Let’s start right out of the gate with an unpopular, eyebrow-raising opinion, shall we? I hate, hate, WITH THE PASSION OF A THOUSAND SUNS HATE, manhood/masculinity talks.
If anyone’s unclear what I’m talking about here, I’m talking about those famous Catholic speakers or even just your local go-to guy for giving talks who either gives a talk specifically directed at men from the beginning or brings the men at some conference or retreat into some separate room to talk to them while someone else talks to the women, and then launches into one or a combination of two basic talks.
The first is straightforward enough: “You’re a guy, you’ve probably lusted, you’ve probably masturbated, you’ve probably seen porn, and basically, you’re awful for doing so, so just stop.” This is usually interjected with poorly and non-contextualized quoting of Theology of the Body and frequent repetitions of, “That’s someone’s sister, that’s someone’s daughter, etc., etc., etc.”, and a few choruses of “BE A MAN!”
The second is a little more subtle about its banality: It attempts to actually talk about what it means to be a true man, a man of God, according to this formula: Stereotypical/Secular Masculinity + A Handful of Pre-Selected Virtues Slapped Over the Top = Being a Man of God. Also usually interjected with some poorly and non-contextualized quoting of Theology of the Body and endless, mind-numbingly repetitious reminders that men’s brains are like waffles and women’s brains are like spaghetti (and please don’t ask me to explain because I just may vomit).
Now granted, I may be generalizing just a tad. Maybe. And it’s not like purity isn’t important. But basically, bottom-line, masculinity talks in the Catholic Church tend to work from a societally stereotypical view of masculinity and build a “Christian” vision of manhood from there.
So let me ask a fairly obvious question which apparently never crossed these people’s minds: WHAT IF NOT EVERY MAN FITS THE STEREOTYPE TO BEGIN WITH? WHAT IF THAT STEREOTYPE IS FLAWED?
Not that I have personal experience in that area or anything. OH, WAIT.
Here’s a few easily recognizable traits of the stereotype I’m referencing: loud, unruly, into sports above all, actually proud of being rude, lewd, crude, etc., outgoing, adventurous/reckless, and shies away from anything considered stereotypically effeminate.
Here’s a few easily recognizable traits of yours truly: quiet, unassuming, into music/art/reading above all, actually proud of being caring, respectful, classy, etc., shy, introverted/anxious, and shies away from anything considered stereotypically masculine.
And yet, last I checked, I’m a man.
Here’s my true beef with masculinity/manhood talks: it’s precisely those men who fit that stereotype who wounded me, who led me to believe for years that somehow I was less of a man, that made me feel small, weak, broken, and alone. It was these men that I simultaneously loathed and longed to have approval from. It was these men who, for a time, were the fuel for my hatred of men. And I know for a fact I’m not the only one out there who has experienced this. It’s all too common, and it simultaneously further wounds those already wounded and confirms such men in their continuation of their wounding under the guise that somehow they’re being “true men” according to the Christian vision.
Now let me set the record straight here: I’m not advocating for all men to be men on my terms. If all men were like me, this world would fall apart fast. Men who are strong in the stereotypical sense, who have a love for physical activity, who are loud and outgoing and passionate, who have zeal and adventure in their hearts, they are good men; some of the best men I know can be described this way. Some, though, are quiet and reflective, artistic and sensitive, strong within rather than without, and express their zeal in subtler ways. And this is where the question has to be asked, what is it that defines true manhood, that really makes one a man? What should these speakers really be talking about? How does one actually grow in masculinity?
A few years back, I was asked to give a brief talk at a men’s night for my parish (cue heart attack), so I went to prayer, started reading Scripture, trying to figure out both what I wanted to say and what it actually meant to be a man. I came to Psalm 84, one of my favorites, and one of the passages jumped out at me like never before:
Blessed are the men whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the pathways to Zion. As they go through the valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength, the God of gods will be seen in Zion. –Psalm 84:5-7
And basically, the talk flowed from there. This, I think, sums up what it means to be a man. There’s so much to this passage, the implicit humility it takes to allow my strength to come from God and not myself, the priority of making “the pathways to Zion” in my own heart, being a source of life and comfort in the desert valleys of the lives of others and the world which so desperately needs it, the love it takes to do so, the continued growth “from strength to strength” not of ourselves but by growth in that humility before and surrender to “the God of gods” who “will be seen in Zion”. And there’s so much more you could sit with here, but look at all that. Nowhere does it talk about any stereotypical traits. Nowhere is athletic ability, recklessness, general volume, or anything of the kind mentioned. It doesn’t preclude them, but it’s nowhere laid out as the baseline for masculinity.
