There are so many things about faith and the things that other people believe that I don’t understand – and I don’t think that I ever will. For example, my fellow Catholics talk about “preferential option for the poor” and for the life of me I don’t know what this means or what it is supposed to mean. I’m not entirely sure what poverty is.
To be clear, I know about material poverty and spiritual poverty. I’ve met people who are poor in possessions but rich in spirit and vice versa.
But, all of the people I’ve met have been … people. No one is all one or another thing. When I think of people I know, the first thing that comes to mind is not that person’s bank account, spiritually or materially. It’s the little things, moments that made me laugh or cry, that touched me deeply or failed to leave any lasting impression.
Real wealth comes in the ability to make a lasting impression.
I think we all know this?
A real turning point in my faith came when I understood that no matter where we are now, no matter how far we’ve come, if we are really going to live forever, if anyone is going to live forever, then everything we’ve experienced up to any one point is as nothing compared to the amount of time we have left.
It was one of those breathless moments of insight. I still have infinite time left to read – to watch movies – to think about nothing and everything, to be silly and to be deeply serious.
I live in this delicious tension between enjoying the depth of moments when they come and the dawning realization that I am never going to run out of moments.
A lot of people have issues with the mere idea of immortality. Our lives are so fleeting, and forever seems like an escape. But it’s the opposite. Without eternity in mind, I get used to numbering my days. I fail to remember that, like any possession worth having, I need to share my time in order to really enjoy it.
I choose not just to believe in eternal life but in all the people I hope to spend forever with, who I hope will want to spend forever with me. That may sound like a selfless choice, but it’s not. Choosing to value people above the things we create and enjoy and put aside and pick up again? Yes, that is one of the most selfish things I can do. I know it.
But – it’s not entirely selfish. There’s that leap of faith, the point where I choose to acknowledge that we are all like self-contained universes. We each have the power to comprehend each other’s worlds.
I feel most blessed when I think of the people I’ve met, the life experiences they have chosen to share. People whose borders intersect with and permanently change my own internal landscape. Forever.
There’s no single memory on earth I treasure as much as those moments when I find mercy coming back to catch me when I need it most. And I realize that person I prayed for, the cause I stood up for, with little or no hope that it would even work, that person is standing in the gap for me, gladly. I always hoped that love could rebound and reinforce love – but it was always theoretical, a life experiment of an “I wonder if” and a “risk worth taking” variety. Now I have seen the joy that can come from joy. Nothing can compare to that kind of security.
Now, I get it. Everyone loves God not because God is God, but because God is love. And that is a double-barred gate that no evil can cross. Ever. You know it when you know it. And, I know it.
There are people I disagree with strongly on important issues – but I would not trade them and their (obviously incorrect) views for the whole world. 😉
Sooner or later, everyone lets me down. I’ll have a comfortable idea in my mind of what someone will do. When they don’t meet that expectation, it’s like – but – I was sure that you were going to be nice or mean or profound or silly. I had the perfect response mapped out in my head.
Then, (wait for it), comes this moment when like a flower growing out of the sidewalk – I know (yet again) that if everyone did what I was expecting, that would be hell. No one would be real. I would be alone. Forever.
It shifts my values to know I don’t care (much) whether someone likes the same movies I do. I care a good deal if other people are – or are not – prepared the share the same universe as me.
Let’s not crazy here. Obviously, if you don’t like Neo Yokio, we will have to stay far away, like in different galaxies, but we can share the same universe, right? Keep in mind: my galaxy has chocolate.
Blessed are the poor in spirit. But – if we are blessed, then we are no longer poor. This is seriously how my mind works. Who exactly is blessed here? I want to know! I want to be on that side, the good side.
Come on. We’re all thinking it. Probably. Okay, honestly, I’m not sure what other people are thinking half the time. I assume everyone else’s mind resembles my own, but I never know. In reality, I can only be quite certain of this: like everyone else, I tend to fill in the blanks in a way that winds up revealing more about myself than anyone else. Like most of my favorite people, I try to err on the side of believing better of other people than they may in fact deserve.
Also like most of my favorite people, I know sometimes we need to plan for the worst. There is a reason why we have warning labels, for people who do in fact need to be told things like do not iron clothes while wearing them. Not because it will stop us from doing the Dumb Thing, but because – hey – at least you tried. Total confession: Yes, I have at times been that person. Okay total, total confession: I have in fact been that person who when someone tells me not to do something, I ask why? And then proceed to do it, just to see. I blame no one for this. Much.
I have learned many things in my time on this planet. For example, there are people – possibly the majority of us? – who always hear a warning as a warning and never as a hypothesis to be tested out in real time. I expect there are more of those kinds of people because they live longer.
Remember, self: just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should do it. Even if it might look really cool.
Faith is the substance of things that are unseen, and – in faith – I believe some things are just right and others just wrong. Sometimes, wrong things can be very tempty and shiny and new – but no. Focus.
In faith, I continue to see a world where no one goes hungry, where everyone has enough to eat, where no one has to die. I continue to see a world where – all urgent matters aside – we will need to decide what we are going to make of it all. There are real differences, real losses and real rewards to be had or not.
But that’s up to each of us, whether to rightly – or wrongly – value the things that are passing away, the moments as they come and go.