As with any vocation: the single life, marriage, religious life, diaconate, priesthood, parenting, taking care of children, the sick, the elderly, the poor…it can seem monumental when we grasp even part of the responsibility and accountability attached.
When most aware of my sinfulness, many faults and flaws, and the mistakes I’ve made (and often continue to make), I shudder to think that others are looking to me and learning from what I do and say.
Children are little sponges, soaking up all the words, actions, gestures, and feelings around them. It’s a huge responsibility to take care of them and really nurture them.
It’s also a monumental task to guide others in the faith, or more accurately, to walk with them on the journey, take care of them, and really nurture them. It can be a daunting undertaking knowing all along that we have much to learn from them, perhaps more than they’ll learn from us.
I’ve gotten into the most trouble when I have distanced myself from others, feeling like my experiences, outlook on life, or the fact that I haven’t succumbed to some of the temptations that they’ve submitted to makes me somehow more advanced spiritually, closer to God, and/or in a better place to judge or admonish others.
It’s far too easy to write others off as not as advanced or experienced in this or that. What’s much more challenging (and more Christian) is to discover their strengths and learn from them. Encouraging them to grow in areas of weakness can often be done best by sharing our own pitfalls and failings as proof that we’re all works-in-progress.
Just like couples aren’t going to have all of their issues worked out before they get married, and parents aren’t going to be perfect role models when their kids are born, there are many things we’re called to do that God prepares us for ahead of time and then gives us the grace to accept the on-the-job training necessary to live out the vocations to which He’s called us.
Sometimes, we have to look back at where we were in order to appreciate more fully where we are now. In many circumstances, it will be our previous experiences with sorrows, hurts, losses, and dissatisfaction that will allow us to be truly present and compassionate to others who are going through (or feeling) something similar.
We will be the most effective if we move forward cognizant of our failures and weaknesses, especially when we see the inadequacies of others and are tempted to judge them or look down on them. “There, but for the grace of God, go I” is a great quote to keep in mind. We don’t know another person’s situation completely, and we don’t know what we would do if we were in his/her place.
Each one of us is broken. Every single person has things in his/her past that he/she isn’t proud of. We all are weak, are tempted, sin, and are in need of forgiveness and the Lord’s mercy. When we distance ourselves from others, then it’s much harder for us to feel their pain, so we aren’t as motivated to try to alleviate it.
It can be quite risky to be open up and be honest with others that we’re not anywhere close to being like Mary Poppins: “practically perfect in every way.” Only by the grace of God and the salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ will we even have a chance at eternal life.
Each and every one of us is called to be holy, to live by the Gospel, to love others in the sacrificial, self-giving, compassionate way that Christ does. Throughout the Bible, we are shown how those who place their trust in the Lord instead of themselves and other men are the ones who God works through in the most amazing, miraculous ways.
Some of the people in our lives could very well still have the mindset that heavy drinking, doing drugs, watching porn, shirking responsibility, neglecting prayer…isn’t going to hinder them from having a good, meaningful life which leads us to eternal life with God.
It could be said that our ability to influence others is directly proportional to our humility, honesty, and vulnerability with others. If people think we’re perfect and have even part of our life totally figured out and completely under control, then they’re much less like to discuss things with us than if they sometimes see us rundown, worn out, angry, sad, or disappointed. Others want to be healed, and some can be by what we are able to offer them if we allow God to move freely in and through us.
If ever we think that we’re the only one who has ever felt a certain way, then we’re wrong. The more we let down our guard around others, especially with those whom God has shown us we can trust and open up with, the more likely we’ll be to see how similar our struggles really are even though the specific details and outside circumstances might be vastly different.
We all are made to love and be loved. We all long to be wanted, accepted, affirmed. We want people who will really listen and be present with us. We want to know that we’re not alone in what we’re thinking, feeling, struggling with, rejoicing over, questioning, discerning... We want to make a difference in the world and make things better for others. We need to feel that we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves and know that our existence has a much greater, longer-lasting, eternally significant purpose than we can see at present.
I’ve often said that I’m too selfish and sinful to make marriage work. It’s true; the only way I ever would have agreed to this vocation was knowing that’s what God was calling me to and had placed in my heart, so I could be sure that regardless of my insecurities and shortcomings, He would give us what we needed to make it work. I know that only through the grace of God can I even attempt to share every aspect of my life with my husband and glorify Him through the gift, covenant, and sacrament of our marriage. I’ll never be perfect in any way, but the closer I draw to God, the closer I will be to the Source of Love and to Kevin.
Could it be said of us that on our own we are too self-centered and sinful to fill the role of being Christ to others? Is there any one of us that needs Christ’s saving grace and limitless mercy any less than the next person?
If I look at what’s happening around me and my inability to change, fix, or heal it, I get discouraged, frustrated, and angry. If I look to the Lord, and rest in His ability to take care of everything, then I am inspired, loving, and peaceful.
I realize that so often much of what I write are things I need to be reminded of, take to heart, and do a better job of living out. We’re all in this together with God’s help.