On Not Giving Up

Week one down, a lifetime to go.

This week has been a test of my will; the daily struggle caused me to constantly evaluate the changes I was seeking to make in my life. Daily. Literally daily, I entertained the idea of quitting. To give you a better point of reference: I’ve cut all carbs and sugary junk food out of my life. Complimenting this abstinence has been my intention to pray more often and incorporate more physical activity as I am able. Fast and pray, right?

Well, you never really learn just how addicted you are to something until you decide to give it up. Looking back, I lived from one sugar high to the next; between seven dollar latte drinks, instant-microwavable food, and a steady attachment to desserts, I was killing myself. Leaving all of this behind was hell. Most of last week I was nauseated, unable to think straight, unable to stay awake during the day, and unable to go to sleep at night. I would actually take time to plot ways of finding a dessert that could pass as healthy or ‘low carb’ enough for me to be able to fit it into my regimen.

Throughout last week, throughout my sacrifices, I was steadily looking for the loopholes. I was looking for ways to feed the desires of my flesh while keeping the bear-minimum of my new healthy lifestyle. And this behavior of trying to see how I could continue to get by with doing less, at this point, could be the tagline for my autobiography. I’ve always done this. I’m lazy.

More than being lazy, I lack faith. By not ever going ‘all in’ or by seeking comfort in material things I have precluded myself from trusting God fully. Padre Pio once described the Christian life as a “perpetual struggle against self.” Among the innate tendencies we struggle against, I think comfort and safety are among them. We have little faith that God will solve our problems so we frantically try to solve them all ourselves. We do what we don’t think God will. The result is, more often than not, misery. When we try to take on in our lives the role that belongs properly to God, we quickly realize that we are not God. It is our lack of faith that prevents us from surrendering, and we pick ourselves up from disappointment and go racing towards our next disappointment.

Last week I had to face hunger, boredom, anger, and hopelessness with no other resolve, but prayer. All of the feelings and sensations that I could typically numb with unhealthy distractions were now left bare. I had no other recourse but God. It was uncomfortable. Taking control was well within reach, but I could not reach. I had to be vulnerable before God, and my family. Last week was hell. Enduring such an immense amount of discomfort, for me at least, was the beginning of healing. It was the beginning of being whole again.

On Saturday I was able to grab coffee (regular black coffee, with just a bit of half-and-half) with two of my best friends, Josh and Braylin. I’ve been friends with Josh for 10.5 years now, and Braylin for 9. These are friendships that began in high school and have managed to last throughout college and into early adulthood. As I departed from the few hours we had spent together, I reflected on the longevity of these friendships. Many opportunities have presented themselves for each of these friendships to cease; to continue no more. Josh, Braylin, and I have grown into three seemingly different directions in our lives. The only reason our fraternal bond has withstood these changes was the fervent intentionality with which we approached it. With all the disagreements and differences, the three of us have decided not to give up.

Not giving up. Not giving up in the face of an insurmountable struggle. That is what this first week has been about.

The degree to which I have spent years giving myself over to the base desires of my flesh has, in many ways, rendered me unrecognizable. Like an addict going through rehabilitation, there will be a period of withdrawal. There will be moments when I struggle in my relationship with God, with my vocation to my wife and children, to my family and friends, and in my commitment to good health. The point is that I cannot give up. I most keep moving forward. Most importantly, I must trust that God is my portion, my fulfillment, and that nowhere else can I find the satisfaction found in Him alone.

Jesus, I trust in you.

Progress Report: As of 1/8/2017, I have lost 9.5 lbs.

On Being Pro-Life: Part 2 of 2

One of the earlier remarks of Pope Francis’ papacy is that we are the “throw away culture,” which, if we took time to think about it, his assessment was spot on. Initially, we might find his labeling to be harsh and such remarks could go as far to hurt the pride of young millennials who are working to change their societies into something that they see as ‘better.’ Francis’ assessment extends into discussions of the environment, technology, and most importantly… the human person. In my previous post, I wrote about a less popular topic that often gets ignored by the pro-life movement at large. I wrote about the grave harm brought on by any and all forms of artificial contraception and sterilization. Contraception, sterilization, and everything that I am going to address today contribute to why we received the ‘honor’ of being called the throw-away culture.

Continue reading “On Being Pro-Life: Part 2 of 2”

On Being Pro-Life: Part 1 of 2

Being anti-abortion is easy. Being pro-life is hard.

