Do you have that Facebook friend (or friends) that seem to have their life figured out? They went to an amazing college, got an amazing job, traveled to amazing places, got an amazing boyfriend/girlfriend, and are hitting all of the important life milestones without fail?
It seems like they are 100% sure of the path they are supposed to follow and just plod along without question or struggle.
What I like about Christianity is that they give you a very clear, high level goal: follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ.
There are guidelines for how you are supposed to do that, and there is an institution (the Church) to help you figure things out when it’s unclear what exactly is you’re supposed to be doing.
Life for non-believers like myself feels messier. Our ultimate goals are unclear, our support system is a weird mixture of friends, family, and websites, and milestones constantly shift or change or disappear altogether.
Yesterday’s spiritual exercise asked us to read Philippians 3:7-16 and to pray for Saint Paul’s “single-minded and single hearted focus on Christ” and to think about times when we have experienced or witnessed such a focus in our own lives.
7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.
Paul has a pretty good idea of the things that push him away from Christ, and things that bring him closer.
I envy him.
It would be wonderful to have such a clear goal and be able to toss away things that are distractions from pursuing this goal.
I’ve come close to achieving this focus a few times in my life.
First was my pursuit of becoming a SEAL. That’s all I thought about for a long time during college.
Of course, that plan failed, and led me to a series of adventures that are leading me somewhere, I just don’t know where.
The second time I’ve felt this clarity is with this project.
While I don’t know where exactly it will lead me once I complete it, it feels right.
I also get the sense that God, if he exists, is giving me a few signs of confirmation that this is the right path.
I mentioned a few weeks ago that during one of my spiritual exercises, I felt this intense sorrow and guilt for blowing off a homeless guy. Since then, I started carrying dollar bills with me wherever I go so I’m always ready to give a few bucks to the homeless people I come across. I also signed up to volunteer for an organization that helps the homeless. My first shift is next week.
I no longer feel guilty when I walk by a homeless person.
This seems like a clear sign I should continue being charitable.
Another example: I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t have the logistics set up for the next month of this project. But yesterday, I went to a coffee meeting with a Judaism expert who gave me a good idea of what I should do for my next ancient practice.
Yes, I set the meeting up several weeks ago and of course, a Judaism expert will be able to help me, but it’s just weird that things fell into place at the last minute.
This could all be confirmation bias but, due to my immersion in Catholicism for the past few weeks, I get the sense that this is God’s way of providing guidance and clarity.
Even if it’s just coincidence, I have to give credit to the Church for helping me pay attention that feeling of guilt that led me to volunteering. I also have to give them credit for helping me be grateful for the support I received from people who don’t have to help me (the Judaism expert for example).
While I don’t fully embrace the single-minded and single-hearted pursuit of Christ, it feels like I’m pursuing something of significance.