Pivoting Towards God
The word pivotal always strikes me literally. I picture myself standing on a spot – and turning to face a new direction without really moving. In the Christian faith, this turning to face a new direction is called conversion.
Here is how I picture this “Christian Pivoting”: God and eternal life are standing on my right side. Satan and eternal damnation are at my left. My goal – our goal, as dutiful Christians, is to pivot to the right – to face and glorify God. Satan’s goal is to get our attention, distract us from God, and make us pivot left – to focus away from God.
This moving towards God is conversion. Honest moment: the word conversion scares me. I think it’s because I “don’t have” a conversion story. Wait, that’s not true. I don’t have this awe-inspiring, exciting conversion story where God comes down and whacks me with a two-by-four like Paul. But, I do have one where God has always spoken to me much like He spoke to Elijah in a “tiny whispering sound” in First Kings.
Hans Van Balthasar says, “Your life is God’s gift, your gift to God is your life.” Many can point to this very specific moment in their live when they come to this realization. Me? Not so much. I have never had an “ah-ha, it’s Jesus!” moment. As a child, as a teen, and now as a college student, I always had this great sense that my life was a gift – and in varying degrees, a small understanding that it belongs to God.
Therefore, it might sound easy to give my life to God – I’ve seen how God provides in His style, in His timeframe, in His Wisdom. Even so, giving up control of my life to God can be incredibly tough.
Especially as a man, giving up “control” of my life is tough – regardless of how much I know God is present in my life!
God, you’re saying that if You are calling me to be a priest, I can’t have a wife and kids and my own home? I have to work with a parish bureaucracy? And, I have to listen to what some old bishop says to do?
But, You’re also telling me that if You’re calling me to marriage that I have to share the remote and TV with a woman who wants to watch something sappy and romantic? And, I have to give up my time and energy toting Mary, Joseph, Peter, Paul, and Therese to soccer, ballet, school, and doctors appointments?
Oh that’s right, I never really had that much control in the first place, did I, Lord?
For me, giving up control in order to give my life to Christ is a work in progress. I mean, good golly, our entire relationship with Christ is a work in progress, but this is my current hurdle.
In the past six months or so, I realized how much I’m trying to control my life. I tried finding happiness in my own ways: finding a girlfriend, trying to be best friends with everyone, having this awesome social life where I decided when, where, and how I was going to have fun. The list of ways I seek control goes on. In my prayer life, the same pattern continued; I was selfish. I told (tell) God, “I need a girlfriend. I need more money. I need a cooler car. I need to be like that guy (jealousy – an awful sin!). He’s got it all, and I’ve got the cow’s rear end.” Then I get mad at God when everything is not granted per my request! What audacity have I got against God!
What a time of pivoting away from God for me! So, how do I get off that track and turn towards God and give him my life again?
For me, and most Christians, I suspect, it is a gradual process towards God. I really don’t think many of us can wake up tomorrow morning and say to Him, “Here is everything – take it, and make it Yours!” I don’t think it’s impossible. I just don’t think it’s very likely for most of us.
The first thing I do in working towards a complete giving is being honest with God in my prayer. The easiest way that I discovered is praying a version of the Ignatian tradition of the Examen. I tell God every painstaking detail of my day each night. I start with waking up and how I felt; the friends I walked to Mass with; the hug I got from a friend; on and on. I include how I felt lonely walking behind that couple holding hands; I felt excited to high five a friend on my way to class. I tell Him when I felt mad, glad and sad with Him – He’s a big guy – He can take it.
The other thing I’m working towards is this realization that my life of prayer, Sacraments, and community, does not always bring an emotional, tangible response! There are dry periods in a spiritual life where I simply am not going to feel God in this palpable, real way. These dry periods might last a few weeks, months, or even years for some people. It’s tough to give God everything when you don’t “feel” anything back – trust me I know. But, this continual return to prayer, Sacraments, and community remind us that God is present in our lives all the time – even when we don’t “get responses.”
Honest prayer with God and growth in the midst of my spiritual dryness are the two most important things in my life that are gradually guiding me towards this complete giving to Christ. It’s not always easy, but Christ never said it would be – He told us to take up our Cross! And if it were easy, I don’t think I would want it very much.
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Nov 3, 2014
Pivoting Towards God
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