Tag Archives: pride

God-resistance-vulnerability

Resistance

About fifteen years ago, I got a bike as a Christmas gift. It is an expensive bike, with twenty-four speeds! It is not what I would have chosen—I would have picked one of those no-gear granny bikes with a wicker basket on front. I don’t even need hand-brakes. But this is the bike I got and still have.

I have thought of giving it away or selling it and buying a less-complicated bike, but I haven’t.

While riding last night, it occurred to me that I am resistant to this bike. I have not embraced it, appreciated it for the gift it is. Why is that? I wondered.

Resistance is a funny thing. Sometimes it can be so obvious, but other times it can be subtle.

My first spiritual director often made suggestions that she thought would be helpful. She suggested I pray for fifteen minutes at the same time every day, and she sometimes suggested books. I usually said, “No, thanks,” or said nothing and didn’t do what she suggested.

One of her book recommendations was An Interrupted Life by Etty Hillesum.

A year or so later, a women in my book club proposed this book. The title sounded vaguely familiar, but like most things I resist, I had blocked it from my mind and did not recall that this was the book my spiritual director had recommended.

The book was transformational (and I highly recommend it). At some point, though, I remembered that this was the same book that I had refused to read.

Why had I been resistant to this book? Why am I resistant to nonfiction in general? Am I afraid I will be invited to change?God-resistance-vulnerability“Stubbornness is not a virtue,” my current spiritual director recently told me. I didn’t think it was, even though I often act as if it is.

Stubborn is just another word for resistance. There are others: obstinate, pig-headed, inflexible….None of which I want to be.

But, there I was last night, riding my bike, when it occurred to me that I am resistant to this gift. This resistance is much more subtle; it has taken me fifteen years to even see it!

I think the bike says something about me which is not true. I think the bike says, I am a serious bike rider, which I am not. The most I ever ride is five miles, and at a leisurely pace. When people invite me to go for bike rides, I decline. I fear I could not keep up and that I would be a burden.

And there it is—fear of disappointing.

How much of my resistance is connected to my fear of disappointing or fear of failure?God-resistance-vulnerabilityGod invites me to move against my resistance—to welcome, accept and embrace what is offered. To look at the world through eyes of awe, wonder and amazement. God invites me to say yes to all that life offers. Accept the bike, I told myself. Embrace the bike.

 

 

 

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God-vulnerability-faith

God is in charge

Surrender to God and he will do everything for you. Antiphon in the Liturgy of the Hours Office of Readings for Tuesday of Holy Week.

I can easily forget that God is in charge. In my relationships, my work, my volunteer activities and life in general, I can think that I am running the show and that everything depends on me. And then I can feel burdened, pressured to perform and sometimes overwhelmed.

Breathe, Madeline, I tell myself when I am feeling overwhelmed. You are not God. Everything does not depend on you. Surrender. Let God be God. Trust God.God-vulnerability-faithGod reminds me all that I do really belongs to God. I have a part, but it is just a part. My job is to add my piece to bringing about the Kingdom—in some small way. I need to remember that God holds the whole picture.

Letting go and believing that God really is in charge challenges my trust and control issues.

I am a doer by nature, someone who jumps in and gets things done. I like accomplishing things, and I like challenges. The bigger the challenge, the more I enjoy it.

There is a line, though, between using my gifts and talents to further a mission and believing that my gifts and talents are the only thing that can accomplish the mission.

My personality type on the Enneagram is the Eight, also known as The Challenger. The Eight is said to be “powerful, dominating, self-confident, decisive, willful and confrontational.”  Oh yeah, that’s me for sure.

God seems to play off my Eightness, my innate love of a challenge. My work life has been a succession of small nonprofits that were facing uphill battles. It is as if God hears me repeatedly saying, “Put me in, Coach,” even though I don’t remember ever saying it. But, once I am in, I am all in, taking responsibility and getting things done.

When I start to feel overwhelmed, though, I know that I have moved from being a doer to being a controller. It is then that I need to surrender to God and trust that he will do everything for me. It is then that I need to remember that God is really in charge.God-vulnerability-faithMy goal is to keep balance—to acknowledge my gifts and skills while remembering that the work is ultimately God’s. When I can let go and trust that God is in charge, my work and my life run smoother. Obstacles diminish; perspective is restored.

A Biblical image that helps me regain balance and trust is of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who were put into a fiery furnace because they would not turn from God and bow to the King. But rather than being burned God sends an angel to deliver them because they trusted God (Daniel 3:95)

Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who sent his angel to deliver the servants who trusted in him. God, send your angel to me.God-vulnerability-faith

Mercy and compassion

Pope Francis has declared 2016 a Year of Mercy.

A friend told me she has been pondering the connection between compassion and mercy. She had read that compassion is being with and mercy is doing for. If that is true, than the Year of Mercy will suit me because I am much more inclined to be a doing for kind of person than a being with.

The question then becomes, “For whom will I do something?” which is closely followed by “What will I do?”

Every year, my parish participates in a shelter program for people who are homeless, this year offering overnight hospitality to twenty-five men during the week after Christmas. Like many shelter programs, the people go out during the day and return in the evening. But on New Year’s Day, the men were able to stay in for the day. I signed up to be a “host” for the afternoon.

It seemed a good way to spend New Year’s Day of the Year of Mercy.

I have volunteered at emergency shelters and meal programs in the past, and I have been on the verge of homelessness twice in my life.

I say “on the verge” because my homelessness was short-lived and connected with my living in another country; transitional homelessness is how I think of it. In both situations, I was fortunate to have friends who helped me find places to live, but the experiences gave me some insight into the vulnerability of not having a permanent place to live and helped me be more empathetic toward people who are homeless.

During that time of transition, I learned a lot about vulnerability and pride.

A woman who lived across the street from me and knew my situation offered me food from her pantry, but I was too proud to accept her charity and instead went to a local church pantry. When she found out I had gone to the church, she chastised me for being too proud and pointed out that I was willing to take charity from strangers but not from someone who knew and cared about me. She was right and I was humbled. The next time I needed food, I “shopped” in her pantry. It was very humbling.

That experience helped me to see that mercy needs both a generous giver and an open receiver. I was not open, and in the process, I prevented her from being able to be merciful. I had been given the opportunity to allow someone to be generous, and I said no. It was a powerful lesson, and one that I have tried to hold close to the surface of my awareness.

Mercy needs to be both offered and received.

So in this Year of Mercy, I want to be open to opportunities to do for others, to show mercy. I also pray to be humble enough to allow others to do for me, to receive mercy.