This is gonna be dark for the next few paragraphs. Bear with me, I promise it’s for a good reason and has a lighter ending.
I don’t think I even need to explain why the title of this post has relevance or significance today; you can hardly take in a breath without hearing another joke about millenials, about “kids these days”, about how we’re ruining society because we *insert whatever you particularly feel like today here*. And ultimately, most people draw the conclusion that we just don’t understand how the world works, that we’ve been brought up wrong, that we took a wrong turn, that we should just “do the right thing” and get back on the glorious track society used to be running on.
I could write an entire post on how screwed up was the direction society was heading in, or how previous generations had a hand in how we’ve gotten to where we are today, or how we suck less in some ways, or a myriad of other defenses of why we really aren’t as horrible as we’re made out to be. But there’s enough of that out there, and frankly, I don’t have the time, resources, or patience to get into all that. What I want to talk about is what I think is the fundamental reason why millenials just don’t seem to care when older generations start to yell at us for wrecking everything.
It’s because we let ourselves realize that we’re all going to die.
Like I said, dark. Now obviously, everyone knows this. The thing is, much of modern society which millenials go against is built around busying ourselves and bettering ourselves at such a dizzying pace with such stringent ideals that we don’t have time to think about our deaths until they’re just around the corner. Millenials are so different from recent generations because we’ve gotten tired of the mad dash, stopped to ask why, and realized that it’s all been a huge distraction from what everyone knows is coming. If you think I’m making this up, ask yourself why you care so much about climbing the corporate ladder, or doing something meaningful with your life, or that whitewashed image of a suburban house with 2.5 kids. Why do you try so hard?
Because you want to be happy? And why do you have to continually try to be happy, here, now? Why do you grasp so hard at what seems to constitute your happiness and meaning?
Because one day, you won’t have breath in your lungs to support your grasp at happiness and meaning, so the sooner and more aggressive, the better.
See, here’s the thing: the vast majority of people have bought into the lie that our story ends when our life ends. The structure of modern and postmodern society hinges on the lie that we have a limited number of years to find our own happiness and make our lives meaningful, and then we’re gone, and then we’re not happy or meaningful or anything at all, really. And if that’s the case, what does anything matter, anyway? Albert Camus’s main character in The Stranger gives us the cry that lies at the root of the millenial upheaval:
“Nothing, nothing mattered, and I knew why…Throughout the whole absurd life I’d lived, a dark wind had been rising toward me from somewhere deep in my future, across years that were still to come, and as it passed, this wind leveled whatever was offered to me at the time, in years no more real than the ones I was living.” (pg. 121 in my copy…sorry, too many college papers)
If our story ends when our life ends, then every demand that we “do the right thing” rings hollow. Traditions become nothing more than centuries of attempts to create our own meaning, and let’s be honest, bucking it all and finding our happiness our own way is easier than sticking to a system that just seems to wear you down.
Still think I’m making this up? Look back at the Garden of Eden in Genesis. What is it that’s the tipping point for Adam and Eve? Believing that God is withholding something from them, the one thing for which they were made: to be like Him. What is the one and only threat that God can impose in an attempt to convince them of His love in forbidding them to eat that fruit? Death, an end to their story, a loss of their purpose, a separation forever from the one something, or rather the one Someone, that could constitute our true happiness.
See, here’s the thing: we were born, we were made, we were lovingly fashioned by God, to be with God. That’s why Christ came and died and rose from the dead: to take away death’s power to end our story, to cease our chance at happiness that comes in resting forever with God, in sharing His divine life. Any real hope the true Christian has in this life is precisely hope because it doesn’t rest in this life.
If it seems like millenials are going recklessly astray, it’s because for several generations, the world has operated on the idea that there is no life after death, no God Who intimately loves us, and so the world has been desperately trying to establish some other vehicle for us to find happiness, to create our own meaning and purpose. Like Adam and Eve, we’ve been grasping at happiness ourselves, thinking it’s up to us to take it for ourselves. Millenials are just figuring out less stressful, more fun ways to do that.
Want us to get back on “the straight and narrow” again? Shift the end of that road from the suburban house to our Heavenly Home. Want us to not go to Hell? Remind us that Heaven is real and worth getting to. Want us to “do the right thing”? Give us a better reason than “because it’s the right thing to do”.
