Controlled Burn: A Song of Longing

Controlled Burn: A Song of Longing

Recently, I came into possession of Alanna Boudreau’s “Champion” CD.  And I’ve been listening to it on repeat pretty much since then.  As with all CDs, there are some songs I like more than others and certain lines in songs that move me more than others.

Her song “Controlled Burn” is one of the songs on repeat a bit more than others and I want to highlight a couple of the lines that stand out to me.

“And I ache, I ache, I ache / When I see all the nothing / That could have been something / That should have been you”

This line is perhaps the most perfect summary of these months of summer and maybe even the past year.  From the silent retreat near the beginning of summer to my sister’s home visit to being on the brink of school beginning, I have felt an ache for the nothingness that surrounds me.  Sometimes I am a bit fearful about the judgment that will come at the end of my life and how I will need to answer for all of my time.  The “nothing” that I did should have been replaced by the Lord, by perfectly following His will in all things.  Someday I will regret that wasted time even more than I do now.

I’m not saying that every moment needs to be filled to the brim with productivity.  Americans, however, aren’t particularly good at true leisure.  We binge watch TV shows, waste time on our phones, and fastidiously document our lives on social media.  Obviously, these are all generalizations, but our inability to truly embrace leisure is evident.  So when I say I waste time, I don’t mean I neglected to work, work, work.  Rather, I was isolated too much, preferring to spend time on my own rather than setting up numerous coffee dates or road trips or nights out with friends.  As an introvert, it is an easy hole to fall into and an even easier one to justify. Continue reading “Controlled Burn: A Song of Longing”

Advertisements

Being the Adventure

“Someday, I want to be the adventure someone chooses.”

The words resonate in my heart, even though I’ve never quite thought of it like that.  My friend is telling me that she has encouraged men she was interested in to pursue their dreams.  Yet what she really wants is to be the adventure they choose to pursue.  I hear her ache and I feel a similar one in my own heart.

We are millennials.  In many ways, I do not believe I fit into my generation.  However, in this regard, I do: I desire greatness.  I do not mean that I long to be recognized or praised in front of all.  Nor do I want empty words of admiration or platitudes repeated just to satisfy a longing to be great.

No.

I want to contribute, in some meaningful way, to society.  I want to leave an impression.  I want to fill a need.  I want to embrace adventure and travel and see new sights.  I want to feel the exhilarating rush of being absolutely, irrevocably alive.  I don’t want to do this by getting high, imbibing too much alcohol, or living a way that is less than I am.  I want to live fully my humanity.

At times I feel like I haven’t done much in my twenty-something years of living.  And by some standards, I haven’t.

I have:
-graduated from high school
-graduated from college (and completed English and Theology theses at 20 pages each)
-studied abroad
-gone on three mission trips, leading one of them
-been a small part in saving at least one child from abortion during my time sidewalk counseling
-been a Confirmation sponsor for two people and godmother to two others
-been published in two newspapers and a college student publication
-traveled to: Mexico, Canada, Honduras, Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland, Germany, Poland, Austria, Czech Republic, Italy, Vatican City, and 32 of the states in the US
-successfully taught high school for 3.5 years
-walked El Camino de Santiago

 

Yet despite these “accomplishments” I am left longing for more adventures.  Namely, the adventure of marriage and family.  The person I immediately turn to when thinking of marriage as an adventure is the ever-endearing G.K. Chesterton.

The supreme adventure is being born.  There we do walk suddenly into a splendid startling trap.  There we do see something of which we have not dreamed before.  Our father and mother do lie in wait for us and leap out on us, like brigands from a bush.  Our uncle is a surprise.  Our aunt is, in the beautiful common expression, a bolt from the blue.  When we step into the family, by the act of being born, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world which could do without us, into a world that we have not made.  In other words, when we step into the family we step into a fairy-tale.

So my dear Chesterton would tell me that I am already living the supreme adventure: I have been born into it.  I would argue with him (since it is often my nature to be non-compliant) that my current life is not the familial adventure he speaks of since I am in the “in between” time.  I have a house but it is rented.  I live with friends and not a family of my own.  It is good, but not what I long for.  Perhaps he would agree with me in these points.  In this hypothetical argument, he might remind me that marriage, for all my silly idealism, is not perfection.  He might say this:

When we defend the family we do not mean it is always a peaceful family; when we maintain the thesis of marriage we do not mean that it is always a happy marriage.  We mean that it is the theatre of the spiritual drama, the place where things happen, especially the things that matter.  It is not so much the place where a man kills his wife as the place where he can take the equally sensational step of not killing his wife.

I remember the look of confusion and a bit of shock on my mom’s face when I read her that quote once.  But isn’t it true?  Sometimes the more sensational thing is two human beings, undeniably different even if undeniably in love, not killing each other.  Clearly, Chesterton was a married man.

