The current zeitgeist of facades and false connectedness has deeply affected our collective sense of spirituality and religion. Putting “spiritual spins” on our interactions with others (whilst carefully holding them at arm’s length) makes us look good, which makes us feel good. Sending out face-melting group text quotations from St. Faustina on embracing the will of God might just fool people (yourself included) into thinking that you’re not the impatient, affirmation-hungry, God-hounded soul that you actually are.
It’s easier to read an inspiring quote on patience and surrender, than it is to bite your tongue and give thanks to God when your intelligence has been insulted or your life-agenda suddenly starts unraveling.
It’s more attractive to say you’ll pray for someone at the close of a conversation than it is to actually kneel down and do it when nobody’s watching or aware.
It’s tidier and more romantic – and certainly safer – to write letters to your future spouse about your unwavering commitment to chastity (and then to post them online) than it is to actually love, and be loved by, a flesh-and-blood human being whose brain, drives, body and soul are much different than your own, and who presents another universe that is surely much more beautiful and painful than your previous hopes and dreams and lists could have imagined. It’s cooler to quip, “I’m an INFP who identifies with the Franciscan rubrics of prayer, with some Dominican flavor thrown in” (whatever the hell that means) than it is to constantly face and embrace the arduous task of becoming who God created you to be, with its continual dynamism and constant invitation to rise above mediocrity and self-satisfaction.
Even when it comes to sharing our sufferings with trusted friends – perhaps especially so – we find ourselves defaulting to ambiguous phrases like, “God’s just really stretching me right now”; “I’m good”; “So blessed”; “The Lord is just showing me all sorts of stuff, you know?” rather than being frank and upfront about the fact that we’re at odds with a loved one, or we’re struggling majorly with forgiveness, or we’re not making ends meet financially, or we’re wrestling with mental anguish or physical pain.
We want control, precision, and cute packaging, to boot. God-forbid that anyone should know that we actually need Him; and God-forbid that we should actually find Him in the embrace of a friend, or in the naked solitude of prayer. We like the idea of God, and the idea of love, and the idea of prayer, but the reality of these things demands a willingness to be revealed for who and what we are, and most of us find that thought a bit daunting. Even more alarming than the idea of self-revelation is the idea of God-revelation, because we know that God has revealed himself most fully to us in cruciform.
God addresses us as we actually are: not as we prefer to present ourselves. He speaks into our heart, not to our facade. And if we genuinely desire to live according to God’s invitation, we need to be ready to be seen and embraced on that kind of level, as well as to embrace others in that same unflinchingly honest and realistic manner. Only when we unfurl our fingers from around our contrived personalities and spiritualities will God really get a hold of us, and we will become involved with Him “in spite of ourselves”, right in the middle of our fierce struggle against accepting ourselves as we are, good and bad.
It is crucial that we accept our own weaknesses – that we accept the fact that we are not angels, but rather fragile, dusty frames beloved by an Immediate God who reveals Himself to us in the miraculous and the mundane. Acceptance of our weakness (and our lovableness!) opens us up to accept the action of God’s grace in our lives.