I had the great pleasure of seeing a skit performed, on YouTube, and the perspective as we relate ourselves to God, was done with simplicity and yet masterful in its delivery. The acting was ok, the dialogue was “ehh”, but the message was profound. The one statement I found to carry the impetus for change was “I love you too much, just to leave you where you’re at”. Powerful, and yet so simple a phrase. Have you ever uttered this to anyone you love, or have you ever put yourself in such a position to be hurt and yet in the most unconditional way look past a hurt to continue loving?
I’m constantly looking at my surroundings and either being in awe of what I see, or dealing with a sense of annoyance based my poor perception of a situation. Let me be clear, it’s my inability to see past where I am, and understand another person which causes a sense of annoyance with me. Even if they were trying to frustrate me, it is my responsibility to look past their shallow efforts and focus on the person before me. I was once told, criticism is an effect of envy, and envy is a doorway to sin, and sin is the surest path to an existence without God. I find myself, stepping back from many of the situations I deal with and rethinking my position as it relates to what I would perceive God to see. Now, let me state before I go any further. There is no way I could ever possibly know what God thinks, my mind is just too simple to comprehend the fuller narrative. Though, attempting to see what is before me through a lens of loving and acceptance is the only way I can come nearest to what God wants from all of us. Jesus, accepted those who society walked away from, and he didn’t chastise them and create a condition of scolding as a matter of repentance. No, he accepted them and treated much like a doctor would treat a patient. With care and love, as a matter of course, and with a determined effort to heal what is loved without condition (Luke 2:13-17). This love transcended any moment and any event which has or will ever occur, it gave us the most beautiful glimpse of what how God sees us. We are his creation, and to borrow another point from the skit I watched, we’ve never let him down, he has always held us up. He created us, with love and with attention, we weren’t made in a factory, and we are not like everyone else, instead we are unique in his eyes.
Ok, where do we go from here? We’re unique, how does this apply to us? In a world which is so convoluted with every point of view, how do we deal with secular ideology, feelings always being hurt, immigrants being turned away, presidents acting less-presidential daily, news media so abhorrently one-sided as to make anyone wonder what is true, and religion seemingly diminishing before our very eyes in the context of the greater world? In some conversations, I hear ridiculous comments over who is to blame, and even sometimes a simple solution to one of the opportunities for change I mentioned. Everyone is looking for an answer to one extent or another. Some people choose to accept there is nothing alone they can do to fix the issue, but they recognize things are changing and in most cases for the worse. Other people want to fix the problems they see, and do so by figuratively shouting into the wind. Their efforts are noted, but the effect is like rubbing dirt on a wound, it might mask the wound, but underneath the dirt the wound still festers and could possibly make the situation worse. Then there are those, who choose to organize and make a concerted effort as part of a much larger effort to change, and we see this with demonstrations or lobbying efforts to influence new laws within our nation. The last, and probably the most effective is the solution which requires the most attention, the most time, the most pain, and yet has the greatest possibility for positive results. I’m simply referring to the transforming power of family and faith. So, before I get the giant eye-roll I can see you’ve already done, or want to do badly, just give me a little more time and I will explain my point.
Let me start with faith. I once read a book, Jesus Shock by Peter Kreeft which stated, “The most total opposite of pleasure is not pain but boredom, for we are willing to risk pain to make a boring life interesting.”. Think about that. Our mistake is assuming, because something doesn’t keep our attention, it must either be not worth looking at, or at the very least not worth the time and energy to understand where it relates to us. Religion is a lot like this, we would rather be at home watching TV, or doing just about anything else, than listening to a Priest tell us how much our lives have derailed. Though, this isn’t what the priest is doing at all, instead, he’s trying to show us the path. He’s trying to show us just how much God is in love with us, his creations. Now, I know I’m taking the simplistic approach to a complicated topic, but in the end, the answer is simple, fundamental even. The solution is black and white, we either choose to recognize a path other than an extension of our own ego, or we don’t. I would say to one extent, no one really cares as much for our decisions as we do, but if you’ve ever met a loving parent, this isn’t always the case. Sometimes parents, in their own unconditional way, love us more than we do ourselves. So, are we willing to look past ourselves and what we currently find as non-interesting, and accept a new perspective? Is faith important enough to grab our attention?
Yes, it is, just empty yourself of expectations and the material which is holding you back! The allure of faith will no longer become reticent, but instead will be the focal point of a life which in contrast has been shadowed by a grayish fog of uncertainty. Faith gives us the acceptance of not knowing the detail, but seeing the larger scope of events. Creating a landscape of focus in either a black or white perspective, and because of our waning attention, we haven’t bother to notice, the spectrum of colors which exists within our choice to either be or not to be. Our faith can be rich, beautiful, logical, philosophical, scientific, anything you’re willing to really consider and search for answers. I fear some people don’t look, because they are afraid of what they will or won’t find, and it’s just easier to live in their current condition. The problem is, if we aren’t accepting faith, then we’re truly not living, we’re just waiting to die, and this is no life at all. From a perspective of boredom, we fill small points of time with anything which will capture our attention, and the problem we always run into is the ending. A great book always comes to an end, and in this ending, if we felt exhilaration from the story will indicate our search for another something to fill a void this book left us with. A vacuum of sorts, and if we’re not careful, we will fill it with whatever comes along. However, our faith does exactly the opposite, it’s a slow burn of excitement, but one which if stoked, will become red hot with time, and if fed properly will remain with us our entire life. Though like any fire, it requires attention patience, and at times from an outside perspective of the here and now, boredom, but with proper perspective, nothing about faith is boring. We are building a relationship with God, and how can this in any way be boring?
