Devotion is such an interesting word, often overused to indicate one’s pursuit of a goal as a means to an end. Though, if we delve deeper into just what devotion is, I think we might be surprised. Every example of the definition of devotion has a moniker of love associated with it. Either through the pursuance of faith, religion, or even the love of a spouse and children. Typically this might involve a sense of urgency as it relates to want or desire pertaining the devotion. It would perhaps carry a zeal or enthusiasm as we approach anything in context to our devotion. Where we begin to trip up is the self-interpretive benchmark our culture lays on our shoulders to create a devotee status which is worthy of our peers. In other words, our society seems to place an importance on our personal devotions which is neither substantive to our personal pursuits but instead becomes a socialistic collective of ideas bound to meet an ideology of equality in outcomes. Ok, so this is was a mouthful, the lay version of this is, people have their own pursuits and want us to want what they want. If we do, they are pleased with us, and if we don’t we seem to be a pariah to them or to their cause. So, the question comes back, and hopefully we can discuss this in depth as a matter of interpretation and fulfillment of our devotional development. Where does your devotion stand, based on the influences of our culture?
Let me begin by saying, everyone is on their own spiritual journey in life, so for anyone of us to think or believe we’ve cornered the market in devotions would be tantamount to a priggish snobbery. There is no place in the Heavenly context we talk about for behaviors such as this. However, if we approach our faith and our interactions with all of God’s people as a matter of zeal and an enthusiasm, seeking not to tear away (as is the devil’s desire), but to bring together as in one “church”, one “body”, then we’ve found the truth of a true devotion. Every day, I run into people who are on one path or another, some are seeking the spiritual guidance of God, and others are just trying to tread water in this world long enough to see earthly goals realized. Though, objectively speaking, where do we go when we’ve been blessed to see our earthly goals come to fruition? Do we stop, or is it human nature to seek more and more? My money is on human nature, although imprinted with the image of God, seeks to fulfill its own accord or desire. Sacrifice isn’t apart of measure of achieving more. In my own life, it took falling down, and disappointing almost everyone I knew for me to realize, my desire to seek selfish goals was achieving the figurative equivalent of pouring out God’s precious blessings. I was shouting in the silence, “I don’t need you”, all the while being miserable with what I was seeking.
There are numerous types of devotions, and I want to discuss what I see as the top three. The first being our pure and truthful devotion to God. The second is our devotion to the covenants and missions we chosen in life. The third is one’s devotion to their family. As you can see, none of the devotions can be truly realized without the first, in the context of truth. However, when we attempt to put the second or third devotion over our devotion to God, we find a misappropriation not altogether wrong, but somewhat misplaced. Take for instance the beauty of a flower, to recognize its beauty is epidermal, and to associate a function of the senses proves to be yielding of purpose. Though this purpose could wane with mood or time, and our once simple devotion no longer exists as a matter of course. This all changes, of course, when we look deeper into the meaning of the flower and to its lineage of creation. This is to say, when we peel back the layers of the flower’s inevitable creation, we see God as the architect of this beautiful, and seemingly insignificant portion of our lives. Now, the observation takes on a new priority, and in this priority, we find as we stop and “smell the roses” we are not just appreciating the sights and smells of this beautiful example of nature. We are also finding appreciation in the gifts God gave us as a matter of natural design. So, perspective changes all solutions. This is to say, our devotions will take on new characteristics as our perspective of God and our natural existence changes.
