What can we do? I think the best thing is to live as if God really mattered. I have gotten to know many people, including my own relatives, who would rather go to the gym instead of Mass on Sunday but still believe they are Christian. Yet when you ask them what is specifically Christian about their lives, they can’t point to anything except a prayer they say once in a blue moon or a small donation they gave to charity.
What can we do? Live as if God matters and don’t pretend that living with God behind the wheel isn’t a struggle. Almost none of my students has ever heard this. Instead, they are taught that they shouldn’t think too much about their eternal destiny but should rather focus on their career, the next vacation, etc. They are told to focus on what is “practical” so that they can create their own meaning in life (and such created meaning is fictitious). This is preached in families, and until the families change, the Church won’t.Remember the other day when I posted my reflections on the matter of listening for and to God? It was occasioned by Joy Behar's mockery of Mike Pence saying that Jesus talks to him, suggesting that that was a sign of mental illness. I think Lehner addresses that well:
You write: “The journey to knowing God brings us to places we have not been, helps us notice unseen things, and opens our eyes to surprises and delights we didn’t know existed. Only the adventurer is able to see what nobody else sees — and it is this insight that we have lost when we think about God in conventional ways. And then we wonder why life doesn’t make sense — why we are so unhappy and why our existence bores us to death. Deep down, we want that challenge, that journey, that adventure.” What if such an adventure seems terrifying or impossible?
It almost certainly will look terrifying! If you read conversion stories you frequently encounter that. Take, for instance, John Henry Newman and Robert Benson. They knew they would not enter a rosy, comfy church but would leave career and acceptance behind and enter a church where they would never really fit in. After I interviewed for my job at Marquette in 2005, I went to church at the Basilica of Saint Josaphat, and while I was praying it hit me that God wanted me there, although I did not feel comfortable about it at all; I did not want to go there and leave my homeland, but I knew it was the right thing to do. My best friend from college knew God was calling her to be a religious, so she visited a number of communities in Germany. While she was at a very strict Cistercian convent, she knew she was in the right place, although a part of her rebelled against the idea. Yet, there was also peace, despite the uproar inside.
Deep down, most of us would rather go with our own inclination than with God’s voice, and hearing the latter is a tricky thing that involves silence, listening with the ear of the heart, and discernment.
That discernment must be cultivated. Per Lehner's overall point, it's not something you get by putting in a requisition form with God and bingo! it falls in your lap. It's not like getting a Kit Kat bar out of a vending machine.
I'm coming up against this in my own life. I have some big matters regarding career and finances that I'm in close consultation with God about, and I keep running into an old sticking point that I've mentioned in some posts here. I generally put it thusly: Okay, so grace ensures that we'll spend eternity with God, the angels and all the loved ones we've known who availed themselves of grace. How does that help me with this challenging meeting I have scheduled for next Thursday? How does it help me come up with the money for a home repair I suddenly need? How does it resolve the nuclear standoff with North Korea?
I'm starting to see - and this interview helped me see it more deeply - that maybe I'm not turning my life over to God in as all-encompassing a way as a deeper understanding is going to require. Maybe I'm still expecting a greater degree of the "God thing" to fit conveniently into the lifestyle I've crafted for myself. Maybe I'm assuming the set of concerns I've put front and center are my real issues when they're mere symptoms of areas where I still separate myself from Him.
Wow. Where do I get the courage to eliminate that separation? What is going to look different about the way I spend the minutes and hours of my days?
I guess one starts with the present moment. Do I pray, right now, about this, or do I email that certain someone whose correspondence with me I just remembered? Remember some household chore I'd better dash upstairs and take care of?
It's said that you can tell what's really important to a person by looking at what he's doing.
It's time to treat this relationship with God like the life-and-death matter it is.
Resolve to do so is a great way to kick off the week. Keeping that resolve front and center by Wednesday afternoon will require something new to me. It will require a certain kind of dying to myself. A sense of adventure, as Lehner puts it. Trust, at a level I've never before even contemplated.
Here we go.