A Strength To Find Rest In

A Strength To Find Rest In

It was a late meal and before too long, my niece was soon battling sleep. Eventually, it overtook her and she laid with her head on the restaurant table while everyone else chatted and finished their meal. Then, my brother picked her up and carried her to the vehicle to go home. I don’t know if she slept through the entire trip home or if she simply acted like it, exhaustion keeping her calm and still.

Oddly enough, it wasn’t until the next day that I found myself pondering that scene. The similarities made me think of how my parents would often carry me from the car into the house after a drive home from somewhere. At times, I was really in a deep sleep and other times I just wanted to act like it. I would be partially awake as I heard the vehicle turn off, but I wanted to be effortlessly transported into the house. Once I reached a certain age, my parents would wake me up and I would need to enter the house on my own two feet.

What was so nice about being carried? Perhaps it was the sense of being cradled tenderly or the chance to be lovingly provided for even as reaching ages of independence. I’m sure sometimes it was just laziness, but it was probably most often the joy of resting in the strength of another. At six or seven, I wouldn’t have phrased it that way, of course. Yet if I look at the desires of the human heart, I am certain that was a central focus.

As an adult, we have to re-learn the art of resting in the strength of another. We often don’t want to be carried, physically or emotionally. The ease that comes with being carried in childhood often vanishes as we become adults. The sense of being carried starts to feel awkward and uncomfortable, like how it would feel if someone picked us up and carried us over their shoulder like happened when we were kids. We need to find anew the gift of resting in the Lord’s strength.

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This Isn’t a Smart Blog

This Isn’t a Smart Blog

Sometimes, I wish I wrote a smart blog.

Like, I’ll read someone’s blog or flip through articles in a First Things magazine and I wish that I wrote intelligent blog posts. Ones that made people really think or shared brilliant information with them that they never before knew. Yet, when I sit down to write, that isn’t what comes out of me.

I’m prideful, so I still like to think that I write with depth even if it isn’t deeply intelligent. As I come up with different things to write about, I’m not thinking of highly intelligent subjects. Instead, I think of the strained conversation I had with a student and what I discovered about myself as a result. I think about the simple yet alluring beauty of fresh flowers on a dining room table. I consider snippets of the Psalms that flood into my mind at random points throughout my days. I share how my heart strangely responded to a situation and how the Lord is seeking to knock, knock, knock at the door of my heart every single moment.

I just write, uncertain that it is really helping anyone and yet knowing that if it only helps me, that would be a sufficient reason to keep doing it.

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Holy Homesickness

Holy Homesickness

`My grandmother,’ I said in a low tone, `would have said that we were all in exile, and that no earthly house could cure the holy home-sickness that forbids us rest.’

Manalive, G.K. Chesterton

Sometimes, life feels a bit like a long exile. No place, regardless of how grand or beautiful, seems to work as a perfect home.

When I graduated from college (or maybe it was even before that point), I remember realizing that never again would all the people I love be in the same place. Friends scattered across the country in post-graduation searches for jobs. My heart had experienced profound beauty in multiple places around the world. It produced the aching reality that many places could be home and yet no one place or group of people were entirely home.

Walking the Camino a few years ago, I lived physically what I seem to live internally. I was a wandering pilgrim, looking for the end of the road and a consistent place to rest. So much of me aches and longs for Heaven because I desire a resting place, the place where there are no tears or separations or unfulfilled desires. A place of contentment, communion, and constancy–a home that can never pass away or be divided.

Holy homesickness.

In Chesterton’s Manalive, he speaks about a man who leaves his family in order to re-discover the joy of loving them again. He leaves home to discover home. It does seem to be the case that too often the familiar becomes overly ordinary or commonplace. When I was in Switzerland, I wondered who wouldn’t gape with awe at the majestic mountains that formed the backdrop to the hostel I stayed in for a couple days. Probably the Swiss.

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"Beauty will save the world."

Today I came to a (rather) profound realization–the closer one is to God, the better one can see beauty.  This understanding came as I was driving home from work and contemplating my seniors rather immediate rejection of the “Argument from Beauty” that was presented to them today.  Many of them argued that beauty wouldn’t sway anybody.  I asked them if they had ever seen a sunrise or a sunset and been moved with feeling that there must be more.  One class in particular seemed to indicate that it had never happened to them.  I was amazed.  I could think of a couple dozen times over the past few months that the sunrise or sunset alone had filled me with joy and gladness.  Often it leads me to break into spontaneous praise.  As I drove home, I was surveying a gorgeous sunset.  How could they not understand this beauty? 