However, I do not wish to simply quote Chesterton all day, though I love his writings even if I haven’t read many of them.  Rooted deep in the hearts of modern man, I believe, is the desire to give entirely of oneself, wholly and without reserve or end.  This is the longing for marriage.  The desire we have to be the adventure that someone else undertakes.  What adventure (apart from that of pursuing God) could be greater than looking at another human being and saying, “You.  I choose you and only you forever.  I choose to journey through life with you, come what may.  I choose your heart to pursue and cherish always.  And I know time will change us.  In ten years, you will not be the same person I married.  But I will still choose you.

It is the nature of love to bind itself, and the institution of marriage merely paid the average man the compliment of taking him at his word.

As much as this millennial longs to do all kinds of things and pursue all sorts of adventures (pilgrimage to the Holy Land, run a half marathon, go to jail for a night*, or fly a plane), I long for the simple adventure of a home and a family.  In many ways, my desires are not so adventurous or dramatic after all.  They are little things, daily things.  The adventure of simply being the adventure.

The old-fashioned Englishman, like my father, sold houses for his living but filled his own house with his life.

*Naturally, when I say I wish to go to jail for a night, it is with the idea that I went standing up for something I deeply believe in.

Living Authentic Desires

What if I lived how I truly wanted to live rather than how I wanted to live right now?

Maybe there doesn’t seem to be a difference in those two versions, but in my life, sadly, there is.  I’m a bit dense.  It takes a while for things to sink into this head of mine.  While I often know what would be best for me, I take the easier path and attempt to satisfy deeper desires with more superficial things.

St. Paul understands this little heart of mine.  Perhaps it is simply a condition of humanity.  “I do not understand my own actions.  For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”  (Romans 7:15)  Even if what I’m doing isn’t sinful, it isn’t living up to the calling God has for my life.  I settle for mediocrity when I am called to be extraordinary.

Examples needed?  My life yields plenty of material.

I truly want to go pray.  I’ve thought about it several times in a given day and I know it would bring peace.  But I’m tired.  So I scroll through Facebook.

I want to go for a run.  But I’m tired.  So I take a nap instead, planning to go for a run the next day.

I want to spend some time reading a book.  But I’m tired.  So I watch a movie instead.

There are a couple trends that should be noted.
1. I’m tired so often.
2. While I know what I should do (and what would actually satisfy the desires of my heart more), I tend to opt for the path that requires far less of me.

Yet when I actually put aside my momentary desires and do what requires a little more effort or discipline, I am always amazed at the internal peace that occurs.

Instead of mindlessly scrolling through the internet, I go to adoration.  I’m far more pleased with myself (because even as I’m wasting time on my computer, there is a nagging feeling that I am not doing what I ought) and I feel a deeper peace because I did what my soul needed, I did what I actually wanted to do.

Sometimes what I want to do, isn’t what I actually want to do.  And sometimes what I don’t want to do, is actually what I really want to do.

It makes me wonder why following my own heart’s desires is so difficult.  Sadly, it is far too easy for the true desires to get overlooked by far more superficial, temporary wants.  On the drive home from the church, I was thinking, “What if I always lived so that I was actually doing what I wanted to do and what was best for me?”  My internal response?  “Huh.”  As though following my authentic desires was a novel concept.

Yet this is what the saints did.  They lived!  As saints they fulfilled the deepest, authentic desires of their hearts and did not succumb to the lazy wants that surfaced.

I could be such a better person if I followed my true desires (at times, genuine promptings of the Holy Spirit) instead of what I felt like doing in the moment.  I could be a saint if I did now what I knew I should do, instead of waiting for a later, more convenient time.

The path to sanctity is now.  And it is truly what I want.  So why not start?

“Do now- Do Now- what you’ll wish you had done when your moment comes to die.”   -St. Angela Merici

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Sometimes God speaks to me through….me

I love to write.  Another close favorite is reading.  My main writing over the past few years, apart from scholastic writing, has been in the form of prayer journals.  At different, random points in my life, I enjoy going back and reading what I have written.  It allows me to remember what that time period was like, whether it was beautiful or painful, and to see how far I have come.  Recently, different changes in life have caused me to go back and read and, surprisingly, learn from myself.  The moments of epiphany are too often neglected until I read them again and am, once again, enlightened and encouraged to persevere.