The baseline for masculinity is, I think, right here in this passage, and from there, it grows not in a single direction but branches out in a myriad of expressions. The one and only masculinity talk that didn’t make me die inside was a talk given by a seminarian one of the summers I did Totus Tuus as a teacher; instead of launching into one or both of the usual formulas, he picked four saints whose lives represented one of the four main vocations (priesthood, religious life, marriage, and single life), and simply told their stories as examples of manhood.
THE BASELINE IS SANCTITY.
THE EXPRESSION TAKES ITS FORM IN VOCATION.
THE ANSWER IS STARING US IN THE FACE, AND HIS NAME IS JESUS CHRIST.
We men need to stop shying away from holding ourselves to the standard of authentic holiness, hiding behind our own peculiar weaknesses. Instead, we need to recognize them, and let those weaknesses become the places where Christ becomes our strength. We need to pave in our hearts “the pathways to Zion” by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in us precisely where there are potholes or even gaping canyons. We need to allow Christ not to simply sit over the top of our broken humanity but to truly infiltrate and heal it by filling it with Himself.
If we want to raise true men and grow ourselves in our own God-given masculinity, we need to imitate Christ. If we want to imitate Christ, we have to know, love, and serve Him. That’s all. That’s it. That’s the baseline for manhood, from which we become the men we were made to be.
Three years ago, I still had anxiety attacks and often ditched my friends just to feel like I could breathe without choking. Three years ago, I still broke down crying every week and laid on the floor with music blasting in my ears to quiet all the sad thoughts running through my head. Three years ago, I was still hoping and praying my life would be short because I didn’t know how to cope.
Three years ago. There’s something that feels so distant yet so intimate about that. It’s so close that to remember still makes my heart ache, and yet so far that it usually feels more like a bad dream than a memory. I’m forever changed by the years I spent carrying these crosses, but I’m not defined by them. If anything, I think they just uncovered who I was all along.
Look, I don’t know what many of you are going through right now. Suffering is so much more than a single defining moment or the words we try to use to describe it. Deep down, really, only Christ can reach those hurts we can’t express, those unseen twinges and unspoken groans. Only He can really hold us right where the hurt is. Only the Holy Spirit can help us to pray with sighs too deep for words, as Romans tells us.
But the love of another human being makes all the difference. When you stop to listen, to hug, to laugh with or to cry with a brother or sister, it shows them it’s possible that they’re loved, that they aren’t doomed to be stuck in their own heads amidst their own tumultuous thoughts forever.
Three years ago, I poured out my heart, all my brokenness that I hated, my most shameful secret, and someone said, “I don’t care. I love you.” That has made all the difference.
I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again and again and again long after you’re sick of hearing it: I see you, I hear you, I know you, and I love you. Seriously. You. Reading this right now. I so wish I could hug each and every one of you close and tell you how much you mean to me. But I’ll settle for knowing you know that whatever your struggle, whatever your shame that you carry around with you…I don’t care. I love you. The God Who fashioned you died for love of you. I may not see your beauty and worth as clearly as he does, but I do see it. And gosh dangit, I want to show you.
P.S. I totally meant the hug thing. Seriously, ask me anytime for a hug. That’s my jam.
St. Raphael, pray for us.
The Litany of Humility has pretty much become infamous among Catholics for being one of those prayers that gives you exactly what you ask for in exactly the way you don’t want to receive it. You know, like when you pray for patience in the morning and immediately spill your coffee as you get in your car, get stuck in traffic on your way to work, have to deal with that one guy who just won’t shut up on your shift talking about some anime show you’ve never heard of (but now know its entire cast of characters, plot, subplot, and existential significance), and come home to find your front lawn TP’d by the neighborhood kids…and it just started raining. You learn patience fast…or else completely break down.
So when I started praying for humility this Lent, I already had my teeth gritted and body braced, waiting for a little disaster.
…I’m still waiting.