Then it came to me–because they weren’t very close to Beauty.  The more that I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make.  These past few years I had grown closer to God and thus I rejoice more in God’s creation.  My semester in Austria was one of constant beauty and wonder.  That is when I first realized that God loves me through beauty.  In particular, I was in Iseltwald, Switzerland.  I saw a breathtaking scenery that words fail to describe and I knew that in that moment God was fiercely loving me.  In fact, a friend and I walked around the lake, belting out praise and worship songs.  My feeling from the entire day was one of amazement that I could experience such beauty.  And that was linked closely to the understanding that I was experiencing Beauty. 

Experience some beauty for yourself!

  The view from the hostel…

Or there have been times when I have experienced the depth of beauty found in a book.  I Believe in Love, for example, or some passages of Scripture that just speak to my heart.  See Psalm 63.  Or when I listen to a beautiful song that moves my heart.  There are times when I am with my family and my nephew gives that irresistible smile that speaks volumes of beauty.  The time that you can spend with really close friends–when you have deep conversations and the silence is never awkward but always filled with time to ponder the depths of goodness.  Or that moment of silence in which you can rest despite the surrounding chaos.  The sweet moments spent before Our Eucharistic King.  I have experienced so much beauty!  In my mind it makes so much sense to know God through the different experiences of beauty.  

Now here was a classroom full of students so willing to dismiss beauty and say that it was just a matter of preference.  I wanted to argue that beauty isn’t always subjective but I didn’t know how I would confront their arguments.  I already had students sitting there with “This is so stupid” written over their faces.  Does beauty mean so little?

The closer we draw to Beauty, the more we are capable of seeing Him in the world around us.  If we are living in sin or have no desire to know Him, then our ability to see beauty diminishes.  The atheist could very well see beautiful things and call them such.  But it is the contemplative nun who sacrificed her life for God that can see beauty in every moment.  It is the sacrificing father that can see the beauty in life.  The one who is running after Christ can see beauty amidst the suffering of life. 

I don’t want to say that beauty is a matter of perspective, but how you are living and what you value can transform what is beautiful.  I wish I could claim to see beauty perfectly, but I do not.  Too often I will admit the beauty of the sunrise but fail to see the beauty in my student or in that stranger that just cut me off on the interstate.  Yet how more beautiful is the person than the rest of creation?  Google images even proves it.  I googled “beauty” and I saw pages and pages of women.  They weren’t the most modestly covered women, but it seemed to indicate that we know where true beauty lies, even if we misuse beauty.

How do you teach someone to love beauty?  I showed them 30 pictures of landscapes, sunrises, and children.  Many of them seemed to think I was wasting their time.  Just pictures.  Just beauty?  I am beginning to see the truth of the quote by Fyodor Dostoevsky:

“Beauty will save the world.”

Book Mountain, Gaming, Austria

It is true.  Beauty will save the world.  If we cannot accept Beauty, if we cannot see Him, then we can never experience the utter beauty that is Heaven or understand the beauty of Earth.  I don’t know how I can teach this understanding of beauty to my students.  They have so much and yet they have so little.  If only I could give them some of my experiences of beauty and make them not be simply my stories but rather their own experiences.  They see a Church of rules and strictness.  But they are missing the Church of ineffable beauty and unsurpassed joy.  This must be a thing that only God can work in their hearts through the power of His mercy and love.

 Love does take us and transfigure and torture us. It does break our hearts with an unbearable beauty, like the unbearable beauty of music.                   ~G.K. Chesterton

Lord, take us and transfigure us with Your Beauty.


Desiring His Heart

      Life is never quite what one expects it would be.  Although as I write that I wonder quite quickly what I expected life would be like.  And then I am at a loss.  Despite that, I am beginning to understand what life should be like.  It is supposed to be continual journey…a gradual meandering closer and closer to the heart of the One who loves me best. 

“O God You are my God, for You I long, for You my soul is thirsting, my body pines for You…” 

 I seek after the One who has already found me. 

      The Lord has placed me as a high school teacher and it is in this profession that I need to find Him in others.  It is in this new position as a teacher that I have developed a deeper love for Jesus as the Good Teacher.  It is also as a teacher that I have been reminded of how much growing I have to do for both my sake and for the sake of my students.  While my heart is yearning for adventure and a great task, I am striving to seek after the heart of the Lord in the role that He has now placed me.  Maybe I will discover, as many saints have said, that true greatness lies in the little things, that faithfulness, not success, is what Our Lord truly desires from us.