I have always been a dreamer – someone who would rather find her escape from life through the tales found within the covers of books. As such, I have always found myself on the outside of the proverbial circle of friends – usually a watcher, seldom someone who jumps eagerly in to participate. I have always kept my cards close, preferring to let others share first.
I’m a classic introvert, expending a huge quantity of energy through simple interactions with others. I rarely make the first move to get to know someone, and prefer to be found inside my house, sitting here writing than speaking with someone.
I also spend time ruminating. I play, and overplay, situations and interactions. I analyze, and perhaps overanalyze, my contributions to projects, processes, and interactions with others. And lately, I have been ruminating on my personality, more specifically how others perceive me to be a little “intense,” to quote a darling little sister of mine.
During my undergrad career, I was intense about my political affiliation. Everyone knew where I stood politically, and I didn’t bat an eyelash in arguing my points. In grad school, I was intense when it came to military and veterans’ issues. Some may liken me to a rabid dog gnawing on a bone.
Somewhere along the line, the focus of intensity switched, and as I returned to Catholicism, my faith became the centrality of my intensity. I guess you could say I am the “crazy Catholic lady” of my family of origin at this point.
I live and breathe my causes. Polite rules of conversation advise never discussing politics, religion, or money. For most of my life, for the first two topics, I have thrown those rules out the window within minutes. I am sure it makes some people uncomfortable, and I have used my introverted nature to hide away, preferring the solace of my house, rather than being the wallflower, the silent observer, or the rabid dog.
Lately, I have been analyzing how “intense” I have become as a Christian. I don’t remember or recall having a “come to Jesus” moment. No particular moment resounds in my soul of having the veil lifted from my eyes, and no one experience has left me with unmistakable, unshakeable belief in a Savior. While I have always been the “weirdo” who had a kneeler underneath the staircase of my parents’ house for a couple years, spending extra time in prayer there, I don’t have a major conversion story. Nothing remarkable and bold led me back to my Catholic Faith.
But, here I am – unashamedly and unapologetically Catholic Christian.
I was lamenting to a friend recently who, while not Catholic, is also Christian. She and I have been good friends since grad school, and this woman is an inspiration in living as a Christian witness and evangelizing. We don’t speak too frequently, and aside from Facebook, haven’t seen each other since (I think?) my wedding. But, I always walk away from our conversations with some wisdom or some nugget. This particular conversation was no different, and I have spent the better part of a week thinking about this reminder.
During our lengthy conversation, catching up on news and family life, the topic turned to how I am living and breathing everything Catholic, and at times I feel like a fish out of water. I expressed how Catholics who pray the Divine Mercy Novena are encouraged to dedicate one day (the ninth day) to praying for the lukewarm souls, and how I feel as though I understand what He meant by “lukewarm” at this point in my life. I was, and sometimes still feel, rather lukewarm. And, while I am so frustrated by the lukewarm approach to faith at this juncture of my life, I also feel alone in the fervent approach I am trying to have as I continue my own spiritual journey.
She pointed out to me that John reminds us in the Book of Revelation that we must be either hot or cold – and cautions us against being lukewarm. So, I pulled out my trusty bible after our conversation, and have been digesting the words for the better part of this week:
I know your works; you are neither cold nor hot. I wish that you were either cold or hot. So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
The more I have considered this message, the more I have found comfort. As Christ reminds us in the gospels:
If you belonged to the world, the world would love you as its own. Because you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out fo the world – therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘Servants are not greater than their master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you; if they kept my word, they will keep yours also.
Now, I am not persecuted. Far from it, especially as I recognize there are other Christians throughout this world who have risked everything to follow Christ… especially those who routinely, daily risk everything they have and love to proclaim His Good News. In fact, one of my favorite resources to provide me with perspective on this issue is following Humanitarian Prayers on both their blog and Facebook.
Rather, I have been reminded that we are all on individual spiritual journeys, and sometimes, that journey can be lonely. It can be one where there is spiritual growth when you embrace the solitude, and turn to lean into God, spending more time in prayer. It’s a journey in which it is possible to begin to understand what the Bible mentions in Luke 2:19 where Mary, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.”
The journey is one where we can be tempted to eschew the relationship with God, and leave Him stranded; or, we can turn to Him, putting His desires at the front and center. We can ignore Him as we go about our day searching to fill a void in our spirit, or instead, our day can be spent contemplating the loneliness He must have felt as He embraced God the Father’s plan of sacrifice for the salvation of humanity. We see that loneliness on the part of our Savior clearly in Matthew 26:40-41:
Then he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not stay awake with me one hour? Stay awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
This past week, as I have contemplated all these thoughts, and allowed them to swirl, I realized how individual faith is to each person. I recognized how important it is to have friends who are willing to discuss where they are on their spiritual journeys, and to mentor us on our own journey. I acknowledged that there is nothing wrong with not having a resounding, reverberating spiritual “ah-ha” moment where I just “knew” I was saved.
Ultimately, at the close of several deeply introspective weeks, I have decided to embrace the nature of my faith and the way it manifests to others.
Advent is a time where we are encouraged to go deeper into a relationship with God – to take what faith you have been given, and to go deeper. The unknown of where that will take you is intimidating, and it can be scary. At times, it can be lonely. But, at the end of the day, we aren’t alone – God will provide us with inspiration, if we are willing to open up and share our struggles, our fears, our worries, our anxieties, and our doubts.
He will place someone in our path at the right time, or He will put some written word in front of us at precisely the right moment. He will make the murky waters we wade, crystal clear in His time.
We just have to be willing to open that door for Him. Everyone who has been baptized has had a flame lit within them by the Holy Spirit. We just need to allow Him in to our daily lives to fan the flames.
And, that allowance begins with an invitation to Him. It begins with a simple prayer to Him.
It begins with an acknowledgment that He is Lord.
Will you join me in extending the simple invitation to bring Him deeper into our lives this Advent season?