The past few weeks have been less of a living awkward-fest and more of a self-discovery. Time after time, God has placed events and people in my life trying to tell me to love myself.
See, the thing is, I’m not particularly a fan of myself. I’m your typical perfectionist, and in the last few weeks, I’ve been particularly scrupulous for various reasons, and generally just tense and upset and frustrated. And I think this is exactly what God is trying to help me not to do. He’s trying to teach me real humility.
Because humility isn’t just knowing your weakness and smallness. It’s knowing how much God loves you, at every single moment. It’s less about stopping yourself from seeking approval and more about being so secure in God’s love that you just don’t need that approval. It’s seeing yourself for who you are before God: a beloved child. Weak and small, yes, but so remarkably precious. It’s letting yourself be loved with the perfect love that casts out all fear, all frustration, all scrupulosity.
Funny how our greatest pride, sometimes, is thinking that we’ve managed to create a mess so big in ourselves that God can’t possibly overlook it. Funny how we swell ourselves up so much in our self-pity and self-loathing.
Funny how God simply turns us to the cross and says, “I already knew you would do these things, would end up here after all these mistakes, and I still did this for you. Any reason left not to let me love you?”
Well, brothers and sisters, is there?
God often teaches us deep truths through some pretty odd yet magnificent, if occasionally (or frequently) painful, ways. I think He’s been doing a little bit of that the past few weeks. And months. And years…Funny how it’s only now that I’m seeing some of them unfold.
First, a true fix to any problem is never immediate; it’s slow, gradual, and intimate. This past week, I was inducted (FINALLY) into my household, called Fishers of Men, and I have grown so incredibly close to my brothers and love them dearly. I honestly cannot express how very dear they are to my heart and how blessed I am to call them my brothers. Yet the anxiety over whether I am truly accepted, the dark memories of past failed friendships–in short, all the things that originally held me back–though lessened, continue to haunt me. Even though the past is past, it has made an imprint on my heart that will never be fully erased, or at least not for quite some time; so the Lord seems to be indicating. The healing of my heart is something that will take years to complete, something that the Lord will do in stages through His grace and through those He has placed and will place in my life.
Second, God’s love doesn’t change because of how we feel. Somehow, that’s magnificently freeing: God’s love for me doesn’t depend on my emotions, my actions, my anything. It is wholly and incomprehensibly unconditional. I could go on, but no pen, no page, could ever encapsulate the boundless love of God.
Third, life just sucks sometimes, and you have to look to God for the strength and hope to continue to live and believe you are loved. The crosses I have to carry right now are such that I have to constantly turn to God in prayer just to make it through some days. His love always comes, sometimes as a beautiful encounter with Him, other times just as the next breath in my lungs. But He always comes.
And altogether, I see that God is teaching me that His plan is utterly mysterious, that it’s anything but what we expect, and that it often calls for changes so radical that they bring us to tears, pull us to our knees.
And that’s OK.
Because His will isn’t arbitrary. He isn’t just putting us through things to see us suffer, or with no particular purpose in mind for us. He’s got an end goal in mind for us: Heaven, where we won’t cry any more, we won’t be in pain anymore, we won’t know anything but joy and love and peace. Every trial, every cross, every tear–it’s all a chance to move one step closer to Heaven by trusting in God and letting Him be our strength, by not giving up but living on in hope and courage. He sends His Holy Spirit to us to comfort and strengthen us. He gives us Mary as our mother and intercessor. He gives us His very self in the Sacraments.
His love…it’s just…incomprehensible. And so intimate. I just can’t even say it enough times. Even when I’m shaking violently, or crying profusely, I can’t stop professing His love, because it’s His love that keeps me alive, that comforts me, that gives me hope, that lets me have moments of peace, joy, and happiness.
So if the pain is coming back again, bring it. If it’s the price I pay for loving God and others, it’s worth it.
I’ve trained my hands to fight the darkness with fireworks. What happens when you run out of parts?
I need more than a burst of light and color; I need the sun.
Christmas isn’t just a nice holiday for me.
It’s my life-breath.
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.
Still not sure if this is just me working myself out meta-cognitively, or if this actually works as a snippet of a story. So I’ll tag it as both and let you interpret it as you please.
“It’s really nice out.”
