Well This is Awkward

The Lord knows I need patience.  And like any good Father, He gives me what I need – not instantaneous patience, but opportunities to grow in this virtue.

When God calls us by name, loud and clear, to do something bold for Him, we often choose one of two extreme reactions: either go out immediately, on fire and ready to preach the Good News, or go cower in a corner for a while.  As usual, the proper response lies somewhere in the middle.

Today, the Birthday of the Church, Pentecost, the Apostles were literally set on fire, began to preach, and were sent to all the nations.  However, before this happened they gathered in the upper room, praying together and preparing.

Have you ever noticed that there are awkward “in between” times within the seasons of the Church?  During the Triduum this year I realized that I had no idea what to do with myself on Holy Saturday.  I was just waiting for Easter!  It was awkward and I didn’t like it.

awkward-turtle.jpg

Anyway…forty days into Easter we celebrated the Ascension of Jesus into heaven.  Jesus has risen from the dead and returned to His Father, promising to leave us with the Holy Spirit.  Time to preach it to all the world!  Not so fast…

With a sinking feeling in my stomach I realized that this is another awkward waiting period.

“Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about. For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.”

Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

I would like to point out two key phrases here: “wait for the gift” and “receive”.  They had to wait days to receive the Holy Spirit!  Why?  God knew they weren’t ready.  They were to be filled with the Holy Spirit.   To be filled one must be emptied first (sound familiar?).  The Apostles needed to be emptied of the thing that holds all of us back: fear.  Then, and only then, would they be ready to bear the Cross to the ends of the earth.

In order to truly say “yes” to God’s call and receive the gift of your vocation, you must be able to make a free choice.  Most of the time it is fear that holds us back, but in the wonderful words of Tenth Avenue North “fear is just a lie.”  Because us humans are dense and stubborn, it takes time to come to a point of true freedom.

It is no secret that God speaks to me through children’s books.  The most recent treasure I’m diving into is the series The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander.  In the first book of the series, The Book of Three, a very wise warrior named Gwydion has some great things to say about being freed from fear and the incredible power of Truth.

“I saw the truth of the world, and knew no chains could hold me.”

“Once you have the courage to look upon evil, seeing it for what it is and naming it by its true name, it is powerless against you, and you can destroy it.”

So, at times you may feel like you are just sitting around twiddling your thumbs, waiting for that big moment when the Holy Spirit comes rushing in and compels you towards the will of God – but these times of waiting are really God preparing you!  Ask Him to empty you(especially of fear), to teach you how to wait patiently like Mary, and just bask in the glorious surprises He will gift you with!

A friend recently shared a wonderful bit of bible trivia with me: the phrase, in some form, “do not be not afraid,”  appears 365 times throughout scripture.  One for every day!!!

Holy Allegory, Batman!

In case you haven’t heard, C.S. Lewis was a complete genius.  If you haven’t read anything by him please go do yourself a favor and do so right now.  And no, the Narnia movies do not count. He wrote many theological works, but also fantastic fiction filled with well crafted, yet subtle(mostly) spiritual messages.  The most famous of his works is probably The Chronicles of Narnia.  I’ve owned this set of books since my first communion but have never read all of them.  Recently I decided to remedy this and retreated into the world of Aslan while on vacation(my family quickly learned to leave me alone).

I read The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Silver Chair and The Last Battle in quick succession and was blown away by the spiritual truths contained in each.  I won’t reveal too much about the plot but I just wanted to delve into one of my favorite scenes.

*Spoiler alert*

In The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Eustace, one of the children transported to the magical world of Narnia, is cranky, selfish and generally makes life difficult.  At one point he is turned into a dragon and begins to change his ways.  Once his heart is converted, he is transformed back into a boy, but the way this happens is quite interesting.  He tries to remove his own skin a couple of times, like a snake, but finds that he is still a dragon.  Then Aslan, who represents Jesus, says, “You will have to let me undress you.”  As Aslan began tearing the skin, Eustace reports that “it hurt worse than anything I’ve ever felt.”  Finally, Aslan dresses Eustace in brand new clothes.

Wow, this little passage is jam packed.  We can’t ever hope to escape from sin on our own, to remove our dragon’s skin without the help of Jesus.  Being stripped of our pride and selfishness usually hurts more than anything, but is worth it in the end.  And like Eustace, we are made new in Christ and can be transformed by his love.

I may have posted this already, but it is completely relevant here:

This is just one of many lessons to be found within the hills of Narnia.  It is amazing to see how Aslan is always guiding the characters, even when they don’t realize it.  And for those you who are turned off by “children’s books” – Lewis has this to say: “A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.”

One last thing – if you’re reading these and are tempted to skip over The Horse and His Boy, because it’s about different characters, don’t! It turned out to be one of my favorites.

Just cause it’s hilarious: