implications as they translate themselves in our own natural and supernatural epistemology, we see once difficult choices become simple pursuits of truth and decision. Our once complicated lives take on a must do type of urgency, and where we once pursued the gray to color the fabric of our lives, now to see anything in any other color than black and white becomes an abhorrent aberration to what we determine as an overall perception of truth. To empty means to give of ourselves from action to thought to feeling which leads to a sense of repentance.
Metanoia is the Greek word used in the New Testament to explain repentance whereby we have a “change of heart from the practice of sin to the practice of virtue” (Catholic Culture). As this relates to emptying ourselves for filling ourselves with the love of God, we see the first function of anything we must focus our lives on is dealing with ourselves. This may sound selfish, but how can you feed the hungry if all you can think of is filling your own belly with the food you would and should feed them with. How can a husband give to his wife, if all he ever thinks of is how she isn’t giving to him, or how he tried so hard and she didn’t recognize? Who was he ever doing it for? I know some husbands, have no trouble in this department, and if this is true, God has blessed you with other areas in need of focus. For those of us, like myself, I have always struggled with putting myself last and making sure everyone’s needs were met before mine. I always lamented the need for my apology first, or being the person to attend to my wife’s needs where I perceived her to do nothing at all. I was so wrong, it was never up to her to meet my expectations as I subjectively created them, it was my job to love her for who she is, and to be the best and most supportive husband I could be. When I recognized this defect in my thinking, I began to see a dramatic change; I was less worried about the small stuff, and as it related to my relationship, we once again could connect with one another, and begin to move forward in our love with one another. Of course, I know everyone’ relationship is different, so therefore I use the broad stroke of direction to say, love her, for who she is, not who you want her to be. If you are thinking of marriage, then love her for who you know she is, recognize her dreams and goals, and support her in what she needs. Our God provides, so never worry about this, just give everything you got.
With raising kids, I’ve learned a couple of things which may help anyone, it certainly helped me. In a time of struggle and frustration, and in my exasperation, all I could do was shake my head and lift my hands in confusion. Then I realized, my kids don’t expect me to get it right always, they expect me to never give up on them (even if they don’t truly understand this, they expect me to always be there). Kids look up to us with those gleaming eyes, and they want us to succeed in life, because don’t you want anything you truly love to do well? They are willing to accept our love at its lowest form of their perception of success, and yet we can’t see the innocence of this, and instead we pursue our own perceptions of what we think things ought to be. Trying to be more than a father to our kids by never failing or admitting failure is the worst thing we could do. I know, times in my past when I held anyone to an extremely high expectational status and when they eventually failed (everyone fails, when we hold them too high), I could hardly bear the sight of them because I failed to look at them with the lens of a loving heart. However, when we show that in the face of failure, our focus remains the same, and we can admit the failure in a supreme effort to open ourselves and practice an effort to change our hearts, those whom we love the most are let in to our hearts and we are let into their hearts, an unconditional love can form in an ever-entwining helix which enwraps the fiber of everything we do. This applies to our kids, our wives, our coworkers, and anyone we meet every day, but where this behavior and expectation carries the most weight is when we can open ourselves up for failure to God, and furthermore accept his forgiveness and love. Our own metanoia is an ability to perceive light in the darkest of places. Our desire to recognize fault and yet perceive a possibility for redemption will set us up to be successful husbands and fathers, as well as being men of uncompromising love.
We all seek redemption for our past mistakes, we are all looking for someone who will tell us, “it’s ok, I love you for who you are not what you do or what you’ve done”, with this know, God is love. God seeks our love, and with this, loves us so much he gives us the choice to empty ourselves and to be filled with his light, his grace, his love, his very existence. When we can accept our lives are full of junk, and we entertain those willing to fill it with the unneeded junk, then we can never be filled with God. When we can learn to pour out those unneeded items in our live, we leave ourselves open to wonderful possibilities, which in turn help lead others we know or meet daily to their own wonderful possibilities. As husbands, we must always desire to be an example for our spouses, and as fathers we must be willing to be imperfect and yet show our children what a father should be in this world. Stand up for a change in your life where you can legitimately pour yourself out, and transform yourself. God loves you in all you do, and I do as well, I wish the absolute best for you in your life. I hope where there is struggle in your life, God helps you to focus on what’s most important, and where there is joy in your life, I pray God helps you to increase your joy through the pursuit of charity with others. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!