Well that was lame…c’mon, you can do better than that.
Greg kicked the nearest rock, then immediately regretted it. What if Lewis picked up on his frustration? Then questions, questions he wanted to answer but couldn’t.
He tried again. “The leaves changing and all, it’s really nice.”
That’s it? He’d wanted to say something about the way they seemed to glow on the branches, the way they fell with a kind of grace. He wanted to point out the way they spiraled upwards on the wind in little tornadoes, how they gleamed with the setting sun. He wanted to show him what he saw in the grass, the leaves, the very air that he breathed in to calm the machine gun going off in his chest.
And all he could manage was “It’s really nice”?
Lewis nodded. “Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful.”
Damn…even that was better than what I said!
It was times like this Greg wished he could laugh it off like everyone else seemed to be able to do. Just laugh, and watch the frustration roll away on the shaking sound waves.
Lewis was rambling on, talking about his favorite memories of fall, what made them special–it was beautiful, the way he could let words flow out with such ease. Greg struggled to open the gates to his heart and catch as much of it as possible, let it rush in and sweep into the depths, where he could hold on to them and cherish them, let the memory float just the way he liked it–tingling, mildly intoxicating.
Then silence. Again.
Shoot. Now what?
Greg was about ready to kick himself. Well hey! It’s a hell of a lot better than I usually do! What more do you want!?
Gee, I dunno, maybe a little more CONVERSATION would be nice instead of being talked at!
Well maybe I COULD if you’d SHUT THE HELL UP!
Greg shook himself. “Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Just not much to say.” Bullshit. He pulled his jacket a little closer and tightened the scarf around his neck. “We’re almost there, just a little bit farther.”
“Cool.” Lewis continued his way up the wooded hill, like he already knew where they were going.
Greg sighed quietly to himself, trying not to let his squirming stomach get to him. Was it always gonna be this difficult? No; he had to hold onto hope. There was ALWAYS hope. He knew that, even if he didn’t feel it.
So he listened to the crunching of the leaves until they came to the top of the hill, the view he’d insisted on showing Lewis. It was peaceful up here, and a nice almost-silence, looking down on a little creek with tree-speckled slopes climbing up both sides.
Please…try. Just try.
“Lewis?” He didn’t dare to turn to see if he looked. “I’m sorry I suck so much at conversation. I wish I could tell you everything I was thinking right now.”
Lewis’s voice was lower, more soothing. “It’s ok. I know you’re trying.”
Greg chuckled a little. “It’s so easy for you, your words are like that creek. They flow so nicely, so simply. Even if they’re not perfect, they’re there, and they flow in a peaceful rhythm. Mine-” He pulled his hand out of his pocket to swing it at the trees-“they’re like the leaves; they only fall some of the time, and they just keep blowing away from me.”
Lewis nodded. “I understand. But maybe that makes them more special when you catch them.” He shrugged. “I dunno, I like that you listen so well. When you do talk, it’s always in earnest, it means a lot.”
Greg smiled. “I guess the trick is learning to run a little faster. I could learn a thing or two from you.”
Lewis smiled too. “Only if you’ll teach me too.”
Greg laughed, imagining a little frustration roll away. “It’s a deal.”
Walking back down the hill, Greg couldn’t help shrugging. Well, it’s a start.
I’ll say. Panting here. Give me a second to catch up!
They walked away again in silence. A silence that was…ok.
Y’know, some days, I just want to say “Screw it all.” All this pain, all this frustration. I just wanna cuss and swear until the sky falls on me or the earth just up and frickin’ swallows me.
There are days I just want to drown in the tears I cry. I want to leave my cross in the dirt next to me and just stay there, battered and exhausted, and just give up.
There are days when I find myself walking backwards, looking at everything that happened and nothing that’s coming. I want to stop looking and longing, but I can’t get my eyes to turn away for fear it’ll all disappear, and everything I’ve known will vanish.
There are days I feel absolutely nothing. And those days can be the worst of all.
And then there are all the days in-between, where I’m just not sure what I’m feeling, and for some reason, it doesn’t matter.
I don’t know much of anything. About me, about the world, about God. And more than anything else, I hate not knowing.
The thing is, I sit here at this laptop, spewing all this great-sounding stuff; I spout off advice and try to follow it myself, but then there come days when I don’t know that I believe any of it.