Tell us the only two things that really matter: that God is real, and that He cares where we end up after we die. Tell us how everything He asks of us is precisely because He wants us to spend eternity with Him, precisely because that is what constitutes our true happiness. Tell us that God loves us so much that He sent His Son to die for us just so we could spend eternity with Him.Tell us that God loves us so much that He meets us where we are, and too much to leave us there. Tell us that He has adopted us by dwelling in us, and that as long as we are “mourning and weeping in this valley of tears”, He comes to be with us, and to strengthen us, to empower us, until our last day comes. Tell us that on that day, even as we die, we are born, born to eternal life, born to the happiness we were always seeking and don’t need to seek after anymore. Tell us that on that day, we will see His face, and any doubts we ever had about His love for us, His faithfulness, His methods, His power, will melt away.
In other words, both older generations and fellow millenials, if you want to see change happen in this world, “Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you.” (1 Peter 3:15) For “[b]y [God’s] great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in Heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:3-5)
What fools are we, inheritors of grace
and singers of th’eternal song. We string
our beads of love at someone else’s pace
and find our good intentions shattering.
We proudly stitch our garments, ’til the seams
are torn by lazy hands and frail remorse,
and carry tinder-boxes full of dreams
but hide the flint, and halt conversion’s course.
A fellowship of fools are we who swing
from Calvary into Eternity;
in foolish love our empty hands we bring.
Beloved, broken jesters all are we.
The greatest of all follies rescues us:
the shadow of the folly of the cross.
I found out today why I’m always running.
My last post, “A Thought About Farewells”, came from a place where I think my heart has secretly been for many years–hiding from the truth that goodbyes really do happen, that we cannot go back and reclaim the moments we’ve lost. It hit me like a brick wall this summer (while playing mini golf, of all things) that, no matter how hard we try, we can’t soak in every part of every moment that we’d like to. We only have so many eyes to see, so many ears to hear, so many hands to embrace. Things will be missed, and before we can try to grab them back, the moment will fly from us just as every moment has since time first began to turn its pages.
There are so many beautiful things about being part of a large family, both close and extended. One of the harder parts is feeling like you just blinked and suddenly the baby you were holding in your arms is toddling around, and the little tykes are suddenly going through puberty. The new moments aren’t bad, but the ones that are gone were pretty darn good too.
Moments just don’t last forever. And if you let yourself be fully invested in them, your heart is going to ache. This is the truth I’ve been running from, as time and time again I’ve come to love and then to lose.
Honestly, left just with this, I’d be crying myself to sleep right now. Which is what I did for years at the end of the days where I either hid from this truth in any corner I could or just let it completely overwhelm me. Truth be told, I’ll still probably cry myself to sleep many more nights in the future; it’s the price to be paid for letting yourself feel loss.
But if there’s anything these years are finally teaching me, it’s that this is not the end of the story.
The answer here is hope. It’s not a fix-it sort of answer; it doesn’t make the hurting stop. It doesn’t even really give a reason for the hurting. What it offers is something much bigger: a future where moments DO last forever, a future where there AREN’T goodbyes, a future where somehow a single glance at the face of God will quell every question and leave our hearts in complete peace and utter love.
The most marvelous part about hope is that the Holy Spirit gives us the first tastes of that hope here and now, in these fast-fleeting moments. When Christ came, He brought eternity into time, and now the Holy Spirit draws us out of time and into eternity. He brings us Christ Himself in the Eucharist to feed us as we walk with him through the moments of life into the unbroken joy of Heaven. The glory of our sorrows is that we are not alone in them; Christ has entered into every moment, every ache, every joy, every pain, and has given us the Holy Spirit as a promise that we will eventually pass out of all that is passing into the place where nothing passes, and we are in the very embrace of God.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer man is wasting away, our inner man is being renewed every day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, because we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:16-18)
What more is there to do but give glory and praise to God for loving us so unfathomably much? Not a drop of our pain goes unnoticed. We are not echoing voices in a hollow universe latching onto others and onto fantasies. We are beloved children, never for a moment left alone, always heard, always laughed with, always cried with. Brothers and sisters, we are loved with a love that is unlike anything this world can ever even begin to offer; every moment of every life is held in the hands of a God Who literally died for us, who pines for us always and will never stop wanting us to be with Him in eternity.
And if you feel that you are too far away, that this is just too good to be true, know that even in that you are not alone. I was not kidding when I said that Christ is with us in EVERYTHING. I know that it is not always easy at first to believe that God loves or even cares about us. I didn’t, for years; He had to prove it to me. And He did; He finally got through my stubbornness and my doubts. He found me after I said my first really painful goodbye years ago, and he cried with me. When I finally, flailingly, asked Him to help me, even though I wasn’t sure He loved me, He gave me the strength to survive and began walking me down a path that I never could have foreseen, a path of healing and freedom. And He wants to do that for all of us.