In descending order, let’s look at the devotions one-by-one. The third, family, a devotion worthy of kings but given as a gift to even the poorest of beggars. The family is so important to God, he choose to lower himself, as a man, and be born of a woman, who was betrothed to man. Then to be raised by this family, until such time as the fulfillment of the ultimate sacrifice would come to pass. The apostles walked with Jesus, and created an ad hoc family of believers specifically focused on the evangelization of the world. As we can see, family should be in the upper three and we should never dilute the importance of family, let alone allow culture to dictate what the definitions of family should be. Here is where devotion should play its most significant part. We devote ourselves to raising families and teaching our children the ways of Christ, and in doing so we build upon the stone foundations set by Christ Himself, leveled and adjusted as the cornerstone of life. Men, our wives are there for us and we are there for them. We enter into a covenant with God, when we enter marriage (nothing to be taken lightly, I assure you), and we create a physical family focused on the rearing of children and teaching them the ways of Christ as they were taught to us. So, what if we weren’t taught the ways of Christ, and this is all news to us? Good news, The Catholic Church is the “Universal Church”, in other words, the biggest family you could ever know. Not here to judge, and never here to condemn, but instead here to pour forth compassion, and teach us everyone is invited to the table of redemption and love. This is what we must teach our children and this is what we must show our spouses. This isn’t easy, to be certain, choosing the covenant of marriage and choosing to raise children with my wife, has been by far one of the toughest choices of my life. However, I tell my kids all the time, “go to the hard” your results may vary, and you might just fail, though failing isn’t the end, it shows we must try harder. The knowledge of seeing where we must go is God’s gift to us.
I personally can attest to the forgiving nature of my wife and my kids when it comes to my failures. I cannot state this with enough importance, I am a hard person to know, and I thank God for the gifts of my family, and of the family of The Church. We are all one family, maybe not by blood or in the natural law abiding sense of the description, but as devotion goes with God, we are all family in the ecumenical bonds set forth by Jesus Christ himself, even with those who don’t believe at all. Just like a family member who refuses your company (I have one of those), all we can do is lovingly want the best for this family member, and then pray this blessing for them. Perhaps they will walk our path with us once more and we can rebuild and repair as we journey through redemption. Make family a priority, treat everyone as a meaningful person who we can be more with, in doing this we might just be able to move the obstacle of egotism away from our path.
The second devotion (covenants and missions) is more hidden in our lives but carries with it the interpretation of God, and the point of views we possess as they translate into our daily activities. I already wrote about the covenant of marriage, and in this I discussed its application as a familial matters are concerned. Now, let’s talk about the covenant as it relates to our spouse. This person whom you choose and they choose you, and just how this daily gift can be looked at as a struggle or as a blessing. Early on in my marriage with my wife, I perceived everything I did as “the struggle”, never to be undone but to be layered one struggle upon another. In doing so, I blamed everyone else for my problems, and I wanted them to feel sorry for whatever predicament I was in. Even if this predicament was of my own making, and if as a matter of course I was facing the consequence of my decisions. As a point of fact, I didn’t devote myself to my marriage and this was its faltering. My wife was willing to work hard until she could see I wasn’t and in the overall process we allowed our feelings and egos to decide best course of action. Emotive responses are good for the movies but have little place in the decision to do what’s best when discussing true problems with any relationship. We often forget, the dynamic of any covenant is a realization of our place within the covenant. Too often, in our culture, we see people demanding an answer for evil, demanding to see a relationship with God on an inverse level. They subordinate the Most High, into a subservient position as a requirement to answer questions which within the context of understanding or not knowable. Cardinal Sarah (Power of Silence) indicates we neither can know the highest of the highs or the lowest of the lows, but we insist on an answer. The covenant between us and God, isn’t a matter of knowledge as to how, but rather as to why. The answer as to why, is all just a matter of love. Love is God, in every pure and concentrated way possible, and as we approach our covenants and missions we must do so as God has done with us, in love.
The second part of the second devotion is our mission, our perception of the work with which God lays out before us. A choice as always, because love is not love if we don’t have the free will to choose to love in the first place. Though our perception of a loving God, is the fire for the enthusiasm to approach our mission as reflect the goodness and love of our creator. I’ve discussed “mission” in the past, and let me say, my mission is what brings to reality the true desire to seek the redemption God is so willing to give. It is also the pathway which allows me to stop wandering in the desert of doubt, and instead head for the mountain of faith. Without my mission in life, which for me is to be a husband and a father (in that order), and to be a reflective light for all of God’s people. No matter the perception of anyone else, I am here to be a reflection of the Light of Christ, and in doing so be an example to show love in any and every way possible. I must confess, I still have a long road to travel, I seem to trip and fall a great deal, but this hasn’t discouraged me one bit. I can still see the mountain, and I am as energized to and full of strength to pursue my faith as I’ve ever been in my life.
