Catching Myself: Merciful Guidance

Hello again! Round three today: blogging day. The first two blogs I posted were more stories about what’s been going on in my life, and each had tons of pictures.  This post, on the other hand, will hopefully paint a picture of my heart, and give you an opportunity to think about your own life and spiritual journey.

On Saturday, when I went waterfall rappelling and to the beautiful Manuel Antonio beach with seven great people, and the week before, horseback riding on a beach and through the mountains, I had some variation of the following phrase running through my head on constant repeat:

Now I’m really living!

(o bien)

This is what it means to be alive.

But just like I had the guides to back me up just in case I let go of that rope 160 feet up a waterfall, God was my support when I lost my grip on reality. He offered me a question in response to my naïve thoughts:

Erin, if this is what it is to “really be alive”, what have you been doing the rest of the time? And what happens when you go back home?

That surprised me. Because, really, if I say that spending a lot of money on a rare experience that I’m blessed to be a part of is what it means to be truly living, what have I been doing all my life until now? With this scale, what meaning can CUA or Flagstaff or anything else hold if it does not take my breath away?

If the adrenaline thrills and the crazy adventures are how I measure the value and the excitement of my life, I’m sadly lacking on a daily basis. If rappelling down waterfalls with people who were strangers five weeks ago makes up my most important interaction with others, what does that say about my relationships at home, with my family, the friends I’ve known my whole life, the Universal Church, my relationship with my boyfriend?

I would even go so far as to ask this question: what does this say about my faith? If I find the most life in a completely individualistic activity, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that maybe makes me more special in the world’s eyes, what does that say about how I love the Holy Mass, which I so often call “the most important thing I will ever do in my time on Earth”?

This reflection, these questions do not discredit the incredible {incredible: (adj.) impossible to believe; extraordinary} blessing it is for me to lead a life of so much adventure.  De hecho, these questions acknowledge the rarity and the providence and Holy Will of God that I can be here, experiencing all of this.  But it is a reflection and a wake up call for all of us: we cannot mistake adrenaline rushes and rare experiences for a life of substance and prayer.  And for each moment, no matter how amazing or dreadfully insignificant it may seem, we cannot cease thanking God for the life He has freely given us.

If I really wanted to, I could find a way to get by financially for the rest of my life, going on adventures, chasing new fads, and building up an impressive resume of daring acts.  But if I do not live with the same intensity my love for God and my gratefulness for the daily, sometimes monotonous trials of school, family life, relationship, and responsibility, I have given my life to the idols of adventure and experiences.  If I rely on these quickly passing moments, I lose my understanding of the beauty and the sacrifice of the everyday, of the normal.  I lose my ability to find Christ where He waits for me.

I know that picking up our crosses to follow Christ is more often than not a difficult thing to do.  I know it because I am living it. I know that the spiritual life requires perseverance, despite a seeming dryness or “lack of excitement”.  I know it because I often get bored, and have to ask constantly for the grace to love God better. And as I have been learning, that humbling encounter of asking God to help us do a better job of loving Him -prayer- is how our spiritual lives thrive:

“To say I love God but I do not pray much is like saying I love life but I do not breathe much.” –Barbara Brown Taylor in her book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith

If I live for the thrill, I risk losing what matters most: my relationship with God.  It is still true that the Holy Mass is the most holy act I will ever participate in.  But if I live for the thrill, I claim with my actions that Christ’s call and Christ’s cross do not interest me.

But here’s the cool part! There is infinitely more adventure in the Christian life than we could ever find apart from God. Why? Because living according to Christ is living with the awareness that this is only the beginning. Because the Christian life can only be understood in the context of eternity.  Because with each choice, we have to choose between life or death. I never once have had to choose between physical life or death: each excursion has been tested countless times for safety, and my guides have been experienced and certified for years.  But in the spiritual battles, each time we face temptation, we choose Heaven and therefore life eternal, or we choose Hell, and condemn ourselves to death. (And thanks be to God’s grace and infinite mercy, we have the Holy Sacrament of Confession to run to so that we can beg again for -and receive- the grace to love God better and choose life!)

God never told us that the Christian life would be easy. He always promised to be present, He always promised to provide, and He always promised to guide us.  What He did not promise? That it would be predictable. That it would feel manageable at all times.  That we would be loved by all.  In fact, it seems to me that if we are truly living the Christian life with love, we will always be in danger! The world and the devil seek to destroy our faith at every turn, temptation awaits us, and evil seems to overwhelm in every way.  And yet our hope is in the God, in the Lord of the Dance.

Friends, this reflection has reassured me that there is an adventure I want to spend my whole life chasing.  That adventure is the narrow road that leads to Heaven. That narrow road was revealed to us in full in the person of Christ. In choosing this adventure, I will have to keep my eyes fixed on Him, my heart focused, my body ready, my whole self engaged. And what a challenge that will be. What an opportunity to learn, to face all sorts of dangers, to take all sorts of risks, to offer my whole life in love of God.

I did not know it when I started writing today, but there is this thrill I want to chase: the supernatural adventure, the spiritual life. I want to live each moment seeking Christ, and having Him perfect His love in me. And if there’s anything we humans should know by now, it is this: God takes us on some incredible adventures, far beyond anything we could dream up for ourselves.

I hope this reflection has given you the opportunity to think about the risks God asks you to take for Him every day, and I’ll leave you with one last point of reflection:

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” -Romans 8:26-27-

The love and peace of God the Father, made visible in the person of Christ, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, remain with you now and always! Know of my prayers for you and be assured of God’s protection on your wild adventure!

 

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