Tuesday, June 28, 2011

My Way is the Best Way

I was thinking about the interests of some friends, the things they are focusing on to grow spiritually, and I found myself thinking: “Those things are good things for them, and I wish them well, but they are not for me.” Indeed, sometimes in the past I have rather forcefully stated those thoughts to friends when they discussed, and sometimes promoted, their activities to me. But in addition to my stated good will toward what they were doing, in all honesty, I also felt a certain amount of ill-will. Even as I was saying that their way was good --- for them, I was saying (sometimes vehemently) that my way was better --- for me.

Only sometimes I left off the “for me” part.

I’m reminded of the saying: “If you can’t say anything good about a person, shut up.” It is a good saying, and one we should probably call to mind more often.

This morning a bible-study group invited me to “show up anytime; you’re always welcome,” and I wrestled with a polite way to decline. I reacted the same when asked to join a men’s group which gathers to pray or discuss ways in which men can be better fathers, spouses, or leaders. I reacted the same when a rosary group asks me to join, or a devotional group to the Sacred Heart or Mary, or to some saint asks me to join their group. In my mind and heart I think that these are all very good groups, but are “not for me”. I feel that way, but I don’t often challenge my feelings with reason. I could say that the Holy Spirit is not leading me in those ways, and this would be true, but I don’t often ask: “why”.

One of the things I have become more aware of in recent years is this call to grow in holiness, this challenge for each man. And while I am increasingly aware that not everyone advances as far nor as fast in this growth as someone else, I must constantly remind myself that each man also does not advance down the same path. We are all unique, in our talents and blessings, and in our purposes and God’s plans for us. So to the degree that some things which help advance some in holiness are “not for me”, they may in fact be very good for them. And further, things that are very good for me now, in all likelihood will not be good for me in the future, because if all things stayed the same in my life, I would not be growing in anything, much less holiness. These two points, that some things are good for others but not me, and that some things are good for me --- now, are difficult to keep in perspective.

I so want to believe that what I am doing now is God’s will, and I wish others were doing the same with me. And I so want to believe that my way, right now, is the best way. It is hard to both want these things, and yet accept that these yearnings are only temporary, that these things and times will pass, and other things and times must come --- if I am to grow in holiness, and if I am truly to wish you to grow in holiness. If I am to wish you well, I cannot insist you be like me. And if I am to wish myself well, I cannot even insist that I remain like me, for I must be content with and open to change. If I am open to hearing God’s will, I must be open to the change it might be asking. And these are hard and humbling things.

It is one thing to recognize that we have passed through some state of growth and moved beyond it and not want to go back. For instance, I have been in a men’s prayer group, I have been in a rosary prayer group, I have participated in bible study groups or devotional practices and I have found them good and needed things at a time in my life, and they helped me grow in faith. And not stopping in them, and their comforts, but accepting further challenges to grow, this was a good thing. But it is something entirely different to reject these things as “not the best way”, or to say “they are not for me” because of some negative perception we may have of them or members of the group. It may be that the Holy Spirit is calling you to participate in such activities, if only for a time, to help you grow in faith in some way --- or perhaps in humility.

We all like to think, or somewhat instinctively think, that “My Way is the Best Way”. We so often are not humble enough to admit that “My way is not the only way”.

When we pray that “Thy will be done in me through service to others” yet we wish to change others to our ways, we are not really seeking to serve them, rather we are wishing them TO SERVE US by their imitation of our ways. Our ways are better we imply, even if we do not say it with words. Do you not see the pride sneaking into our actions? Serving others, no!! We are asking them to serve us! Is this the way we give glory to God and His Spirit for showing us our way --- by attempting to steer others from the way the Spirit intends for them --- their way?

If indeed there is a growing in holiness in this life, we have to admit that others may be at differing levels of holiness than we are. We have to admit that there are some holier than us (not a hard thing for me to admit), and we have to admit that there are some earlier on the pathway. And while by our words and actions we should encourage others, it is not we who will define the best path for them. That is best discerned by their prayers and their cooperation with the Holy Spirit, not our pushing (or demanding) they follow a path we set before them, or our path. In doing so we may be leading them astray and with our good intentions harming them. The greatest thing St. Augustine’s mother did for him was not harass him to a greater holiness, but to set an example and pray for him.

My way may indeed be the best way, for me, for now. But let’s not be saying to others: “It’s my way or the highway.” We have to remember that some highways will get you to the destination faster than others. In our trying to do good for ourselves, for our families, or for those God puts in our life, let’s not think that our way is the only way. Pride is such a sneaky thing. Adam and Eve were almost at the door of heaven, when they heard: “But look here. I’ve got a better way.” Let’s not follow the actions of Adam and Eve when they were tempted, nor be the tempter, either!

No comments:

Post a Comment