I have decided to share a lengthy portion of one journal entry that I wrote because I found myself edified simply by reading something I had penned.  While this could be due to a hardy dose of narcissism or pride, I believe that some of it may be beneficial for others.  Altogether, I believe it was inspired by Someone far wiser than I who, for a brief window of time, was able to use this unwieldy instrument for something good.
—————————————————————————————————————–

March 31, 2013 –Easter Sunday

Jesus,

You overwhelm me with joy.  Last night I sat in a darkened Cathedral nave eagerly anticipating Your resurrection.  I was filled with a light-hearted joy.  The Scripture readings painted a picture of how God has loved humanity throughout time.  You have given me several moments in my life where I internally declare that this is Church.  Last night as I watch a woman be baptized and confirmed, as I glimpsed the joy on the face of Bishop…, as I inhaled the incense, as I helped fill the darkened Cathedral with light and persons, as I exchanged a greeting of peace–this is the embrace of the universal Church, this is my home.  I received You–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity–in a manner that pre-dates the foundations of this country, in a way that countless saints have, from the hands of the Bishop ordained through an unbroken line of apostolic succession.  The beauty of the Church is striking and my heart finds itself being pressed to widen her chambers to make room for the Beauty that aches to overflow in her….

There are so many times when I think that I understand You and then I am reawakened to the fact that I comprehend so little.  What a beautiful mystery it is!  The rich depths of the Catholic faith cannot be plumbed.  You died for me and rose again.  The wounds You had were glorified.  You breath into my heart a joy beyond measure and You inscribe “Alleluia!” on my tongue.  From outside of time You pursue my heart, meeting me at the timeless table of the Eucharistic feast.  You know the workings of the universe–and my fierce and delicate heart.  You will for our wills to collide in an eruption of sanctification.  You are the perfect picture of patient love as You hang on the cross.  You recklessly call me to place my hand in Your side, calling me to believe more in Your triumph than my failings.

—————————————————————————————————————–
The Lord desires something great for each one of us.  It may not be my personal idea of “greatness” or the type of greatness that I would like.  Yet each of us is called to be a saint.  We are called to be great in mercy, love, patience, kindness, generosity, and forgiveness.  We are called to place our will at the service of His will.  To accept that God has a better plan for ourselves than we do.  To realize that He desires to fulfill the deepest desires of our hearts…perhaps just in a different way than we are asking Him to do so. 

And Our Lord hasn’t forgotten you.  He hasn’t forgotten me. 

He hasn’t forgotten you. 

“Let me hear in the morning of your merciful love, for in you I put my trust.  Teach me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.”  –Psalm 143:8

Gratitude for Being Unfulfilled

I realized that I should be grateful for my frustrations and unfulfilled desires.  When I present my experiences teaching to some of my friends, I feel as though it is an endless litany of dislikes, discouragement, and downfalls.  I don’t mean for it to be that way but I am unable to paint a purely rosy picture of a profession that I find difficult and stretching.  Yet I realized that in some ways it is very good that I am not content with it all.  I desire to do better, to improve my teaching, to reach out to my students.  And while this means that I am not a perfect teacher it also means that I desire to do better than I am doing.  Of course there is the necessary reminder that one shouldn’t always be frustrated and unfulfilled.  But I desire such great things for my students and their souls that I am far too weak to deliver on my own.  Thus, the tension.  I long for greatness but fall into petty worries.  I search for fulfillment but am left unsatisfied.  I will never be completely fulfilled on earth.  Only in Heaven will I find fulfillment for all of my good desires.  Nevertheless, I yearn for this fulfillment, for this unobtainable perfection.  We are trying to get back to something we once had, to something for which we were created.

“The sweetest thing in all my life has been the longing — to reach the Mountain, to find the place where all the beauty came from — my country, the place where I ought to have been born. Do you think it all meant nothing, all the longing? The longing for home? For indeed it now feels not like going, but like going back.”  –C.S. Lewis Till We Have Faces

Such beauty!  Anyway, the point of all of this is that it is alright to not feel fulfilled and satisfied.  We live in an imperfect world within an imperfect society.  There is much to see in the world that needs change and transformation.  My students will be imperfect because they are human and I will be imperfect because I, too, am a human.  We are deeply flawed.  Ah, but not beyond redemption!  I shouldn’t glory in my misery or disappointments.  Nevertheless, I don’t need to attempt to make myself believe that I should be 100% fulfilled and satisfied.  There is conversion that needs to take place in my heart, I am a pilgrim traveling down the path of life, and I have not yet reached my eternal home.

The task of evangelizing the modern world is not easy.  It isn’t easy because we are asking them to accept truth that is difficult to accept.  Because we are telling people that perhaps the best thing for them is a life that includes suffering and painful growth and sacrifice.  Yet I am thankful that the Lord has called me into this mission field and desires me try to reach His flock.  It isn’t because I’m perfect–because He knows better than any my imperfections–but perhaps simply because I have this desire for His will to be done on earth, a longing for Heaven, and a knowledge that without Him, I am nothing.