Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Carry Me (Sometimes)

Today, I was thinking about the Footprints in the Sand poem, and as I pondered the thought of God the Father carrying me, his daughter, I was inspired in a particular way by the meditation that followed. 
As I was imaging the Lord holding me in His arms, I began to think of the different reasons a man might carry his daughter. 

The first reason that came to mind was because of weariness. My family takes occasional hikes together, and, when I was little, I wouldn't be able to hike for as long as my parents. When I reached the point that I felt overcome with exhaustion, my dad would pick me up and place me on his shoulders, carrying me for the remainder of the journey. Sometimes, I feel like I am so worn out and overwhelmed, that all I can do is trust the Lord to bring me through it. When I am on the brink of collapse and don't think I can go any further, the Lord is there to carry me through the difficulties. 

The second circumstance is immediate danger. Say a child is trapped in a burning house. A loving father would run into the flames and carry his daughter to safety. Just like this, I have seen instances in my life that the Lord has carried me through chaos and sin. He has rescued me at the crucial moment, saving me from the lies of Satan and the destruction of our relationship. 

Lastly, a father carries his daughter merely out of love. A father picks up his beloved child and holds her in his arms to show his affection and express the love that words cannot comprehend. I have experienced this love as the Lord has showered His love upon me in times of extreme joy and peacefulness. I feel as if He is carrying me through life, and I worry about nothing, because I am wrapped in His loving embrace.  

But, the Lord cannot always be carrying me.

There are those times in life when there are two sets of footprints in the sand. When God walked beside me without direct intervention. 

It makes sense. If a person is always carried, their muscles will deteriorate. They won't even be able to stand on their own. We weren't made to be carried through life. 

Our spiritual lives can be like a marathon. You don't wake up one morning and decide to run a marathon that day. Likewise, you do not just become a saint in a day. It takes training. It requires discipline. The Lord cannot carry us through every instance of pain or difficulty. Maybe these are crucial moments in building virtue or preparing you for something in the future. If a runner was in the middle of a run, and someone picked them up and carried them, just because they were having a tough time, that would be more harmful than helpful to the runner. If he or she is serious about their goal to run a marathon, he or she will need all the necessary training without skipping out on workouts. Any interference will only hinder their growth.


So, how can I get mad at God for not carrying me through difficulties when only He sees the big picture? How can I lament my daily challenges because I don't see the potential for growing in virtue? We are called to thank God for all things. He alone knows what will sanctify us despite our sin and weakness. And aren't we all called to be saints? (Yes!) 

Saturday, May 11, 2013


Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness. These are the three unalienable rights "guaranteed" to us right in the beginning of the Declaration of Independence. I put guaranteed in quotes only because the degree of which we are able to carry these out is more or less debatable, but I digress. It is interesting that the big FF's (founding fathers) included the "pursuit of happiness" in the rather exclusive V.I.P. list of what it meant to declare independence. Hmm. Where the heck did Jefferson get this from??

Well, upon pondering this question, I decided to use my skills as a student to research and uncover the mysteries of this part of our nation's Declaration of Independence. Aka, I typed it in Google, and the first source seemed pretty legit. (It even had sources cited... I trust it.) In this article, I learned that when Jefferson wrote about the pursuit of happiness, it wasn't the first time someone had brought up this phrase (at least that's what Carol Hamilton argues). Instead, it is suggested that in 1690 our dear friend from the pages of many a history book, John Locke, wrote in an essay, "The necessity of pursuing happiness is the foundation of liberty." I found that very interesting. So, essentially, freedom is equivocated with chasing after happiness.

I guess the next question I was confronted with is: what is happiness? It is an age-old question that has left even the world's most successful people scrambling for an answer. How can we chase something we can't even identify? We're like Ponce de Leon perpetually searching for the fountain of youth that may or may not exist. What do we do when we don't understand something? Pretend we do, naturally. As a culture we have made up our own guidelines as to what exactly happiness is. Happiness is doing whatever you want to do. Happiness is making the most money. Happiness is seeking pleasure. Happiness is watching all seven seasons of Gilmore Girls and devouring a two-pound bar of chocolate. Well, if that's what happiness is, why are we so unhappy? America should be the happiest place on Earth! (Sorry Disney World, I'm expanding your claim to fame.) But are we happy?

Hmmm. Okay, so maybe this "pursuit of happiness" John Locke talks about has become a little muddled across the years. In my own experience, I have come to realize that the only true happiness actually goes by a different name: joy. If you don't know what I mean, let me explain. Joy is that deep feeling of peace and contentment you experience that can only come from God. Wow. I'm not very good at explaining it. Have you ever been happy and felt like nothing could shake it? That's joy. Ever see a sunset or sunrise or pass through beautiful landscape and you can't help but smile because it's so beautiful? That's joy. Joy is a gift. It is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and it is more genuine than any sort of sugar high or adrenaline rush.

On the topic of happiness, I have to say, I agree with François-Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận who so eloquently states in his book The Road of Hope, "This is the secret of happiness: to have but one will with God." God wills to give us joy through the Holy Spirit. To be of the same will of God is not only to accept His trials, but to accept His joy.

Unfortunately, there is no way I can convince modern America of this truth. Our society is plagued with a false perception of happiness. I don't know what Jefferson foresaw when he included "the pursuit of happiness" in the unalienable rights, but I have a feeling he wouldn't like what he saw in today's society. We think we are pursuing happiness, but in actuality, the things we pursue are a dead end. The U.S. was intended to be one nation, under GOD. Our society will never be happy until it recognizes that we remain under God. We are not God.

As Blessed Mother Teresa once said, “God doesn't require us to succeed, he only requires that you try.” I think that it is about time we actually tried to pursue genuine happiness by unifying our own will with God's. It is then that we will find true joy. 

Learn from the words of a modern saint

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