Finally, the first devotion, God. This is a devotion we were all born to realize. Some of us do, and some of us fail to see where devotion should always be. When we pursue anything in life, without the guidance or devotion of God, we find the pursuits can be meaningful at times, even to fulfill somewhat the desires we set as goals. Though, with enough water which passes under the bridge, we become unfulfilled once more, seeking more goals to get us back to where we have a sense of purpose or even belonging. If we think of this like the addict we might just see many familiar traits, both ending in death, and both being abundantly clear to the objective observer, this life was wasted in the greater context of life in general. As I discussed earlier the cultural predication, we deserve an explanation, runs counter to any meaningful relationship we could possibly want or know. Logical fallacy as a matter of course seems to be the ruling ideology of the day. We can apply, as a culture, a system of fallacies which neither prove a point nor can be sustained as a pillar of an argument, and then we vacillate between fallacies in order to create false equilibriums of perceptions and right actions. Supposition, as we know it today, is more an art form of fallacy, than it is of following and interpreting evidence of anything as one would deduce a set of clues.
To be sure, evil exists in our world, and this evil is set on the destruction of love, the separation of covenants, the diminution of family, and the belief there is nothing but what we see and what we know as the objective truth. Our devotion to God, changes all of this. I know evil exists, and I know this evil does terrible things to all people no matter the place or time, but I also am aware of an existence of the loving embrace of God. This embrace is indicative above all else, which is as terrible as evil is, it becomes inconsequential to the overall narrative with which life has been written. It is our choice to accept what we can’t change, but to know it is God who lifts us up, and not the other way around. The topic of devotion to God, has filled the pages of books, beginning with the Gospels, epistles, writings of the Old Testament, and the inspired writing of authors for millennia. I would never presume to come close to the writings of the masters who were titans to my insignificant attempts. Though, if I had one take away to give to anyone reading, my life has utterly changed with my devotion to God. For years I was stumbling around in a darkened room of awareness. This awareness, seemingly innate, was telling me to open my eyes to the truth. It was painful, to the extent, I wasn’t forced to tear anything down, and I gladly did so. The truth hurt because it was growth, and any real growth in our lives should involve a level of pain. The pain which I felt, in some cases has become the signal my devotion was right, and in other cases has become an expected portion of my spiritual growth. I would be ridiculous to think my devotion to God was as simple as truth and understanding. The hurt still hurt, the poor still exist, and the evil in this world still hunts the weak of spirit. Our devotion to God, is our first line of defense against the, for lack of a better expression, ways of evil this world chooses to thrive on.
None of us are immune to sin, and we’ve all let our devotion wane from time-to-time, but the redemption we seek is a matter of accepting the truth. Hans Urs Von Balthasar remarked about the “theo-drama”, a play which is produced, directed, and written by God, only to be countered by the “ego-drama” which is a play written, directed, produced, and stars us. This is something we all insist on being in, and why our devotion seemingly diminishes or at least teeters on a brink at all times. We are all cast in God’s “theo-drama” some big, some small, but the truth is we have the perfect part, one written especially for us. This is the truth, no one want to witness a play where one actor upstages all, and demands more than others. Instead, we want to be a part of something which allows our devotion to expose the relevancy of our existence as it translates to the creator. We want to play the part with the most love we can provide. Remember, truth isn’t a matter of interpretation, it just is, as God is “ispsum esse subsistens”, the very nature of being itself. God isn’t changed and will forever continue on the path of existence within our lives whether we accept this truth or not. I hope I’ve brought salient points of interest to the forefront of your mind with what I’ve written, at the very least, hopefully these topics will allow you to think and discern the needed devotion to God and the way in which you love yourself, those closest around you, and for better or worse the world. I pray God places many blessings over you and your family, and these abundant blessings will help you attain a new perspective on your devotion to life and God.
God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!