My Dear Reader,

It has been a while. But the flow of writing has an peaks and troughs just like any wave would, so I will be back with plenty eventually. And that this is how C.S. Lewis describes our spirituality. He likens it to a sine wave. There are times when we are wholly and entirely motivated and our connection with God comes with ease. Then there are the times when it is a struggle just to crack open the Bible or say the Lord’s Prayer with real zeal and meaning. Danger lies in any complacency we may develop during the spiritual lull. So the key to emerging from the depths lies in the recognition of the trough. Only then can we begin to reach upward and begin the ascent to the peak.

With that said, expect more to be written soon.

With Love,

M.A.R.

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While having a miniature quarter-life crisis the other day (not to be confused with an actual real life crisis with real life implications but more of a crisis of thought) I stopped myself for a minute and very bluntly asked myself the question, “What is it that you want exactly?” Although it may seem like a question that would open up a thought-filled can of worms, it actually brought everything and all the racing thoughts to a swift stop.

What do you want? What’s your heart’s deepest desire? Where do you wish to be?

We can learn much about ourselves simply by asking, “What do I want? What is it that I treasure?”

Because to pinpoint what one treasures will lead the individual to find his or her heart. You’ll be surprised where you find your heart abiding.

Do I treasure success? Possessions? My family? My significant other? My friends?

Don’t get me wrong; it’s essential to treasure the people in your life, but if the first answer that comes to mind when asking yourself “What do I treasure?” isn’t “God” then it might be time to take a step back and evaluate things.

To treasure God above all else is the only path to joy and gladness of heart and prosperity in life. And the beautiful thing about placing God in the number one spot so-to-speak is that it rests in our hands. WE can choose to place him there. WE can choose to make Him the one we treasure most.

In other words, we are the ones who can shape our lives by placing Him at the very center of our hearts and surrendering our will up to Him. Once He becomes our treasure, our lives overflow with treasures heavenly and earthly in nature. Figure out what or who you treasure and you will find out exactly what you have been shaping your life to become and most likely you may just be able to see a clear vision of your future.

Entry Written on Saturday, April 5, 2008…

“Blank Stares and Blank Pages”

When I was younger, perhaps at the age of 4 or 5 and ending sometime around when I was 9 or so, I would have these moments of pure conviction that I must have been born into the wrong life. Everything was so ordinary. And well, I obviously couldn’t be. No, I was meant to be a heroine somewhere in some distant land. I had to have some special untapped superpower. Or better yet, I was an amazing mythological creature that happened to be stuck in a human’s body. In attempting to realize my full mystical potential I caused some chaos and mainly ended up looking entirely ridiculous. The casualties of my efforts to become the great heroine I was meant to be included my mother’s glass coffee table and a few of her favorite vases. I spent many long afternoons wearing butterfly printed tights while leaping off my parent’s bed in a fervent attempt to fly (apparently the butterfly tights were supposed to help somehow.) The closest I ever came to accomplishing these lofty goals of mine was when I managed to convince a few of my cousins that I was, indeed, a mermaid and that I needed to be brought back to the sea. Eventually they all got tired of trying to help me plan my return to my supposed native habitat.

At the age of ten I realized the error of my ways. Fairytales with princesses who go off and save the day took their rightful place as stories. But still, I couldn’t just be an ordinary fifth grader who just went to school everyday and did her homework and participated in the science fair (my entries were pretty good too.) My solution came in science class one day when we started the unit on space. I was going to become an astronaut! It made perfect sense: I didn’t belong here, so obviously I belonged up there somewhere. When I pitched the idea to my parents they laughed at me and then went “Honey, you’re going to be a doctor.” (A little over a decade later they had to settle for law school when they realized that I was never going to make it through med school if the sight of a needle induced near hysteria and fainting spells every time I had to encounter one. Let’s just say I make babies look brave in the face of an oncoming shot of any sort.)

