Every January we are inundated with messages of losing weight to prepare our bodies for summer as if it’s as complicated as training for an Olympic sport instead of simply shedding coats and slipping on shorts. To be considered “ready” we are encouraged to lose weight, pump iron, and color ourselves caramel.
The message is clear. The preparation is all-important. Where you are now is clearly not good enough. You aren’t worthy of summer vacay unless, until, all that urgent striving sculpts you into the picturesque airbrushed model on the magazine cover who hasn’t eaten in three years and works out five hours a day.
I don’t know if it’s more demoralizing or depraved, but many of us buy into this if-then mentality. We do it in an array of scenarios: organizing our house before we can host friends, getting the promotion before we can pride ourselves on a job well done, or securing the relationship before we cement our self-worth. The perception that our arrival is more important than our pursuit is most damaging in our relationships with God. We often think where we are in our spiritual journey defines how much we please him, how much he loves us, and how worthy we are of his mercy.
Like the cover-girl clad in a bikini, we create a Christian ideal of what our faith life is supposed to look like. While intended to inspire us, it can become a deterrent in our relationship with God when we fail to measure up. We think because we don’t participate in bible study, attend daily mass, or volunteer weekly, then God thinks we are the equivalent of a pale slacker who needs to hide under her cover-up. Yet God isn’t about the perfect but the persistent. He loves our trying. He loves that we want to even if it doesn’t always translate into, we did it. He loves it when we stay on our spiritual journeys even when we keep taking the wrong path. Too often, we hesitate in our relationships with God because we aren’t where we know we ought to be – where we want to be. We get so focused on getting there that we forget that we are loved right here. We forget his mercy that covers the gaps. We forget the way he delights in our desire for him. Thomas Merton wrote, in The Seven Storey Mountain, “My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going…But I believe my desire to please you does, in fact, please you…I trust you always though I may seem to be lost…I will not fear for you are ever with me….”
We don’t need to fear that we aren’t where we desire to be in our relationships with God. It is wasted energy that distracts us from the pursuit of our longing. When we get caught up in the idealized version of Christianity, it’s easy to think it’s too hard, life’s too short, and we will never get “there.” We forget that in our humanity, none of us get anywhere without the mercy and grace God gifts us along the path. Our spiritual journeys will no doubt meander, but our willingness to put one foot in front of the other despite the season of our lives is paramount. It won’t always be a day at the beach but it isn’t required to look a certain way either. There is no getting ready, only our getting going — knowing that every step of the way we are right where we are supposed to be pasty skin and all.
Hi all~ I’ve been focused this year on”getting my work done.” While I am proud of myself for my efforts which sometimes require extensive discipline and extra helpings of chocolate, I’ve noticed that nothing ever really gets done without something else popping up in its place. It’s like a deranged Jack-in-the-box. So, perhaps, I needed this post as much as anyone — a reminder that life’s not about the checked boxes but about the present moment. Even if that moment isn’t feeling so great, I hope you can feel the love of God in it and find a way to share it with others. It won’t make a difference on our to-do list but it will make a difference to whoever you share it with. In the end, I think that will make us feel more accomplished. ~love, Lara
Read more: New Year – Same Self