Thursday, January 6, 2011

Growing Means Change

I constantly hear people say that: “I have to be me;” and “This is the way I am,” as a justification for their actions. (To be honest, perhaps even I have said those words at times.) Those words seem to imply that the people who say them are happy with whom they are and the way they are. If so, then why are there so many people who seem to be so sad and unhappy? I pondered for a bit on what it really must mean to those who say: “I have to be me.” For them, I think, it has a lot to do with “getting the things I want for myself”, and perhaps more importantly, “I think I know exactly what those things are”. It seems as if they are thinking in terms of another truism: “I know what I want.”

I know what I want: I listen for what I want to hear. My eyes see what I want to see. I eat what I want to eat. Of course, that also implies the opposites: I don’t listen to what I’m not trying to hear. I don’t see what I’m not looking for. I don’t eat what I’m not sure will taste good. On the surface those statements appear to be the basis for a somewhat happy life style, and you can understand why people would want to think and act that way, but consider: those are also the statements of a five-year old.

What about everything else around us, these things that we don’t want: other sounds, sights, and foods? Other thoughts? Oh, perhaps you might tell me that you have tried other foods, and might note that you have tasted some pretty vile concoctions. There are, however, many other things which you have not eaten, not seen, nor heard. How do you consider them; how do you not deliberately ignore (like the five year old) the other things of this world, how do you become even slightly daring in your choices? Are you sometimes like my mother, who in her dementia looks at anything strange on her plate and says: “Take that away, I don’t like that,” without ever having even having tasted it, or even knowing what it is? Do you react to strange foods that way? Do you react to strange words or sights or thoughts in a similar way?

This call of all Catholics and Christians to use our life to grow in holiness is assented to by many people: “Yes, of course I want to grow closer to Jesus. I want to love Him more, and I want Him to love me more. Of course.” But do we live our lives in that “of course” mindset, taking for granted or assuming we already know the correctness and rightness of things, without ever challenging our existing presumptions or inclinations? Are we content with our faith by saying: “I am a good person,” implying I like the way I am, and also implying I don’t want to change the way I am? How can we really grow in holiness if nothing about us ever changes? And how can anything ever change if we are not open to change, if we are not open to the possibility that our “of course” may be wrong, or at least need improvement. How can we advance beyond the “I know what I want” if we don’t know what else there is?

If we are not trying new foods, we will never know all the wonderful tastes --- or perhaps wonderful health-giving abilities --- of many “strange” foods. If we do not look about, with real “open” eyes, we will never know the real beauty in all of God’s creation, and in all of His children, in each and every one. And if we do not read or hear new words, words of Scripture, new words our heart has never heard, or listen to the new thoughts of friends, strangers, or saints, or the words whispered to our souls, how we can never grow in holiness? To grow in holiness is to KNOW Him more, to LOVE Him more, and in living our life to SERVE Him more.

These things, these changes, this growth, only comes about when we stop assuming “of course” to things we see and hear and taste --- and think. Change and growth come about only when we are humble enough to admit we don’t already know it all, when we can look into darkness and hear a new voice, and trustingly say: “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.” This is a new year. You want it to be a better year, then resolve to change, to be open to and to actively seek new things and new thoughts. Old or young, you have not “seen it all.” Eye has not seen, nor ear heard all that God has prepared for those who love Him. Resolve to grow more in love with Him by being open to knowing Him better. Growing means change.


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