Yet, the feeling persisted. I spent the following years agonizing with this feeling that could really only be described as “non-belonging.” The career plans changed a million times over but each time they always had one end goal–to somehow get out of “here.” One day, probably when I was 15 or 16, when I was having a particularly hard time with this little predicament of mine, I decided to pitch a new career idea to my dad. He sat there and listened to me for a few minutes and then asked why on earth I wanted to be an archaeologist. I frowned and began to repeat my speech about how great it would be to work with artifacts and study human history but he stopped me and asked, “Why do you want to go so far away?” and without thinking I blurted out “Because I just don’t think I belong here.” When I realized just how awful that sounded, I tried to explain myself but he stopped me again.

Then he asked me a question that has stuck with me till this very day: “Honey, if you felt like you belonged here, why would you ever want to be in heaven with God?” My desire to reach something higher than my surroundings, to literally “go up there,” began to make sense. The feeling was and still is simply motivation to keep reaching my hands and heart up toward heaven, to our Father in heaven. With this new understanding I began to face the challenge set before me. I had to find the extraordinary in the everyday ordinary in order to appreciate the wonders of the world yet remain focused on reaching beyond it. In other words, I began to search for the glory of God in all that He created so I did not become careless when it came to my surroundings and those around me. I needed to strike a balance of appreciation and understanding– seeing the glory in what seems to be so ordinary in order to gain a far deeper awareness of what I constantly keep reaching for and yearning to grasp. I strive to see the depth in a blank stare and the words on a blank page because sometimes that’s all that seems to be around.

Everyone who gets to know me sooner or later comes to learn of one of my greatest shortcomings. I am forevermore perpetually late to almost everything. If I am only five minutes late that is a triumph. If I am on time, then it’s a miracle. Although I have actually gotten places on time before, it’s safe to say that it’s a rare occurrence. If my life were a Greek tragedy then my perpetual lateness would be my tragic flaw. When all would be said and done, at the end of the play the chorus would recite a monologue about how if I’d just been on time everything would have turned out just fine and the city wouldn’t have burned down and the country now wouldn’t be at war with the rest of the known world.

Thankfully my life is not a Greek tragedy and not much usually depends on my timeliness. (Although, I’m sure my friends would like me a lot more if I actually met them when I said I would instead of 45 minutes later.) So, with all that said you would think that I would be a great fan of the common platitude “Better late than never,” when in fact I actually really dislike it. I don’t like it because I think it’s highly misleading.

Yes, there are times when it is better to be late than to have never made the effort at all, like wishing a friend a happy belated birthday–the consolation is that you didn’t entirely forget his or her birthday. Or say you tell your friend that you will help her move and promise her you’ll get there at 10 am but something comes up and you arrive at 11 instead. Chances are the sixty minutes won’t make much of a difference to her since you arrived to help with the arduous task instead of cancelling on her.

But for every instance when tardiness is excusable and doesn’t make much of a difference there are several instances in which promptness is essential. The physician delivering a life-saving dosage of medicine to a patient must do so before time runs out for the patient. The attorney making sure his client’s claim is filed before time runs out. The credit card bill that must be paid by a certain date before exorbitant interest begins to accrue on the balance.

But I think the phrase “Better late than never” presents the most palpable danger to us in terms of our relationship with God. It is so easy to put Him off till later. We all do it without noticing. I’ll pray later today. I’ll read my Bible tomorrow. I’ll start fasting next week. I’ll confess before the next time I decide to take communion. I’ll take communion after I make it to confession… the cycle starts and soon we can’t get out of it. And we console ourselves into a stagnant complacency with phrases like “Better late than never.” Well, it’s better that I get around to God sometime someday in the future than not getting around to Him at all. We use words of scripture that tells us that God waits for our return to Him to bolster our complacency about now and place all our eggs in tomorrow’s basket.

But what if tomorrow never comes? What if today is all you have? You wouldn’t know it, and the suddenness of it all would be far too much. 

Perhaps this is why Saint Paul gives us the following advice in his epistle to the Ephesians: “See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (5:15-16).

He tells us to walk with caution, to use our time wisely because time itself is a magician’s trick. We are here today and with a simple sleight of hand gone tomorrow.

At times life can seem like nothing but a string of decisions that bring us from one moment to the next. Before going to sleep you decide when you want to wake and you set your alarm. You decide when to have lunch and where to have lunch. You can drive or you can walk. The day is passed deciding between this and that. Even the most minute actions require a decision. I had to make decision to pause before writing this sentence and take a sip of my tea (something I am never aware of until I pause to acknowledge it.) Then you decide to go to sleep and the day ends… only to begin again. Sleep is simply like pushing the pause button on the decision making process. Below I offer up to you, dear reader, a few passages that relate to this train of thought that I’d like for you to read before I continue… 

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost (Luke 19:1-10).”

