Stop Doing, Start Being
My resume is pretty kick-butt.
Here’s just a taste: As a senior in college, I have 6 years of work experience, including 3 internships and a job offer waiting for me in Chicago with one of the most prestigious accounting firms in the country. Last year, I was president of the largest club at my university, and have held numerous other leadership positions including chairing committees, a conference, and acting as a commissioner for multiple organizations on campus. As a sophomore, I created an event series in my dorm that was so successful it became an annual tradition, and back home I started a college youth group at my parish.
Fast-forward to this past August. I was at a family wedding reception, and had just realized I wouldn’t have enough time to get back to school and get everything done that weekend that I needed to do. I ended up leaving the reception because I felt like my heart was racing and I couldn’t stop shaking. I didn’t know what was happening but I was really scared – I’d never felt like this before.
It turns out, nothing was physically wrong with me. All the doctor’s tests came back normal, and this dehydration/exhaustion/stress/too-much-coffee-induced panic attack wasn’t that big of a deal. Except that it was. I found out why a few weeks later, during a conversation with a friend. She, being my spiritual advisor of sorts, asked if I knew the difference between “doing” and “being.” And though I didn’t know it yet, that question rocked my world.
At first I thought, oh yeah, I know this - be the Mary not the Martha, put people first, don’t work too hard, yada yada yada. But she challenged me. And God was challenging me. To dive into a deeper part of myself and ask questions I didn’t want to ask and find answers I didn’t think I wanted to hear. I realized that if I had once known the difference between “doing” and “being,” I had certainly forgotten it, or maybe that I had never actually known the difference in the first place.
Everything in my life had become something I was “doing.” All my schoolwork, extracurricular activities, catching up with friends - even relaxing had become something I “did.” They were all things I did to accomplish or achieve something or to fulfill some sort of requirement. This attitude had even manifested itself in my faith life. In the mess of it all I unearthed this idea that my life in Christ was really just one big requirement – a duty to fulfill, in which I had to “achieve” a certain level of Holiness, obtainable by doing certain things, of course.
Praying over this conundrum in the chapel one day, I poured over my journal, re-reading line upon line of struggling and challenging myself to be better and feeling like a failure and… and… and then I felt God’s response. It was as if I heard Him say: “Stop. Just stop.” Stop striving to be something you’ve created as perfection. Stop analyzing how close you’ve come or what you most need to improve upon. Stop feeling like somehow it all is never good enough. Stop trying to earn love, to prove your worth, to show that you somehow deserve all of it. Stop doing. And just be.
That, my friends, I still find incredibly difficult. For if I accept the idea of just being, I am forced to accept that I am enough, just the way I am. That I cannot earn my salvation. That there is nothing I can do to make myself more “worthy” of God’s love. That it is all out of my control. That anything I “do,” is with and through God. That my life, rather than being a sum of requirements to be fulfilled, is a gift. A completely selfless gift from God, created out of love, for me.
God created me, to be. I am not some little robot or slave-clone created to achieve objectives in a path towards perfection, or in the completion of the universal Plan for the World. FYI to Self: God doesn’t need me.
There is a freedom that comes with this revelation. God doesn’t need me. He wants me. He loved me before I ever “did” anything. And He loves me the same right now as He will whether or not I ever “do” all these things I want, or think I need, to do. And in reflecting on this love – this overwhelmingly selfless gift of acceptance - we naturally respond. We respond in love, and we are changed. But it doesn’t just change what we do, it changes who we are.
God did not give me life for Himself; He gave me life, for me. That’s why it is a gift, because my life is given freely, for me to live. God’s gift of life wasn’t about Him. And my response, my sign of thanks, is realizing that my life isn’t about me.
I give the gift back to Him by being. Being with Him – in Adoration and in everyday life. Being aware of His presence and being open to His love and will for me. Being the person He made me to be, not just doing things I “should” do. By celebrating life through living it, being present to it, rather than just racking up a list of accomplishments. Because honestly, in the face of ultimate divine knowledge and power, “accomplishments” don’t mean much anyway.
This doesn’t mean I’ve stopped doing all the things I do, or participating as fully in what I am involved with. It means I recognize that those things aren’t what give me value. I recognize that anything I “accomplish,” is really through God. And that it is enough just to be myself.
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Stop Doing, Start Being
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Since the pontificates of Pope Paul VI and John Paul II, the Roman Catholic Church has been commissioned to engage and embrace the world with God's message of love once more with ‘new methods, new ardor and new expression.’ It has come to be phrased, 'the new evangelization.'
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