kind of a rule follower. If I am given a task and told the expectation and perimeters, I prefer to be allowed to get the job completed without very much interference. As such, I usually don’t work well with groups – I see rules in black and white, and am quick to execute plans.
Coming into Nineveh 90 (N90), I fully recognized I was embarking on rule-filled journey. The guidelines are there to help establish a healthy lifestyle in all manners – physical, emotional, and spiritual. They are also there to encourage us to sacrifice in order to make reparation for the sins of the world. Ultimately, the rubric is laid in the manner it is to help the penitent grow closer to God.
N90 is testing my faith like nothing I have ever experienced. Given my rule-following nature, I have found myself staring at a list of rules which were designed to help me feel closer to Our Creator, but am forced to admit I have all-too-often felt anything but that closeness I had expected to feel.
N90 ends this upcoming Saturday, and honestly, I feel the furthest from God than I have in a long time.
I have spent the better part of 90 days focusing on the “do’s” and “don’ts” of this challenge. Our chaplain expressed concern at the outset of this challenge about whether or not I would beat myself up for failing to adhere to the stringent schedule; given my practical approach as a perfectionist-in-recovery, I can honestly say I have not dwelt on the failures I have encountered this challenge.
Instead, I have become obsessive – dissecting my Faith, and my role within the Church to a degree I have never seen before! And, it is unsettling. One could argue that I am treading a line with scrupulosity, which can be briefly summarized as having, “an exaggeration of healthy guilt.” And, that is a disturbing thought.
Further, the more I considered this N90 challenge, the more Christ’s admonishment to the Pharisees kept coming to mind. In Luke 11:42, Christ says,
But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and herbs of all kinds, and neglect justice and the love of God; it is these you ought to have practiced, without neglecting the others.
Throughout the N90 experience, I have felt a tug of war in my soul. On one hand, the utter recognition of God’s love, mercy, and grace; on the other side, a pull toward living by the “letter of the law,” and eschewing the personal relationship with God, trying to fool myself into believing that if I check all the right boxes between the Commandments, the Beatitudes, the Precepts of the Catholic Church, and being a generally decent person, then I would be golden.
And now, I am ready to end the internal struggle.
I want to love God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind.
I want to find strength in knowing His love for me is without condition, without restraint, and without reservation.
I want to have faith that He knows me better than myself, and He has faith that I will seek His love and mercy.
I want to trust in His goodness, love, and mercy, knowing I have a role to play in receiving all of His goodness.
I want to be intimate with Him, without holding back.
I don’t want to be like a Pharisee, looking pristine on the outside, but dead on the inside.
Instead, I’d rather embrace my messiness – the beautiful mess of my life. I’d rather accept I am going to stumble and fall on my way toward embracing a deep relationship with Our Creator. I’d rather fall head-first and heart-first into understanding, acknowledging, and believing the reminder in Lamentations 3:22-24:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases,
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”
So, while I feel I have taken some spiritual steps forward during this challenge (praying a daily Rosary, and beginning to understand the concept of fasting), I also feel I have taken some spiritual steps backward.
Come this Saturday, upon the 100th Anniversary of the Apparition of Our Lady of Fatima, I will begin rebuilding the areas of my faith which I feel have been shattered – focusing on the personal relationship with the Triune God… outside of a list of rules.
Which, perhaps, is the greatest gift of this N90 challenge.