Now as He was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before Him, and asked Him, ‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And he answered and said to Him, ‘Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.’ Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me.’ But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:17-22).

“Do I dare
Disturb the universe?  
In a minute there is time  
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse.”

From “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot

The first two passages from the Bible tell us the stories of two men who had lived their lives in distinctly different manners. Zacchaeus is a corrupt tax collector who has been using his position to enrich himself unfairly at the expense of others, while the rich youth has lived is entire life following the word of God and following the commandments. The one thing they had in common was their wealth. Yet one comes across Jesus Christ and decides to give up his worldly possessions and give to the poor and restore those he has wronged in order to follow Christ, and the other meets Christ and presents Him with all his righteousness but when faced with giving up his possessions, he cannot.

Both had made decisions for their entire lives that brought them to this point, the sinner and the righteous man, and in one instant, with one decision, they effectively switched places. This is where Eliot’s words ring so true. There is space in one minute, in one moment for life altering decisions to be made. There is also space for them to be revised, taken back, rewritten, reworded. And the beauty of the decision making moment is that one is never more clear, more sure, more steadfast than in the moment when the declaration is made. The moments before and after could be full of questions and doubt, but the decision making moment is made of solid gold.

For example, you may spend 30 minutes trying to decide what to eat for lunch, but the moment you decide you want the pizza and order that pizza, you are probably more certain of wanting that pizza than you are of anything else in the world at that moment.

So was the case of Zacchaeus and the rich young man. In their decision making moments, they were both so firm in their minds and hearts that Christ declared that salvation came to the house of the former and the latter left with great sorrow in his heart because he cared for his possessions too much to give them up to leave them behind and follow Him.

And so is the case with us. We hear a sermon, or read a passage in the Bible, or have a discussion and we feel renewed and we declare that from this moment on, our lives will be dedicated to our Lord and to His righteousness. Then moments pass by and there are revisions and more decisions and we forget… but that does not take the sincerity away from the moment when we were moved to reach out to Him. It just makes me think that perhaps one of the things that will help us on our way up to the summit is to make every moment the deciding moment. If during every second of every day you are continuously deciding to follow our Lord and His righteousness then every moment will be made of the solid faith and conviction. Every moment will bring you closer to God and His everlasting love and joy.

The Taming of the Shrew stands out as one of Shakespeare’s most famous comedies. Although just how funny it really is remains a matter of opinion. To briefly summarize the play, a rich Italian gentleman has two daughters, Katherina (Kate) and Bianca. Bianca is sweet and loved and chased by many suitors but her older sister Kate is entirely shrewish. No man wants to come near her because if she does not blow out his eardrums out with her shouting she will literally beat him. 

As always there has to be some sort of complication. Bianca is not allowed to get married until her older sister is first married, and this stipulation is what spurs the action of the play. One of Bianca’s suitors, Hortensio, convinces his friend Petruchio that Kate is the wife for him because she is beautiful and her dowry is large. Petruchio enters the play as the would-be hero who will capture Kate’s heart and release Bianca. Except he acts far more like a villain than a hero. He is not intent on capturing Kate’s heart but on breaking her will, on taming her (hence the title.) By the very end of the play, Kate and Petruchio are married and Kate has been tamed for lack of a better description. The unruly Katharina seems to have finally met her match. Critics world over have tried to rescue the play from its apparent chauvinistic traits but that is not my concern here.

First I offer the following passage from the second Act of the play in which Kate and Petruchio meet and he informs her that she will be his wife whether she likes it or not. After much witty banter and the exchange of some harsh words, the ever elusive Katherina seems to have finally been trapped as her interaction with Petruchio comes to a close and her father reenters the scene. He ends their interaction in the following manner:

“And therefore, setting all this chat aside,
Thus in plain terms: your father hath consented
That you shall be my wife; your dowry ‘greed on;
And, Will you, nill you, I will marry you.
Now, Kate, I am a husband for your turn;
For, by this light, whereby I see thy beauty,
Thy beauty, that doth make me like thee well,
Thou must be married to no man but me;
For I am he am born to tame you Kate,
And bring you from a wild Kate to a Kate
Conformable as other household Kates.
Here comes your father: never make denial;
I must and will have Katharina to my wife.”

