“I want to be good!  I want to be good!” my nephew exclaimed a couple years ago, near tears.  He had been caught, doing again, what we had recently instructed him not to do.

“Then be good!” I replied.

It seemed simple.  We were very specifically asking him to not do something and he would go and do it again.  It was amusing, though, to hear those words come from him–a proclaimed desire to be good while yet desiring to do the same things again and again.

Don’t we wish we could say that was a problem simply for the young?  Too often I am encountering the Lord saying, “I want to be good!” yet lacking the desire to do what is necessary to be good.

“If you will look into your own heart in complete honesty, you must admit that there is one and only one reason why you are not a saint: you do not wholly want to be one.” William Law

The first time I read this quote, I was a bit surprised.  I found myself wanting to argue but all arguments dying within myself.  It is true.  If I truly wanted to be a saint, I would be one, or at least I would be far closer to one than I am right now.  God’s grace is sufficient: what is lacking must be found in my own desire and willingness to receive His grace.

There is a healthy sadness within myself when I admit that the plan God has for my  life does not match up with my own desires.  I say I want to be a saint, but my actions have a voice that speaks to the contrary.  Because being a saint does not mean to strive to be better then most.  It doesn’t mean to work so that others think you are saintly.  The quest to become a saint is one of the few things in life that cannot be determined by your placement to others.  Even the witness of other saints, while inspiring, cannot tell you if you are the saint you are called to be.  If Bl. Teresa of Calcutta spent her whole life comparing her mission to that of St. Therese of Lisieux, she would have missed the mission to which God was uniquely calling her.  We, too, will get confused if we routinely use others as a measuring stick for our own holiness.

Unlike a credit score or an ACT score, being a saint isn’t boiled down to being in the top 10%.  In high school, it felt like I was one of the only ones who cared about my faith.  I would look at the choices my classmates were making and I would see the choices I was making.  I knew I wasn’t perfect, but I felt pretty good in terms of faith.  And people seemed to recognize that I valued my faith and thought of me accordingly.  When I got to college, I was surrounded by people who were deeply invested in their faith.  I had good formation from my parents, but I remember freshman year looking around and thinking, “Oh, no!  I’m way behind!”  While I was coasting in high school (feeling like I was the only one who cared), these people were going deeper in their faith.  It was a good wake up call, but I was still dealing with it in terms of where I ranked in comparison to others.

In many ways, I am still fighting that battle.  Sometimes I find myself wanting to not get too holy.  It honestly shouldn’t be a concern of mine, because that is a distant dream, but I understand why I think that way.  The closer one gets to Christ, the more one realizes the failings of this world.  The more we act like Christ, the more we run the risk of making others uncomfortable.  What if I get too holy and just being myself makes other people uncomfortable?  I bet some people left dinners early when Jesus would show up.  “Ah, there’s that guy.  Something about him makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Instead, I find myself wanting to be “just holy enough.”  Holy enough that I’m following God, but not so holy that others really notice.  Not so holy that I actually suffer for it.  I want to be called and chosen to live a life of sanctity, but one that makes me well-liked and a perfectly balanced introvert-extrovert.  Oftentimes I romanticize sanctity and assume it means that there will be no problems other than surrendering to God’s will.  People will be wonderful, beautiful beings and my encounters with them will be filled with a gushing of God’s love.  Isn’t that silly, though?  I seem to think holiness will make life easy.  Jesus, however, speaks of picking up a cross and following after Him.

I have several reasons that I am not yet a saint.  One of which is because I fear the persecution and loneliness that will come from selling all my pearls to buy the one of great price.  I worry that putting God in an undeniably central place in my life will make other people step away.  And if you ask me if I think Christ is sufficient, I will say, “Yes, Jesus will fulfill all my wants and desires.”  Yet if you ask if I live like I believe that, I must admit I do not.

I want to be good.  I want to be a saint.  But I do not want it entirely.  Otherwise, this holiness thing would be far closer to being a reality.  If I compare myself to others, I will always be able to find a reason to justify my present state, there will always be motivation to say I’m good enough.  But if I use the correct measuring stick, then I will always see the need for growth.  If I ask, “How closely do I conform my life to the cross of Christ?” I will see the areas of disparity.

Clearly, I am not “too holy.”

Litany of Humility
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart,
Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,

Deliver me, Jesus.

From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.

That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I,
provided that I may become as holy as I should…

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