The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health

The Gift of Too Many Homes and Good Health

While personal difficulties can be genuine, regardless of their large-scale importance, sometimes it is helpful to put them in perspective. The Lord cares about what I care about and so I try to be careful to not dismiss hurt feelings, stress, or joy simply because it isn’t life altering. Yet when I do feel overwhelmed or a bit shaken, it can help to focus on the aspects for which I can be grateful.

There are two recent examples that come to mind. The first is my living situation. Currently, I am in the process of moving into a new house, but I am not quite moved in yet. Over the past couple weeks, I have stayed mostly at my parents’ house in the country and sometimes with friends who live in town. It isn’t that difficult of a life, but the slight upheaval of transitional homes adds a bit of extra stress to the day-to-day life.

Yet when I was sharing this stress with a few different people over the last couple of days, I was struck by the fact that I am not homeless. In fact, it is the opposite. I have an abundance of homes–there is the home I am working to move into, my parents’ home where I have my own bedroom when I stay there, and friends who generously offer a room to me when needed. The added stress I feel is real, but the things I can be grateful for far surpass the inconvenience.

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Step One: Be a Saint

I know that I am far from being a saint, yet I have this great desire to be one.  Over the past few years I have begun to realize the beauty and necessity of friendships rooted in Christ.  Some friends that I have I would love to speak with daily yet even when months separate our communications, we are able to pick up right where we left off.  Sisterly spiritual encouragement is something for which I am presently grateful.  While they aren’t necessarily my biological sisters (although sometimes they most definitely are), we have a friendship that digs deep into the heart of the matter.  I am able to cut directly to the truth and not hedge around political correctness.  I want these e-mails, letters, and phone calls to be saved as aspects of these stories of souls on their way to Heaven.  Of course this evidence would immediately reveal our imperfections but they would also unearth the deep desires of our hearts.  It is the beauty of the Body of Christ, separated by space and time yet united in the intimacy of Our Lord’s Eucharistic Heart.  When I encounter priests, religious sisters, elderly, young people all striving for Christ, I am renewed and reinvigorated.  The Church is not dead.  She is marching onward.  She is wounded, She is weak, She is comprised of sinful people.  Ah, but She is being sanctified.

Persevere, dear readers, in running the race for Christ, in striving continually for holiness.  Look not at what you are, but what He desires you to be.  Focus not on your imperfections but on His perfections.  Never put out the desire to be a saint.  God wants it of you and the world needs it of you.

“Dear young people, the Church needs genuine witnesses for the new evangelization: men and women whose lives have been transformed by meeting with Jesus, men and women who are capable of communicating this experience to others. The Church needs saints. All are called to holiness, and holy people alone can renew humanity. Many have gone before us along this path of Gospel heroism, and I urge you to turn often to them to pray for their intercession.”   -Pope John Paul II

In times of darkness Our Lord raises up saints.  Well, there is no need to ask if this is a time of darkness.  Therefore, we must be saints.  Anything less is settling.

 

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. 

 

If I do not love….

Perhaps this will simply reveal my vast flaws as a Christian, but teaching seems to highlight difficulties that I never noticed before.  I know that it is difficult to love others.  I’ve done Totus Tuus, I’ve been a part of a family, I’ve done mission trips, and I’ve driven on the interstate.  Love is difficult. 

Teaching high school has brought a whole new aspect to the “Love is difficult” mantra.  I find myself unable to love firmly.  While I don’t enjoy it, I can be tough and strict with my students.  And when I want to (sometimes when I don’t want to), I can be a push-over and let them get away with things.  What I have yet to perfect (after an entire 6 months of teaching) is the art of loving firmly.  To maintain order and get things accomplished while yet being kind and loving. 

If we are speaking of a battle of the wills, I can fight them to the death.  But (luckily) I realized fairly early on that it would be in my best interest to not make my entire profession into a battle of wills.  So I have to decide when to be stubborn and when to give a little.  That is still a matter that is difficult to master.  Yet regardless of that battle, I need to be charitable.  I need to be Christian.  I teach high school students and at times I can feel myself desiring to play at their level.  My feelings are hurt when they fall asleep in class, do homework for another class, roll their eyes, dismiss my ideas, and attempt to cast doubt on every aspect of the faith.  Instead of being mature, I want to roll my eyes back at them and spit out a couple perfectly formed sarcastic retorts. 

If Christ taught the Gospel of love it would seem that I should be quite proficient in it, seeing as I am teaching about Christ.  But teaching has revealed to me all sorts of weaknesses that I didn’t know I had or that I had thought were sufficiently concealed.  How would this be my mission field if I didn’t begin to see my failings and question why God placed me where He did?  I have had to remind myself several times (I should do this more, perhaps) that while God could have placed someone in my position with more knowledge and skill, He placed me here for some reason.  There is some way that He wants me to grow from this experience.  Growth hurts, it is painful.  Yet the reward is far sweeter due to the bitterness and pain.  I think of intelligent people I know (priests, nuns, lay people) and I question why I have been given the task of instructing the youth in the faith.  There are so many who could do such a better job.  Maybe this is largely the task for my sanctity, as well as their sanctity.

If teaching is my mission field, then I need to reveal Christ to them primarily through my personal Gospel of Love.  How can I convince them of the radical love of Christ if they don’t experience love from me?  Ah, the mission field!  I find myself dreaming of returning to “my” Honduras–a place I grew and loved.  But the Lord blessed me in those mission trips and made them so beautiful and easy.  Now He is sending His little daughter into the “grown-up” missionary field of a high school.  The commitment is longer, the results seem less tangible, and the people I am ministering to don’t realize it/aren’t thankful.  Quite a change from Hondurans eager to welcome us and sacrifice food and rooms for us.  But the Lord has this beautiful way of easing us into things.  He will give us sweetness and then bitterness to test our motives. 

So I go into this mission field with a heart deficient in love yet deeply desiring to excel in it.  What would a mission be without challenges?  Perhaps life is a constant learning how to love–whether it is God or neighbor.  We fail but we continue to try.  Because we were made for, by, and in Love.  Since we have received much we must go and give that to others.  Starting with that which is nearest to our hearts, which hurts the most to give when we know it may be rejected.  This battle is where I can learn to be most like Christ–being willing to love even when pushed away, rejected, crucified.  As St. Paul Miki and companions died heroically for the faith, so I am called to be martyred daily for my faith.  Impossible on my own.  But I know a great Teacher who can show me how. 

We love, because He first loved us. ~ 1 John 4:19

 St. Paul Miki and Companions, pray for us!