Ever since I found out the truth about abortion, I was against it. I have always believed that life begins at conception and that any force of man to end the life of another was nothing short of murder. To many of you reading this, you are likely to be quite familiar with the pro-life, pro-choice debate here in the United States. As we approach the anniversary of Roe V. Wade this debate will only intensify. On one hand you have the mostly Christian, mostly conservative pro-life establishment that seeks to overturn Roe V. Wade and all similar legislation. Most people who claim to be of religious affiliation or even claim to abide by some moral code will likely stand with the pro-life camp. The correlation between being religious and being anti-abortion rests in the belief that all life is sacred. Even if you aren’t fighting abortion due to certain religious convictions your stand against abortion probably comes from some innate feeling inside you that tells you life is worth preserving.

Continue reading “On Being Pro-Life: Part 1 of 2”

But… Do You Want to be My Friend?

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Homosexuality is an issue that, still today, divides the Church. Many congregations and ecclesial movements are struggling to strike the balance between fidelity to the truth and ‘loving all people.’ Some groups have even come forward and stated that living the gay lifestyle isn’t sinful. I recall listening to a radio interview that Rob Bell (author of Love Wins) gave where he stated that the Christian family needed fidelity and not necessarily heterosexuality. Statements, such as the ones made by Rob Bell and the like, are undoubtedly spot on from a pastoral standpoint. The Church and all Christian movements need to open wide the doors to all people and meet them in the midst of their journey. But what about the theology? What is the objective truth concerning the topic of homosexuality? The primary question that remains is simple: Is Christianity changing its teaching?

Continue reading “But… Do You Want to be My Friend?”

Husbands, Love Your Wives.

Writing this post is going to hurt. In all honesty, it will border on hypocrisy due simply to the fact that I am not a perfect husband. I am immature, selfish, and tend to hold everyone to incredibly lofty standards… including my wife. In the most humble way possible I would like to acknowledge that I am a work in progress. Any improvements that I have made in loving my wife were not the result of my own, independent resolve but were, in fact, moments of personal conversion. Wait… what? Yeah, as cliché as this might sound (and as prevalent it might be in the Catholic blogosphere), I didn’t begin to make improvements in the ‘being married’ department until I began really taking my relationship with God seriously.

Continue reading “Husbands, Love Your Wives.”

Defeating Opportunism. Yet another brief reflection.

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St. John Paul II’s “Love & Responsibility” is such a profound work; it laid the groundwork for what would become a series of talks we know as Theology of the Body. A basic principle that we can take away from his work is that love must be the foundation upon which relationships are built. Love, by its very nature is the gift of oneself for the good of another. Love is two people seeking out a virtuous life, together. St. JPII also makes it clear that love treats people as “ends” and not “means to an end”. The individualistic nature of western culture has shifted the focus from our fellowman towards what we can do to look out for our own best interests. Our goals and aspirations for this life have become increasingly self-centered with a lessening regard for the well-being of others. It would also appear that being immune to such ideology is easier said than done.

The type of friendship that many young people (and people of all ages) find themselves in is what Aristotle labels as the “friendship of utility”. It is a relationship, based largely upon the mutual benefit or “use” that one or both friends may derive from a relationship. Because relationships based on use exist, opportunism has managed to creep its way into many relationships, even into the bonds shared among people of the Christian faith. For example, a common form of opportunism can occur when friends are attempting to make plans with one another. When attempting to receive an affirmative response after the initial invitation, our hopes are usually not very high. Opportunism has wiped away the necessity to commit.  Because let’s be honest… when something better comes along, we do not want to be tied down. Many of us, myself included, may have been guilty of this mindset at least once (if not more) in our relationships with others.

Opportunism in friendship, when it has become acceptable, can be an extremely difficult cycle to break. Especially, when such behavior is considered the norm it may seem irrational to protest against it. In a culture where we use our phones and tablets to disengage from intimate or difficult conversations, taking the time to challenge opportunism will seem like a futile undertaking at first. Seeking to develop love and responsibility towards one another in a friendship where neither currently exists doesn’t come with an instruction manual. However, if opportunism has infiltrated a relationship worth keeping, it will be worth the effort.

Suggested Reading:

Men, Women and the Mystery of Love: Practical Insights from John Paul II’s ‘Love and Responsibility’ (Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2007) by Dr. Edward Sri

Love and Responsibility by Karol Wojtyla