And yet there’s this little spark deep down that just refuses to be put out, no matter what the world throws at it, no matter what I throw at it myself. It’s always been there, and somehow it got me through my darkest moments. It’s this little thing called hope, this small but stubborn fire.
It helps me speak blessings instead of curses.
It helps me dry my eyes and shake off the dirt.
It helps me turn around and face reality.
It helps me be ok with feeling nothing.
It helps me be joyful in the days I don’t know what I’m feeling.
It helps me hold on to the crazy belief, the crucial hinge of my existence, that God knows my name, and speaks it with love.
I still remember saying goodbye to him.
We’d just finished our final math exam, my last exam of senior year. He said he wanted to talk to me after class, which was surprising, because as much as I admired him and wanted to be his friend, I assumed he didn’t think much of me. When we left class, he put his arm around my shoulder and walked with me down the hall, telling me how much I meant to him, how he was so glad he got to know me, how he was going to write a letter but that it was much better this way to see the look on my face and to get a hug at the end. I don’t remember how I responded, it was such a shock, but we hugged awhile, said goodbye and that we’d miss each other, and then went our separate ways, our gazes locked for a moment before we broke off.
It was a beautiful, melancholy, wonderful, sad moment. You know what I remember most? Not the words, though I still have a foggy memory of them. Not the emotion, because it’s not new to me. The thing that’s cemented into my memory is the feel of his arm around my shoulders, the hug afterwards, and the held gaze afterwards…
Most guys, it seems, are averse to physical contact like that. There are two main parties of thought against it that I’ve noticed among guys, the first being the obvious stereotypical one: “HUGGING IS FOR GIRLS. That’s DUMB. Let’s just go out and play FOOTBALL!”
First of all, stop shouting. Please. It doesn’t make your point any clearer or you any cooler.
And second–well, maybe I should stop and let the second party speak, they’re giving me some cold looks.
“Thank you. What I believe is that physical contact of a friendly nature is simply unnecessary in this day and age, particularly for those of a well-developed mind. Such contact was only necessary in a primal time; surely now the need for intimacy is met in the meeting of persons on an intellectual level.”
…well when you put it THAT way.
I think the second point I was going to make applies pretty well equally here: the recognition that humans are a body-soul composite and are built to relate as such. All you stereotypical jocks out there, think about what you do when you hang out with the guys. How often are you guys wrestling, pushing each other, doing that chest-bump thing that usually sends me into a wall? Sure it’s not hugging, but it’s PHYSICAL CONTACT. In case you didn’t notice, football is a CONTACT sport. Why do you think you guys bond so well as a team? As persons, we access each other as friends not only through communication but through contact. By hugging, more of the body is in contact with more of the other person’s body; it expresses a deeper union as persons than simply a handshake or a high-five. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, it’s just a natural thing to do, it’s how we are built to encounter one another.
As to the second party, those working within a more intellectual frame (physically and mentally), I would ask you how genuine you think a relationship can be that does not involve at least a little physical contact, like a hug or something similar. If you have such a relationship, evaluate it. Are you really encountering the person as fully as you could? Or should? Without this element in a relationship, you begin to wonder whether the relationship is real or simply imagined by you, a chance acquaintanceship rather than a true friendship. After all, how much of the person do you really know if you don’t even have contact with what you CAN see?
I used to be of the second camp. Ask anyone who knew me before my late junior year. I was an intellectual recluse in every sense of the word. I believed friendship was unnecessary, that I could get by just fine without it. Talk when you need to, shut up when you don’t, go ahead and forge a relationship BUT NEVER GIVE MORE THAN NECESSARY, certainly nothing on a physical level. Not even a high-five or a handshake if you can help it.
Those walls were a long time in falling. Years, literally, they stood, though I came to see them as an inescapable trap rather than an impenetrable fortress, forgetting that it was I, myself, who first erected them.
And now, now that I see the truth, the truth of what a relationship can be, what goes into it and how it works–now that I know what it actually means to have a friend and to be one–I’m paying for the wasted years. It’s difficult, even now, to believe that anyone truly cares about me, that I can truly be loved by anyone, that any of my friendships exist. My entire body language is closed, though I’m struggling to pry it open inch by inch. There are days when, all by myself, I press myself against the walls and feel every cinder-block, just to remind myself that there’s still a physical world around me, because it’s been so long since I touched anything or anyone in it.
