Well, it’s been awhile since my last post, one month ago today actually. Business has picked up as well as being busy trying to stay caught up with Mother Nature. Spring is my least favorite season mainly because it’s like a sneaky old cat that’s lurking out there waiting to pounce on you. You know it’s going to happen but you’re not quite sure when, and when she does, you’re never quite ready for it. I have a large yard with many trees and flower beds and trying to squeeze in a little gardening when I get home from work between the rains in the evening is a real crap shoot sometimes. I’m struggling to keep up!
I’ve found that while my mind and actions are bent towards taking advantage of every break in the weather to take care of things around the house and at work, I’ve let my spiritual life get the short end of the stick. I haven’t prayed quite as much as I ought to, I’ve been less optimistic than usual, I’m not quite as “at peace” with everything, and I seem to notice the negative things that happen instead of the good God moments which I know are there but I’m too wrapped up in other stuff to notice them for what they are. I’ve also noticed when I get this way I have a tendency to do things sometimes which aren’t quite up to my moral or ethical standards, things that leave me shaking my head after I’ve done them because they are out of character for me, and things that I’ve been trying not to do but they just happen and I don’t yet know how to keep myself from doing them. It drives me crazy. I like to think of myself as a good boy who does the right things. Does this ever happen to you? I was ruing about this to a friend the other day and he said, “Don’t beat yourself up about it, you’re not perfect, you’re a Christian.”
I didn’t pay much attention to these kinds of frustrations before I became Catholic. They happened and I didn’t think much of them. It was part of life. But, I now recognize them as being counter to the way God would prefer me to lead my life. And, I feel a little guilty about it. Not long ago a good friend of mine in Louisiana, who also converted to Catholicism, asked whether or not I had started feeling guilty yet. I had to ask what she meant. With tongue-in-cheek humor she explained that since I now have a more intimate understanding of right and wrong principles and behavior, and since I am more in-tune with myself as a sinner and not quite as perfect as I thought I was, I should begin feeling guilty about my behavior – not because it has become worse than it was but because my reality around that behavior has changed. I’ve thought a lot about what she said and I think she’s almost right. I think the word “guilty” needs to be changed to something like “enlightened awareness”. “Guilty” has a negative connotation to it whereas “enlightened awareness” is a touch rosier and optimistic. Like most people, I respond more favorably to positive stimuli than I do to the negative brand. And if, as Christians, we constantly want to move closer to Christ by trying to become better people, then we can use all the positive affirmation we can get. But, regardless if it’s guilt or enlightened awareness, I nevertheless kick myself when I fail to live up to my expectations.
I was pondering this the other evening while I was watching my grass grow after an afternoon rain and I became acutely aware of my recent sins and out of character transgressions in their various states of ugliness. I realized that the more I get into my faith the more of them I see. Not big things, thank goodness, but lots of little things. I’m sure they have always been there, and, if the truth be told, probably a lot worse than they are now. Sometimes they pop up one at a time but occasionally they seem to come in droves. I am starting to get used to it but for a while there I was in panic mode. I can see how, if not looked at in the right light, I could easily feel guilty about them.
One thing that has helped me get through these bouts of self-inflicted mental beatings has been an understanding of Jesus’ Parable of the Lost Son (Luke 15:11-32). I had read this scripture passage a couple times but I never really read it until January during Advent. On January 10, 2013 the author of the Little Blue Book referenced this passage when he wrote about how Jesus came for everyone, all sinners, the rebellious and the spendthrifts, and even the “losers, nerds, and ….people with bad attitudes”. As I recall those words I find I fall frequently into at least the last category. The author finished by saying, “But, Jesus came for me. My job is to believe it.” Well, as someone whose faith is still in its infancy, and who is still getting used to praying for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness for his sins, that caught my attention.
At the same time I was trying to comprehend all this back in January, I was also listening to a song on a new CD I had purchased. The song is The Golden Boy and the Prodigal by Jason Gray (if you haven’t figured it out yet, I really like this guy’s music!) The premise of the song is that there is a little of the Golden Boy who can do no wrong, as well as a little Prodigal Son who can do no right, in each of us, and our human nature tends to cause us to be proud of the former and ashamed of the latter. The last verse of his song goes:
So take a good look in the mirror, can you tell me who you see?
The one who Jesus died for or the one you’d rather be?
Can you find it in your heart to show mercy to the one,
The Father loved so much that he gave His only Son?
When I looked at the reflection from the Little Blue Book together with these powerful lyrics, I understood that no matter how down on myself I get, God is still there for me. I understood it’s simply not good enough to pray for the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness; I need to also have faith that He will answer my prayers. And, then, when I do believe, when I’ve shown true remorse and at the same time shown true gratitude for His divine mercy, I need to heed Jason Gray’s advice for complete healing and forgive and show mercy to myself, as well. For me, that might be easier said than done. If you have any hints on how to do this effectively, please let me know.
Good night and God bless.