Ok, I know that basically sounded like an altar-call. Consider it a personal testimony to assure you that all the craziness I spout on this site isn’t really about me. It never was, and every post I’ve written that tends in that direction is flawed. What it’s really all about is trying to give an account, a reason, for my hope, hope that I have not always practiced. It really isn’t easy to choose, in every moment, to live as though death is not the end of our story, to love with God’s love so as to bring the God of eternity into time and men of time a step closer to eternity. But it makes all the difference.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy we have been born anew to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and to an inheritance which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:3-7)
You certainly didn’t hesitate to show me the shadows, Lord.
Which made carrying the candle that almost blew out all the more meaningful.
It was like my hope in You, Lord. And because it was in You, it couldn’t be put out, although the winds of this life have certainly tried. The only time it went out was when it was blown out as I walked into the Chapel. I didn’t need it any more then. The Chapel was filled with candles, and more importantly with Your presence in the Eucharist.
It’s like our lives. If Christ is our hope, nothing in this life can put it out, no matter how low the flame may seem to get, no matter how hard the winds blow. It only goes out when we leave this world, and then we don’t need it any more, because we have Christ Himself in Heaven. Christ never fails us.
But we have the choice to blow out the candle ourselves. To walk away.
It hurts like heck to have the flame purge away the darkness inside. But better that than to get lost forever in the dark.
Somehow, there doesn’t seem to be much of a lesson today…
I just feel…numb. And tired. Not anticlimactic, really, just…sad in a way that doesn’t bring me to tears but just makes me want to sit and stare at a wall until I start to feel again.
I guess I’m just homesick.
Homesick for Heaven.
I’ve listened to this song so much the past few days, and it kind of puts things well for where I am. I’m clean from Confession, I’m in a good place overall, but it just doesn’t feel like it’s enough. Things aren’t empty, just insufficient. Heaven just sounds great right now.
And it’s crazy to think I wouldn’t be able to get there if You hadn’t died for me.
Ever have a craving for something without knowing what it is you were craving?
When Adam and Eve sinned, they lost the Garden of Eden. It was an earthly Paradise–no pain, no tears, no sadness at all. No, there was only happiness and an intense intimacy with the Lord. Yet they gave it up, trusting in lies that they might be more than what they were if only they would abandon their Creator. They even gave up the chance to live without the fear or even reality of death. They let sin warp their intellect and will, and pit their emotions against what they knew to be true and good.
And they passed it on to all of us.
We call it original sin, and it stains all our souls. It can be washed away by Baptism, so that we can be brought into God’s grace and have a chance at Heaven. But the effects never go away; we always have to grapple with them.
Even the craving.
Chesterton wrote that in just about every culture, there is a myth or legend of an ancient fall from grace that coincides at least partially with the truth held by Catholics regarding Adam and Eve’s Fall. They didn’t just pass on the sin and suffering. They passed on the remembrance.
We were not made for this world brethren, we were made for life with God, and we once had it. Yet now, here we are, and at our deepest, we know we don’t belong here. We crave Paradise. We all want something more than this world has to offer. We have a faint reminiscence of its music, we can almost taste the beauty, but then all is dark but for the saddest sight: God tearfully ushering broken man and woman from a place they can no longer call their home.
And the cry still echoes down the generations: “When, O God, when will we see your glory? When will we be done with this pilgrimage? When will we fly on wings of grace again?”
The glory of it is, God gives us an answer in Christmas.
When Christ came, God made man, He came to redeem us, to open the gates of Heaven again for us. Because God loves us; the very moment He sent our first parents from the garden, He was promising them salvation, a day when all mankind would have the chance once again at eternal happiness. Except this time, it would be even more splendid; we would literally be with Him, and by grace partake in His divine glory.
But first, the price for our transgressions had to be paid. The cost of the breaking of our covenant with God was death. As a priest once said in a homily, “By justice, we all deserved Hell. But Love couldn’t bear that.”
So Christ, truly God, came and took on our nature, truly man. And he came not as a mighty ruler, but as a tiny babe in a poor stable; He subjected Himself from the very beginning to our frailty, our suffering, our poverty. And so redeemed it.
Brethren, we are promised more than a Garden. We are promised Heaven, a Paradise beyond compare, beyond imagination, beyond comprehension; we are promised a home in the heart of Everlasting Love Himself.
Our crying does not go unheeded by the Lord. He has simply answered it in the most perfect and completely unexpected way.
He has answered our cry for Paradise with Christmas.
Rejoice, for He is with us, and has come to redeem us all!
Let’s be totally honest: we all feel totally crappy sometimes. It just happens. Some mornings we wake up, look in the mirror, and just groan. Some days, we feel empty, lonely, or even worthless; the weight of the world and all your flaws just hangs over you. Some nights you just collapse into your bed and hope sleep comes quickly so that the day can be over already.
