After too long a break, we complete our discussion of the Ten Ironies of Holiness with the final three ironies.
8. The More We focus on God and unite as children of God, the more we will have to divide ourselves away from those toxic to our mission.
Many people argue and fervently believe that God is all about, only about, unity. They fashion the road to God as some merry hug-fest whereby everyone holds hands and marches into paradise. These people see the solution to our problems as unity. If we could only be more united, we would have less problems. Unfortunately, life, and our road to holiness, is not like the American Civil War where one side promoted a wrong and the other side opposed it and there was a war to grind these two opposing forces together through bloodshed. Contrary to the unity buffs, all problems are not solved by merely “uniting” everyone or promoting that opposing sides must find a compromise, a common ground, or “find the light”.
Yes, there are problems and situations out there where unity is the answer, where people are called to work together to work things out. Many marriages that end in divorce might have been saved if the two sides just worked at working together, at saving their injured relationship. Often that effort is warranted or motivated by a common cause, such as sparing the children untold suffering. Whatever the motivation or rationale, there are times when working together to make things work is not only a good idea but practically a responsibility.
However, there are other times when working together to come together is actually a bad thing. Suppose a woman married to a violent abuser has a chance to break free from her abuse but, opts, in the name of unity, to stay with this abuser. What if one has a business partner who is unethical and robs the business, or is incompetent and is bringing the business down. What if a widow with three daughters meets a new man and discovers that he is trying to sexually abuse one of her daughters. Should she stay with this fiend in the interest of unity? Lastly, suppose that one’s child has a friend who is drawing one’s child away from wholesome and positive activities toward unwholesome and negative conduct. Should one’s child stay with that bad example, out of some misguided notion that maintaining unity is some saintly thing to do?
Obviously, in all of the above situations, unity is unity with a toxic situation or person that will only draw us away from God, away from our mission to serve God, and away from our salvation. Remember that God Almighty will divide on Judgment Day. Whether we accept it or not, we have a choice between being the wheat and the chaff, and then we have a choice about whether or not we want to embrace the wheat, or the chaff. The ultimate secret to serving Christ, then, may well be the ability to be compassionate, serving, generous, forgiving, and open to those who stray without letting ourselves accept, embrace, condone, much less support their positions which may be inconsistent with who we are and what we should be about.
9. The more we fail, struggle, and fall, the less we will fail, struggle, and fall.
This world is obsessed with avoiding suffering, pain, and failure. We cringe at the sight or thought of anyone suffering. Is this cringe out of compassion, or is it out of pity? Better still, are our tears and fears the fruits of our broken dreams, hopes, aspiration, perceptions, and/or delusions? Do we cry for how struggles and obstacles impact us, or for how these things impact others? A simple glance at the lives of most, if not all, saints, reveals that they each struggled mightily over many different issues. In fact, one may rightly conclude, when looking at the saints, that being close to God is being close to suffering, and that would be true. We have each been given crosses to bear, and how we bear them will often show how close we are to the One Who has borne the most. The more we suffer and fail here, the less we will suffer there, because we will have maximized our potential and while using our struggles as fodder for graces.
10. Holiness is about embracing discomfort and rejecting comfort.
A lack of suffering anda measure of comfort are the front lines of the battle against the devil. It is there where evil finds the most ready, willing, and able souls poised to throw their lot with the most fearful creature they have ever experienced. Saints like Francis, Clare, Don Bosco, and Philip Neri faced extreme obstacles head-on, with their heads held high, believing in the power of God to transform their struggles into graces. When we are too comfortable, we tend to forget God because, whether we admit it or not, we start fashioning ourselves the answer to all questions. On the other hand, struggles build character, and make us recall our roots.
Copyright, 2013 Gabriel Garnica