And the moments I remember most, even the moments I experience here and now, are the ones that involve contact. Because somehow I still struggle to believe.
So speaking as one for whom it may be too late, I implore you, don’t cast aside this basic, beautiful element in all of your relationships. Even God longs to embrace us in Heaven.
Sunsets paint in citrus
hues the bellies of the clouds
coming home to sleep.
Rise, my prayer, above
the mere mumblings of my lips
and bow before God.
Slumber, petty fears,
and tumble down the chasms
you scaled to chain me.
Burn, bright fire of love.
Where else shall I find the light
to take me inward?
Come quickly, courage,
come quickly to the weary
laying in the trench.
Please understand this is just me spouting off what’s in my head; there’s no message here, no insight. Just letting the screaming in my head out onto the page for once.
I guess it shouldn’t surprise me anymore. It’s not as if there’s no precedence. It would just be nice not to have every single time suck so much.
He never even intentionally hurt me, it’s not as if he really abandoned me. So why do I feel so rejected, so torn to shreds, in his presence?
Because I opened my heart to him. He was the first, the only person I ever told. I opened my inner life to him in a way I’d never opened it to anyone else, and still haven’t to this day. And yet we haven’t spoken in over a year. It’s like he took this simple trunk of memories and dreams and left it to collect dust in a corner.
I know I’m not much, I know I suck, it’s not news to me. It’s just not particularly pleasant to have it affirmed. Because as much as I KNOW it’s not true, I can’t BELIEVE it’s not true. The head is quick to reason; the heart is slow to understand.
It’s not as if I hide my inmost self; I just don’t advertise it. If you want to get to know me, you will.
But no one really wants to.
I’m a great listener, to be sure. I’m a great confidant, an excellent counselor, a wonderful adviser. But a plain, honest, true friend–someone please tell me where I can find someone who wants just a friend like me.
Then tell me how to believe that this person didn’t mean to hurt me, that he never meant to leave me this way, that he means it when he calls me a friend.
Maybe then I could believe I’m loved again.
This is something I’ve wanted to say for a while now, and doing Totus Tuus this summer has only made me want to say it more and helped me formulate in my mind how to say it.
Ladies everywhere, if nothing else in this life, remember this: YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. And I don’t mean when you take hours to fuss over your appearance, because I’m talking about something more. Just as you are, as God created you, you are STUNNING. Seriously, it takes my breath away how each and every one of you is STUNNING. And in all honesty, the less make-up you wear, the more I notice it. Stop thinking you’re ugly or useless and trying to hide it by flaunting your body and covering your face, you’re worth so incredibly much more than that. Please, don’t ever believe that you’re anything but beautiful and worth more than you can imagine. YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL. YOU ARE LOVED.
Gentlemen everywhere, remember this: WOMEN ARE BEAUTIFUL. WOMEN ARE PRECIOUS. TREAT THEM THAT WAY. We all have a desire to give ourselves to something more; we fall so often into making ourselves that ‘something more’. WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE. In case you haven’t noticed, WOMEN DESERVE BETTER. They shouldn’t have to feel that they have to flaunt themselves to be appreciated. Step it up, guys, step it up. We can help women to believe in their own worth, but only if we treat them like they’re worth it. Be the awesome men you were created to be and treat women with dignity.
That’s all. Godspeed.
One of the most striking exercises for me in my spirituality and struggles is to look at another person straight in the eyes. Simple, almost ridiculously so…just one world peering into the atmosphere of another…
We are both body and soul, intimately united such that one without the other is…indescribably horrific to picture, for it is the reality of our greatest fear and most unnatural happening: death. The rending of a person in one flicker, the divorce of a couple literally united since conception–we have only that single word, like the slam of a door, to speak of it.
Philosophers can only speak analogously of the union between body and soul, saying that the closest image we have of this union is that of a man and woman united in marriage…”The two shall become one flesh”…the closest we can imagine of God’s love for us is also our best image for the union between body and soul…
I understand it best in the moments my heart rushes fastest and my head becomes clearest. Like when I stand overlooking a cliff: my heart cries out to leap into the air and fly, defying the earth cascading away beneath me, while my head gently whispers that it just can’t be so. In a moment of peace, both nestle a little closer to Him, who murmurs, “That’s alright; let’s imagine it awhile, then walk on. We can all fly together when you get home.”
