Pressing On

Since today was payday, and since I had to stop by Domino’s Farms to get some money from the bank for our workday field trip to Blimpy Burger, I got the urge to stop by the Our Lady of Grace bookstore. I didn’t want to keep my siblings waiting, so I made a second trip after work, so that I could browse the store.

The store is like a crackhouse for me; meaning that every time I stop in, I am compelled to buy something. 🙂 Today, after careful inspection of wares, I picked up a book called “Between Sundays,” by Shawn Craig. The premise of the book is in the question: How do you maintain your faith Monday through Saturday? It is organized by week of the year (Week 1, etc.) and has entries for each day of the week. Each day has a particular theme, Scripture verse, reflection on the subject and ends with a prayer. On Saturdays, there are Weekend Reflections to read and then a set of questions to reflect upon (and they give you space in the book to write out your answers to the questions). There are no entries for Sundays. (Presumably, you wouldn’t have a problem with knowing how to express your faith on a Sunday. 🙂 Plus, the title of the book is *Between* Sundays….)

No time like the present to start the book, right? 🙂 I had to Google what week of the year we are in (since this is not information that typically concerns me). In case you were curious, we are in week 22.

Today’s theme is: Press On. As I read the reflection, I found that there was more than one way to look at the theme (although, I am not sure that the author intended there to be multiple).

The first image was that of a runner in a race, only having his eyes on the finish line and looking back on their competitors. What struck me most about this image wasn’t the keeping-your-eye-on-the-prize aspect, but more the concern with one’s competitors. Why *do* we get so concerned with how well (or how poorly) others are doing relative to our own performance? I get it about healthy competition and motivation and such, but I think there is a lot of danger when we are constantly concerned with the competition.

Danger #1: We tend to wish for the ill of the other person. To our concupiscent hearts, it is not enough to want to win, we want the other guy to lose.

Danger #2: We can get depressed or despair of our own worth. By constantly looking at the field, we are inclined to underestimate our potential. We can psyche ourselves out, in a way, even to the point of *actually* performing worse.

Danger #3: We can become envious of the gifts that God has given other people and not be as appreciative (or aware) of the gifts that He has given to *us*.

Danger #4: If we aren’t looking where we are going, we can easily stray off course. We cannot judge what is the right path for us by looking at where the competition is going. This goes for our journey in faith as well. Just because your friend does X, Y and Z, doesn’t mean that you need to do the exact same thing in order to be a holy disciple. One person may have a deep devotion to the Rosary and may pray it faithfully every day. You may struggle to say even a decade once a month, if you remember. This is okay. Don’t stress about it. Your path is different than their path. Just listen to the Holy Spirit. I’m sure He will let you know if you should be doing something – and then give you the grace to be able to do just that.

The next image presented was that of Lot’s wife. Especially when we are talking about spiritual conversion, this can always be a temptation: to look back wistfully at the way we used to be. I know for me this is a particular weakness. I grew up as secular as you can get. I was so immersed in secular culture, I even got a degree in it! (No kidding, I have a Bachelor’s in American Culture!) In general, I accepted everything that the world taught without really examining their claims, especially on topics such as relationships, sexuality and morality.

Once I entered the Church, I learned that the way the world views these issues isn’t really healthy for us. (And that’s why God and the Church have rather conflicting views of these things – God wants, above all, for what is truly good for us. If it’s not healthy, then we shouldn’t be involved in it; God doesn’t want us to get hurt.)

But.

Even though I *know* that these things are wrong or unhealthy, sometimes they are still attractive.

Especially flirting. I love flirting. And I used to be good at it. 🙂 But is it really harmless and cute? Or is it sometimes treating the other person as an object for my amusement? Can it be abusing our sexuality? Manipulation? If I flirt, am I really concerned with the other person’s emotions, or am I just trying to elicit the proper response from them so that *I* feel better? Where and how do we draw the line?

Once we grow in holiness, we cannot look longingly back on our sinful lives that we have left behind. There is nothing left for us there. We must, as the theme goes, press on towards God and a new life of grace.

Another image was of the Holy Spirit leading us onward. They emphasized complete trust in Him to be able to guide our lives. Yet another stumbling block we have all too often: inordinate self-reliance. We try so hard to convince ourselves that we don’t need God. That we can handle things on our own. Too frequently, we only turn to Him when we have made a complete mess of things. The challenge is to rely on Him for all things – not so that we don’t have to take responsibility for things in our life – but so that there is no part of our lives into which He is not welcome.

The last image for me was that of being on the path, looking expectantly and joyfully toward our goal. What is the purpose of all this self-mastery and obedience? To be with God forever, sharing in His Divine Life! What could be better than that?

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