Did you ever have a conversation that was probably insignificant to everyone else involved but it stuck with you over the next few days and weeks and months, gently permeating your thoughts and research?
A while back someone brought up Ephesians 5 with me. Be my guest, guess which part?
You probs guessed right. The parts about obedience (harddddd virtue, Jesus!!) and submission (harder, sweet Jesus!) and all the words we shy from for many reasons.
And, the thing is, I answered wrong.
I didn’t know I did at the time, but now, upon lots of reflection (because that’s what has happened) I realized I was wrong.
And it’s not like I’m going to assemble everyone present at that moment and be like, “Hey, wait, I’ve had months of extra insight!!11!” but, rather, I’m just going to type.
I answered like, “We’re all called to sacrifice! Rainbowspuppiesunicorns!”
Which, I think, missed the point.
The point is this: the life Jesus talks about makes NO SENSE.
You know what makes sense? Worrying about the future. Because THINGS could HAPPEN in the future. Bad things. Harmful things. But Jesus is like, “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself.”
Being hopeless makes sense. Have you looked at any internet lately? There are non-stop wars/ violence/ death/ destruction/ poverty everywhere. With a healthy dose of disregard for humanity thrown in for good measure. But Jesus is like, “Ta da! I have risen from the dead! Life triumphs. Goodness triumphs! I’m with you people!”
For me: a fake idea of control makes sense. Really, I control zero things. But, I would like to think I do. And handing that over, totally and completely, to Jesus (through Mary!) makes no sense. Literally people ask me, “Sooo, what are your goals for your life?” and I answer, “I handed those over to Jesus years ago. He can do what He wants. I trust Him.” AND I KNOW IT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE. But, really, life with Jesus is the ABUNDANT experience He promised, amen and hallelujah, right?
So. Ephesians 5.
Scary. Hard. Terrifying words.
“Submit yourselves to one another.”
I don’t want to do it either, frankly.
Because I don’t live in a box. I live in a world where people hurt other people, a world where people are abused, a world where people step on each other so they can climb higher. A world where slavery runs rampant and my friends’ parents are divorced and where, just this week, the tiny woman who attends mass with me had her arm broken in a purse-snatching.
That’s where I live.
And you know what else I know? Fear. Fear that those things might happen to me. I walk around the city every day—when will I be mugged? I offer things that I create—maybe they’ll be discarded. I can be generous—but maybe someone will just be selfish and destroy the generosity through greed.
You know what fear feels like, right?
I went to mass last week. And I was sitting there, in the yellowed lighting of the mosaic-ed church, listening to the words of the consecration prayer.
I’ve heard them thousands of times. Probably tens of thousands. But this time something different stuck out.
(Probably because life is always changing and, thanks be to God, the Holy Spirit is always moving).
The words are graphically, illogically generous, aren’t they?
“Take this. Eat it.”
Want to play a quick game of “Never Have I Ever”?
Never have I ever…been ready, really ready, to receive the Eucharist. I try, I fail. I never really understand fully, never really appreciate fully, never really prepare fully.
And the command remains. And the bread is broken and distributed.
Jesus offers himself with horrific generosity to me, a person who unfailingly closes her heart or takes without preparing or does unloving things all day long.
It’s disgusting, really.
I receive the host on my hand (judge away, trads!). So, I look at it for a second before I move the host to my mouth with the other hand.
I abuse this unfathomable privilege non-stop.
Probably, we all do.
And yet, He keeps offering.
These words: “Do this in memory of me.”
I hold firmly to the belief that He meant the praying and sharing and breaking of Eucharist. Obviously, yo.
But, in that day, it meant something else, too. It meant: this act of gift-of-self-without-fear. Do that in memory, too.
Offer yourself, your love, freely and fully to a world that needs it…even if they can’t understand it all just yet.
“…and I’m always here, guys. To refresh you.”
Today is the Feast of St. Francis de Sales.
I was supposed to do some research for a project and I came across this quote of his, “Those who love to be feared fear to be loved. “
Please, read it again.
If you want, write it on a sticky note, like I did.
I know a handful of people.
Two came to mind while reading this quote.
There is one who likes to play large-and-in-charge, you know? That one and the other one (actually, I know many like this, thanks-be-to-God) who gives freely and freely and freely…generous decisions from the goodness of her heart.
The quote and reflection and the few times I year I watch films reminded me of this line (which I loved) from the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s:
You know what’s wrong with you, Miss Whoever-you-are? You’re chicken, you’ve got no guts. You’re afraid to stick out your chin and say, “Okay, life’s a fact, people do fall in love, people do belong to each other, because that’s the only chance anybody’s got for real happiness.” You call yourself a free spirit, a “wild thing,” and you’re terrified somebody’s gonna stick you in a cage. Well baby, you’re already in that cage. You built it yourself.
Basically what I’m thinking about is: fear. Fear is what cages us in the end, isn’t it? The fear will hold us back and away. But, love casts out fear. And, sure, maybe someone will take love for granted but, that’s their problem and not the lover’s.
I just think back to the two people I was thinking about. The one is kind of crippled in fear. I don’t really know all the fears, but I would assume they’re fears of being forgotten or disregarded. So, instead: boss around, play the big, bad one, so no one forgets you, stomp stomp stomp. The other person I’m thinking about gives all day with a wide smile. And, yeah, maybe she works harder at stacking chairs at the end of the night or staying up late listening to friends (note: this is not me. I go to bed early because I’m lame) but, in the end, she’s the free one. Like a bird. Because love sets free.
It still doesn’t make sense, I know.
None of this makes sense. Probably that’s what I needed to say in that original convo.
The cross makes no sense. Sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice makes no sense. I know. It’s disgustingly repulsive.
Until you encounter the Jesus on the cross whose love is pouring out of His side with the blood and the water.
See, this I know: Jesus gives to me freely and generously. I know that embarrassingly well. And He never-endingly calls me to deeper life. For no apparent reason beyond that He desires my eternal happiness (madness, I tell you!)
And when He says something, be it “don’t worry about tomorrow” or “I love you eternally” or, geez, “love one another as I have loved you” I don’t really know how to process any of them, actually. But, it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try.
So, maybe I’ll try to love more freely or something.
Not that the cages don’t beckon.
I’d just rather live in freedom…and love.