Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Better Is One Day

In Phil 4:11, St. Paul says, "Not that I am referring to being in need, for I have learned to be content with whatever I have." With whatever he has. He realizes that because he has full faith in God, he will never be alone, and that is enough for him to be content with the situations he encounters in his life.

It's an extremely difficult thing to be truly content, in the sense that St. Paul is meaning. I take 'content' to mean 'satisfied,' but I also think that being content is very different from being complacent. Complacency is so easy to fall into. It's pretty much saying "yeah, this is good enough," and leaving it at that. It's thinking that whatever you've done thus far is great, and good enough to get you by; never feeling like you need to go anywhere else.

But being content does not mean that you beat yourself into thinking that you're awful because you aren't better. That just turns into an endless loop. You'll always want to be better, and no one's perfect, so you'll always be putting yourself down. Rather, I take being content to mean that you are satisfied, happy with where you are and what you've accomplished in life, and yet still recognizing the fact that you should continually, positively and optimistically, be taking steps forward.

And like St. Paul, those steps forward should never lose their "contentness" - they should never be accompanied by feelings of resentment toward yourself because you are only trying to be better for bragging rights - but because you were made for greatness, because you appreciate how God has carried you thus far, and because you know that you are taking steps WITH Him towards that greatness. But people are usually too hard on themselves, or too easy.

Often, I find that the times when people are being too hard on themselves is when they are thinking too much about the future, and not enough about the present. Obviously we should do some planning (whatever works for you - agendas, post its...I tend to just try and remember things) about what we want to major in, how much money we'll need for such and such things, how we're going to get from North Van to Richmond, etc. But C.S. Lewis points out that "happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment as to the Lord." How true. Everything that we have is His, and we should offer up all of our successes and all of our failures. If we're too busy trying to figure out every single aspect of our future - which has infinite possibilities - how can we possibly be offering ourselves up to Him fully?

The present is all that we have to offer. While God is everywhere, omnipotent, omniscient, and outside time, we are not. For Him, it is always the past, the present, AND the future. For us, it's different. We are inside time. We can't change the past, and we don't know the future. All we have is the now. The present is the only time that we can ask for Grace, and the only time that it can be received (or rejected). For us, the present is the only time that has been offered, and so it is the only time that we can give.

We, as biological creatures, don't interpret the visual world as one fluid 3D motion presentation. Our eyes take 2D images of the world, and it gets translated in our brain as 3D motion. We see stills, kind of like a film reel. Flip them really fast, and you can get something beautiful like "The Lord of the Rings." (Or something awful like "Glitter," or "Crossroads." - but we don't want to turn out like them.) Our lives are just like that. They are a series of stills, and only after something has happened, can we take those stills and flip through them.

And with each still, don't we want them to be as great as they can be? So we should focus on them entirely, for that is all we have at the time being - at the present. C.S. Lewis also points out that Jesus told us to ask the Father to "give us this DAY our DAILY bread." He didn't tell us to pray, "and give us this age an infinite amount of grain." And hey, if that's what Jesus told us to ask for, who are we to argue? He probably has a point.

Yes, God calls us to be holy. Yes, God calls us to be chaste. Yes, God calls us to pray to discern our vocation in life. God calls us to do all those things - but only one day at a time.

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