I guess I never liked the idea that my soul was in my body until I realized I, I was the one disliking it…and I was body and soul in the first place. I knew that my soul wasn’t trapped in my body; I just didn’t know it was comfortable there.
Heaven…we’ll be perfectly happy there…after we undergo that which is most horrendous. Only something stronger than death could possibly carry us through. Thankfully, we have the only One ever to defy death on His own power: Christ Himself.
There’s nothing quite like letting the wind blow in your face, drowning out all the sound except for the music blasting from your car speakers as you cruise down the highway. The music has a way of drowning out your thoughts, and the wind whisks away the angsty residue.
At least that’s what I tell myself is the reason; maybe it’s just because it helps me forget, like Rumpelstiltskin watching his wheel turn as it spins out threads of gold.
I’m not entirely sure what it is that I’m trying so hard to forget; there’s too many variables in this equation so vaguely termed “My Life”.
I suppose I should expect to feel pulled out of myself and out of any understanding. Between starting college, finding friendships, struggling to break old patterns of behavior, and now putting myself out of my comfort zone completely, I haven’t exactly been easy on myself, and I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised that God is choosing this time to make my prayer life frustrating.
See, I don’t like what I can’t understand, which is why I’ve never liked myself. Now, though, it’s like I can’t understand anything. By following what I think God wants for me, I’ve found myself led into an incomprehensible mist of sorts; more than anything else, I just feel confused, hazy, even numb. Until now, I’ve felt stretched to the breaking point; now, it’s like I’m in that split second between the snap and the pain of the break. Except it’s much longer than a split second.
I’ve been broken before. But not like this. I can’t understand it.
And I don’t like it.
Except maybe I have an inkling…
I’ve heard it said that we’re like glass pitchers, and the love of God is the liquid within us. As we are, we ration out His love however we please.
But when we’re broken, God’s love can’t help but pour out everywhere.
So I guess I understand more than I thought, and the thought gives me comfort, even if it shows me that I’m right about to hit the next break. I guess it’s just a matter of trust, of bravery I’ve never believed I could be capable of. Maybe if I could believe that I’m loved, if I could love myself, it wouldn’t be so much a question of struggling as just…waiting. Waiting to understand. And living, going on, smiling not necessarily because I’m happy but simply because life is beautiful and God is good.
So be it.
With the strength of He who gives and takes away, I say to the world…
It’s one thing to feel nothing, another to feel everything and be overwhelmed. It’s something completely different to have both experiences at the same time: to be so overwhelmed by feeling that you feel nothing, and yet still somehow you feel everything, but just as a bombardment.
It’s a blessing to be a fantastic listener. It’s a curse to have everyone know it and pour out their heart to you. Yet it’s a blessing to know that you’ve been a great help and a good friend by using that gift.
It’s in my nature to care deeply for others. It’s also in my nature to be deeply pained by caring.
I love to give love and to receive love. But it hurts to love, and I don’t always believe it when I’m told I’m loved.
I love solitude. Yet I am terrified of loneliness. Social situations are an ordeal for me, but I crave them.
So I hang in the balance…literally. I’m like a pendulum, swinging from deep giving of myself to complete isolation, from ignoring what I feel to being crushed by it all. I guess the question is whether I’ll find a balance.
Except I’m not entirely sure I want that.
Maybe enough swings into the places I fall apart will finally shatter the barriers. Maybe someday my sojourns into the silence will be in peace rather than searching for it. Maybe the more I give, the less I’ll need after all.
I guess I’ve always kind of been a go-between: between charismatics and traditionalists, between the quiet at heart and the boisterous in spirit, and (by the grace of God alone, goodness knows why He chose me) between Love and the beloved. Maybe I’m not so much a pendulum as a keeper of a bridge, a pilot of a ferry. My back and forth might be more like a service to others than a personal journey. It’s just a long, hard journey in-between.
And maybe I’m totally wrong.
But whatever the case, I know this much: I’m not going to stop following my guiding star, the Crucified One, the King of the Empty Grave, my Prince of Peace.