Petruchio does just as he promises. The wild Kate becomes a domesticated Kate, simply concerned with pleasing her husband and attending to his needs. The world outside Petruchio and away from him no longer exists. And as Kate becomes a “Kate conformable as other household Kates” her spirit and her fire fizzles away. She is simply a changed woman.

Strangely enough, this play and particularly that excerpt bring to mind the following passage from the Bible. “There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband” (1 Corinthians 7:34).

And so the Bible presents us with the image of the unmarried or single woman as a free spirit not bound to the cares of this world but entirely focused on the world above. Her life is one focused on entirely on God, she is not bound to anything or anyone. Her will is free, and if she so chooses, she can will her entire being to revolve around her connection with God.

Now Kate is far from the best example of a single woman’s cares focusing on God, but the connection is there. Kate’s life did not revolve around anything of this world or its cares until Petruchio came along and her focus had to alter.

This is not an anti-marriage post by any means though. After all, the church regards a marriage as the formation of a new church within the home. It is one of the paths that lead to salvation. After all, the beauty of a Christian marriage is unparalleled. This is a post meant to extol the beauty of being single and living life on your own. There is something to be said for having your free time to while away on God and His glory.

Many run around in a panic, thinking that singledom is a disease of sorts that must be cured as fast as possible when in actuality it is a blessing meant to be cherished. Take the time you have on your own to grow in His wisdom and in His glory. To expand your capacity for love and humility. To grow into His likeness with every passing day. The time is too short and it will slip by before you realize it.

P.S. – The same thing goes for men too. See 1 Corinthians 7:32-33.

I previously left this topic with the open-ended question “So what now?”

 

What does one do in the face of a world full of people spinning around while singing Mariah Carey love songs, people who think you’re insane to not be spinning with them and crooning your favorite Mariah ballad?

 

And my answer to that is “Absolutely nothing.” There is nothing that must be done or worked on or understood. There is only a life to be lived without a singular worry about the who, when, where and why of dating, relationships, and marriage. My personal conceptualization of “taking dating seriously” as I was told I should took some time to form over the 2 years or so from when I was first approached with this proposition. I tried to absorb all the do’s and don’ts being thrown at me from that day forward but none of it made any sense to me. It required too much planning and forethought and calculation—it seemed like one was almost gearing up for a war in which all the single people were mercenaries out to work for themselves. But that’s not how relationships between men and women began. That’s not how the very first relationship ever came into existence.

 

Let’s go back to Adam and Eve for a moment—the world’s first couple. After God had created everything and Adam and allowed Adam to run around exploring the Garden of Eden and naming everything, He saw that “it was not good for man to be alone.” So what did He do? Let’s start with what he didn’t do first. He did not create a bunch of women and have them prance around while Adam got to sit around and pick one. No, His plan was perfect.

 

He took Adam and put him into a deep sleep (basically, He knocked him out.) He took one of his ribs and formed a woman, Eve, and when Adam woke up He took her by the hand and placed them together.

 

There are a few things to be picked out here. First, Adam did not run around frantically searching for someone. Instead, God saw that he needed companionship and decided to give it to him at the exact time in which he needed it (in Adam’s case it was around the time he ran out of things to name.) Then He created for Adam a perfect companion to complement him, drawn partially from his own being. Neither Adam nor Eve had anything to do with it.

 

Thousands of years have passed and God is no longer knocking out men so He can create perfect companions for them out of their ribs (although I’m sure there are those who would prefer it still worked this way.) But the principles of living a life without a worry or a care over this issue can still be taken and applied. There is no need to wage World War III of the Singles Trying to Find a Companion. The only need there is for the individual is to continue living and learning and growing in grace and wisdom—to use the ever popular yet quite applicable cliché, to live, love, and laugh until you find Him leading you by the hand and placing you with someone else. And if it never happens, that’s cool too because you lived, loved, and laughed your way through this world.