Beating hearts in the Ruins

The most attractive, magnetic force a human can possess is a heart for Christ. It is this heart (or hunger) that causes others to wonder, “What do they have that I don’t? I want some of that.” Other traits that may induce this sensation in others might be termed “confidence” or “joy”…but the lasting draw of those who desire closeness with Christ is the most compelling illustration of an awakened human being.

I hypothesize that this mysterious, intangible trait cannot be taught. My intuition is that a heart for Christ is a power that is built only between Christ and the individual. But I do think there are ingredients and environments that aid in the cultivation of this heart. Those include religious leaders, mentors, WONDER and TIME.

This is fortunate, as it is the one thing I want for everyone I know, and yet, I have so little control over it seemingly. I observe those close to me who appear to be driven by both head and heart, as humans are, towards earthly goals and comforts and challenges and relationships. This isn’t wrong, of course. We exist now; we must accept our placement in time as a true situation and calling, despite our longing for eternity. Accepting this responsibility is good, but it is unbearably common for us to then remain steeped in the matters of the world: our jobs, our money, our politics, our recreational interests, our bodies, our consumerism… I know too many, myself included, where the idea of one hour per day in silence or prayer or reflection is considered unheard of and entirely unachievable. Given this, why is it a surprise to encounter so many Catholics and Christians whose hearts do not actually beat for Christ? If you watch and listen, anyone will show you who they are, what gets them out of bed in the morning, and what excites them the most. Look at calendars, wallets, and weekends to learn even more. Finally, in looking at our own situation, what will we find? Chasing, temporal comforts and pleasures, and very little in the bank with God. Given the inputs, how could we uncover a confident, impassioned heartbeat under it all?

All of this reflection isn’t to suggest judgment so much as it is to illustrate a loss many of us share. Who would not want a heart for Christ? Why do we tell ourselves that everything — every thing — is more important right now? When will we learn that this isn’t sustainable?

I write from a place of both frustration and sadness. I see that we are living in the Ruins, and I accept my place in time, but I do not like it. This is a lonely, strange place for people whose hearts do beat for Christ. I yearn for a renewed sense of hope despite the Ruins. I cannot turn to the mysterious joy of Christianity to sum this all up neatly and send myself on my way. The Ruins are getting to me for now.

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Losing It All to Win

This past week, I attended a monthly evening class for a Jesuit leadership program that I’m a part of this year. Our cohort gathered to hear from a panel of three community leaders: one a self-employed consultant for non-profit organizations, one a medical professional in Catholic healthcare, and the third the former principal at Seattle Prep and current teacher there.

At one point, the leader from Seattle Prep shared a story where he was gathered with a number of angry parents from the school community. He recalled, in a state of regret: “There was a turning point in the evening where I realized that I started caring about winning more than anything else.” He looked back on this moment as a failure, explaining that it had prevented him from understanding and improving the situation and from serving his community. He also drove home feeling rotten.

Following the panel, our cohort broke into pairs to discuss highlights. My partner and I spent our allotted time talking about the concept of winning and how it seems to be at the core of so many issues, whether professional or personal. Looking back, in those moments where we prioritized winning in a discussion or argument above seeing the other side, everyone lost. I’ve seen this play out countless times, whether I’m guilty of the habit or I’m on the receiving end. “Eyes on the prize” is a no-win situation, particularly in personal relationships.

A common Jesuit decision-making process involves picturing your funeral and imagining the words that might be used to describe your time on earth. When I apply the exercise to this theme, I’m reminded just how futile the winning mentality is and how little it really gets us. On our death bed, won’t we regret those times that winning pushed away our loved ones? Those times when our scope became myopic at best and we were forced to retreat back to our caves alone; another so-called win on the board and no one to share it with?

While discussing this idea of losing disguised as winning, my partner and I ended up on the subject of Christ’s Crucifixion. Has there ever been a more extreme example of someone who set aside any notion of “winning”? Beyond that, He was indeed the Son of God. Has there ever been a more extreme example of someone being “right”? And despite his right-ness (more than any of us can say in the face of an argument), he still chose to humble himself. There would be no earthly win necessary to secure everlasting life.

This is the way; the earnest walk towards closeness with one another and with God. Yet, we resist and resist every day — we cannot let go of our deep need to win — and we continue to wonder why we find ourselves on the losing end: further from each other, further from God. 

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A tool belt for tough times

The one that I once shared dreams with

has forgotten why he ever shared dreams with me.

 

But somehow, I heard from Her today,

the one with the warmth that always spills over in the same place:

the crinkles around her eyes —

forged by way of countless smiles for you, me,

all her babies and lambs, each one.

 

She asks me, “What is that Samuel Green poem?

The one that says, ‘No one should be lost when someone else knows the way.'”

 

Then I remember: there are Saints right here,

there is no such thing as Alone,

and there is always a way out from under the rock.

 

In fact, this world has people with crinkles around their eyes,

and Someone put a lot of honey

and an extra pair of work gloves

inside each of us.