Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Only Requirement

Today things felt, well, a little grey. More rain outside and an uncomfortable awareness bulged the seams of this first day of Lent. Have you ever noticed that when you try to be "good," your eyes are opened to just how insufficient you truly are?  I don't know if it's because I am suddenly more sensitive to  my shortcomings when I try to improve upon them, or if it's the Devil trying to defeat me, but I end up feeling so discouraged.

But what do I want? Do I want to do "good" so I can say, "Wow! I'm doing such a great job living for Christ. I know God is proud of me!" ? I think of the tax collector in Luke's gospel:

"But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, 'O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner."
~Luke 18:13

When we have the painful realization that all of our efforts are ashes, dust in a dry land, then we are given the gift of humility, the gift of gratitude for God's amazing and endless mercy.

"To appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified."
~Isaiah 61:3

Think of what God does for us:

Beauty for ashes. Oil of joy for mourning. Praise for the spirit of heaviness.

Living for God doesn't happen on a point scale. Living for God is all about how much we love Him. Every single moment is a chance to start fresh, to love anew.

I find comfort in the words of the beautiful St Therese:

"If I did not simply live from one moment to the next, it would be impossible for me to keep my patience. I can see only the present, I forget the past and I take good care not to think about the future. We get discouraged and feel despair because we brood about the past and future. It is such folly to pass one’s time fretting, instead of resting quietly on the heart of Jesus."

Maybe it's all part of the waiting I wrote about a couple of days ago. We must learn to wait on God, and sometimes we need to learn to wait on ourselves as well. We must be patient with our faults, but not tolerant of them; we must understand our weaknesses, but not coddle them; we must persevere in our love of God, knowing that his "power is made perfect in weakness." (2Corinthians12:9)

God can use these cracked vessels, waiting to be filled, to bring about his glory:

 "For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.  But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty."
~1Corinthians 26-27

God calls me just as I am: impoverished, weak, stumbling, and groping. All he requires is that I love him.

"Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity." (Colossians 3:14)