Family is the second part to the equation, it balances out what we do. There are two concepts of families though, perhaps many more if we plunge into the spectrum of culture, however for my point, I’m looking at just two versions. There is the faith family, people whom you meet in life and who either have an influence on our lives or we have an influence on their lives. The other, is the more traditional role of family, a mother and a father and children. I would like to make a point which, in some matters will upset some, and affirm in others. The church places importance on the roles of traditional family. Without family, at least as the natural order is concerned, we would cease to exist. I think this creates a hierarchy of natural importance, but doesn’t supersede compassion as we should all strive to do more of. Family is family, and in the existence of what we know within the two paradigms of family, we are bound to one or the other or both. So, let’s begin there with family, those people given the free will to walk away, choose not to walk away from us and instead put their efforts and energies into us through prayer and physical representations of their love. As fathers, we work hard to provide a home and food for our families, and in return we ask for nothing more than the ability to continue our love in just such a manner. As husbands, we are bound to our wives through covenant with God, and within this covenant we either choose to unconditionally love them or fall away. As an aside, I hope and pray if you are at a point of falling away from your spouse, you recognize the truth is within you. Prayer, and effort are needed; if you done anything to corrupt your marriage, then truth is your only route, and humility your only medicine. If there is anything they’ve done to corrupt the marriage, then I pray you will be compassionate in your decision to love. If you’ve made decisions without your spouse, now it’s their turn, and all I can suggest is you pray they are compassionate and willing to try again. Success in anything isn’t a matter of winning, but willingness to keep trying in the face of defeat. Marriage is a holy institution, not one which a government can determine, but one of a social nature and faithful implications. This has been somewhat lost on our current culture, but not forgotten. Marriage is of God, and of God’s will, not something to do or even “the next step”. When we can place importance on this as a matter of a true bond with our spouse and God, and stop looking for ways out, we will have a chance at something truly beautiful. Accountability is the first step to penance, accepting our wrong, and choosing the path God lights for us, is the only way to salvation. Family, in the traditional sense, should be only second to God in importance, and this should mean, we are there for each other, willing the good of everyone in our family with a level of unconditional support.
Now where does this leave us? Well, it leaves us with the ability to transform our lives, as men, fathers, and husbands. Though like any transformation, pain is a matter of growth. We must endure pockets of pain as we grow, and in some cases elongated time-periods of pain where our focus on what truly matters is what pulls us through the fire, so-to-speak. So, why does pain exist, and why if there is a loving God, would he allow us to endure pain if he really loves us? The answer is in the question. Growth, and I’m referring to growth in our faith in the spiritual sense, requires the pain of leaving behind what we know. Sometimes, it requires us to leave this world sooner than we originally anticipated. The pain we go through could be a mixture of other worldly gifts being ripped from us, like having a loved one, a child taken before we believe it to be their time. Deep down, the worst pain for us is changing ourselves and setting the path for our loving journey to God. At times for me, when I was deciding to be transformed in God’s love, I still held back and held on to those things which kept me distant from God. Those things were choosing not to look at each person as a beloved creation of God, and failing to recognize they were precious in his eyes, no matter how they treated me. Because God, loves them unconditionally, I should be willing to reflect the same love on them. This is and was very hard for me to accept. I’ve run across some people in my life, who once gave me a visceral reaction jus to think about them. I would gesture unlovingly to them, of course behind their backs, I would talk poorly about them (this is still a struggle for me, for sure), but more than anything I wasn’t forgiving them. “Even sinners love those who love them, and if you do good to those who do good to you, what cred can you expect?” (Luke 6:32-33). Nothing is truly gained by only accepting those who accept us, forgiveness is the only path we can ever take for the redemption we seek. Though, nothing worth doing is ever without risk, the risk of failing, perhaps the risk of having our efforts thrown back at us in the most unloving of ways. I should add one more thing, if someone is correcting us and they are truly right, it isn’t a matter piety which makes them correct us, but love, they love us enough to risk our anger and this is a powerful motive to risk everything. Don’t fail them when they are the most vulnerable, and this also speaks to those people who see a fault in others, be kind, be compassionate, and most importantly love them unconditionally. Will the good of the other, because they are other.
- Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
- Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
- Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
- Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
- Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
- Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Our transformation in life will be painful and will be long, and I see us having the responsibilities of being fathers and husbands, we must endure the pains which will inevitably come our way. Just remember, at the very least you will always have one of two families who will love you and support you. Two families who will help to keep you on the right path, and will let you know when you’re beginning to stray from the light. I pray you always keep your faith and family close to you and in focus. When we can begin to do just these basic functions of life, we’ll see others around us infected by the love we exude and want the same fill we are getting from God. Don’t be discourage with pain, be thankful for God’s presence in your life, no matter what comes your way. Prayer will always be the most powerful tool in your arsenal. The power of prayer transcends time and space and gives you a direct line to God. May God bless you and your family!!!
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!