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Attempts to illuminate our brief mortal existence

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lent, Day 6: Courage for little things

I'm wearing around my neck right now a handmade silver crucifix.  I picked it up a year or two ago at a Catholic bookstore in Lafayette, IN.  I was not at the time even considering a move towards Catholicism, but I had been mysteriously gripped by an intuition that there was something more to the Cross than what I understood, something as yet undiscovered.  I bought the crucifix as a way to wear the death of Christ, to keep it before me, so that I would not forget to keep examining this mystery.

Nearly two years after first writing about discovering this mystery, one tiny corner of it has been made clear to me.  The light has dawned slowly, as I've read book after book on a faith that I thought I knew, started praying new, awkward prayers, and experienced one moment of sudden, desperate longing on an ordinary Sunday morning.  As the dust has begun to settle after the years of spiritual upheaval, I find myself looking around at a strange, new, beautiful landscape - one completely dominated by the Cross.  And I realize that this mystery is my calling to come and die, and that it's shrouded in fog because God knows that I can't handle it all.  I used to be confident in my ability to die for God, whether physically or spiritually, but that was 10 years ago;  I thought that I was brave, then.  Now, my very being flinches away from this call.  I don't know what it means, exactly, and I don't want to.  What I do know, is something of the shape of the ground in front of me.  

Right in front of me, my very first step in this call to come and die, is a renewal of my determination to embrace the struggles of my vocation.  And as small as they sometimes are, as easy as they might be for someone else, and as insignificant as they may look, these struggles are hard enough for me.  A part of me, the whiniest, most demanding, most self-centered and fearful part of me is going to have to climb up on the cross every single day just for this patch of ground.  For all I know, I might never progress further than this in this life.  But the grace is there; I know that it is.  I know that I have been made strong enough just for these struggles.  And it's Thomas Merton, again, who is giving me the necessary kick in the pants:
"If we are called by God to holiness of life, and if holiness is beyond our natural power to achieve (which it certainly is) then it follows that God himself must give us the light, the strength, and the courage to fulfill the task he requires of us.  He will certainly give us the grace we need.  If we do not become saints it is because we do not avail ourselves of his gift."
- Merton, Love and Holiness 


  1. My neglectful soul, and erratic obsessiveness united this evening with your penchant for filling your posts with references and links in such a way that when you publish the book, I shall be five chapters in, already. Also, I thought you might like to know that I was obliged, just once, to resort to one of my favorite websites of all time, dictionary.com to clarify a certain word. You shall under no circumstances be allowed to know which word.

    Your thoughts, as I can pick them out and correlate them through your various posts, and how you link them all together, are surprisingly analogous to a lot of my own reflections and journey over the past two years or so. Surprising because our lives are in most respects vastly different, our reading has been vastly different, and because perhaps it's just the curmudgeon in me and the nomad in you, but as I think through things like struggle, the necessity of practical grace, the futility of lofty thoughts unpaired with muddy boots, the importance and role of sacrament, and come to a great many conclusions and questions similar to the ones you've written about here, I tend to think "Well, blimey. I'm more a Mennonite than ever." or "Well, whatever it is, it's Anabaptism."

    I'm not sure I'm in a good place to articulate my views, and how I think they're analogous to yours, because for one thing, I can't be sure of how much dust has settled on my landscape, but I do resonate strongly with this post.

    And I gurgle forth a curmudgeony chuckle that with clash-colored building blocks, we've erected the same structure and called it opposite names. Rather like a pair of explorers setting out from Columbus, one headed due east, the other due west are taken aback when they meet in China. Well met, sister. Well met.

    1. Well met, indeed. This goes down in the (admittedly brief) annals of the blog as one of my favorite comments ever.

  2. AH! Never stop posting. I am finding the season of Lent so rewarding and deep this year and it is a delight to "journey" through it with you.

    I shared what you said about the sacraments being a way to to drink in the grace on God on Sunday - everyone loved it.

    1. I am grateful as always for your encouragement!

  3. So tue! Thank you for sharing, dear!