It is altogether too easy to look at ourselves and see only what we have done wrong, or all the wrong that has been done to us. We are bound up within our own flaws and failings, all our fears and hurts, all our crosses, all the past. Somehow, we feel as though we can’t look at reality except through the lens of everywhere we’ve been and all the ugly inside.
But there IS another perspective which we can, and indeed, we MUST take: an eternal one.
I mean this in two ways: we must be able both to look at the truth of our lives as God does, and also keep our eyes fixed on eternity at all times and in all things.
All to often, I fall into the lies whispered in my ears by my own frail ego, my past, and the evil one who wants nothing more than to keep me in darkness, away from the light of truth. It is difficult to look at myself without feeling a great deal of shame and disgust. In such times, I forget the deepest, most essential truths about me: God made me. He made me for a purpose. He has given me all I am and have. And He loves me.
Then come the struggles of everyday life. Some days are better than others, but each day carries its own particular struggles, and each day is another path along which I must pick up and carry my cross. Things happen to me that hurt me, that make me feel as though God isn’t watching, that He doesn’t care, and that no one else does either. And yet I’ve missed entirely the big picture. My thinking is bound by temporal and spacial limits. Things happen which at the time seem purposeless, painful, and horrible. And yet, the truth is that everything that happens happens for a reason, which we often cannot know, but which God has perfectly planned, He Who is outside of time and loves perfectly, in such a way that He cannot bear to leave us where we are, and allows us to break only that we may find our true, ultimate, and most perfect and beautiful and fulfilling happiness: HIM.
The two complement one another, and depend on understanding the truth of Scripture, God’s very words of challenging, faithful, constant, perfect love. And they ought to lead us to rejoice.
Hold the phone…rejoice? In suffering? Uh, yeah, sounds nice, but how the heck does that work?
Well, here’s the thing: no matter what the heck we feel or think we know, God’s love is completely constant. ISN’T THAT AWESOME?! God doesn’t EVER stop loving us, no matter what we feel! His love for us doesn’t depend on us, His greatness isn’t changed by anything we do, His mercy isn’t overcome by any sin we commit. In the words of a dear friend, “GOD IS SOOOO BIG!!!!!”
The music is God’s unfathomable love and mercy, the dance floor is this funny place called life, this wild and beautiful, rocky and treacherous road to Paradise. No matter how the wind buffets our bodies and souls, no matter how tired our legs get, there is ALWAYS reason to rejoice, for God’s love never stops pouring through creation and our very souls.
So excuse me, I’m going to get back to the dance, hands raised high, joy in my heart, and eyes fixed on Heaven.
Meghan, Little Saint,
When I first found out you would be born with disabilities, that your life would be a struggle, I wrote you this…
My Cousin with Downs
They haven’t named you yet.
If it were up to me, you’d have so many names–
Cecilia, for the music of your laughter;
Aurora, for your rosy cheeks;
Stella, for the stars in your eyes–
but Id’ always call you Lucia,
for the light you’ll bring to my life.
I can see you clearly in my mind,
your eyes burning like a pair of suns
inside your pale, droopy eyelids–
it just epitomizes you,
weak and pale outside,
strong and beautiful inside.
Guess that makes us polar opposites.
I’m like an arctic ice-field,
hard and shallow,
or the shifting sands of the Saharah.
Yet what would the Aurora Borealis be
without its manifold reflection o’er the ice?
And what desert bloom can go without
the warm, shifting sands it calls home?
You and I,
we can face this world
You be the mansion,
I’ll be the foundation.
And when the stars fall,
and Heaven’s splendor shines,
you will still be
my little Lucia.
You weren’t even born. I don’t even know if this was poetry or the song of my heart to you. And it turned out you didn’t even have Downs.
But it was prophetic.
You were–no, you ARE–beautiful.
I remember the fear over whether you’d come into this world. I remember the joy when you were born, the pain at watching you struggle. I remember getting to hold you, getting to see you sleep, getting to see you try to smile. I remember the 8 months you fought on this Earth as a little miracle, a little witness of the incredible power and love of God.
When I heard you had finally gone home to Him, I felt like the wind was knocked right out of me.
But then…peace. Not joy. But peace.
I’ve cried, and I will cry much more yet. But at the same time, I am so at peace. Because YOU finally have peace; you finally are without pain, in the arms of God the Father, carried by the Son, surrounded by the Spirit.
And I can’t wait to meet you there.
I entered a new life in college not long before you entered this life. You went home to Heaven the day I left to go home to my family. You were, by far, the stronger fighter, the more perfect and beautiful witness. You were my inspiration.
Maybe I can try to be as wonderful as you were while I’m still here.
Save me a place in the Kingdom, and pray for me.
With much love,