complacency

Fragile

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Recently at my church a young pregnant woman passed away. I won’t say how or names in order to keep their personal information private. I did not know this woman or her family, but they are a part of my faith family so it hurts all the same. My wife and I have been praying for them as have hundreds of others. I can’t help but keep thinking of the husband and what is now before him in raising the kids while dealing with the loss of his wife and unborn daughter.

In a moment life ended…

It stopped…

Gone…

When I was growing up I went to a rough school and kids died due to violence there, and in that area. I have experience death before but never as a father. Fatherhood adds a whole other dimension to death. The solidarity that I am experiencing with this families pain is tangible, and I don’t even know them. I think of the husband and my stomach gets tight and I feel sorrow. I keep thinking about how fragile life is. Sacred Scripture says our lives are like a vapor: here for a while and then gone.

I take so much for granted! Why? I do not know. Especially since life is a vapor. As the news of this families struggle has been shared via our Church family I have been holding on to my wife and daughter a little longer and a little tighter. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us. Today—now is all we have. Yet I take it for granted. We all do. Then death comes and reminds us. Someone else’s tragedy speaks to us and we come out of our delirium and appreciate what we have a little more.

But how long until that fades? How long till we go back to taking for granted?

A vapor. Here one moment and gone the next.

Categories: complacency, death, enjoying the moment, fatherhood, fully alive, living, living in the moment, Suffering | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Old Days

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There are moments like today where I miss the calm, ordered, predictable life I once had. I had an apartment that was clean. Everything was placed in a particular way that made logical sense. I got up at a certain time. Went to sleep at a certain time. All was calm, ordered and clean.

Life is not like this anymore and there are moments where I miss the old days.

I miss it because it was easy. When you are alone you can set your own pace. Do what you want and have no one disrupt that. It’s nice because it’s predictable, constant and oh, so comfortable.

Life is anything but predictable, constant and comfortable with a family. Everyday has something in it that you were not expecting that frustrates you, changes your plans, leaves a mess, etc. I currently stand in the mist of toy shrapnel in my living room. It looks like Fisher Price sent bombers and toys blew up everywhere. There are socks (none matching) all over the place. Food is smeared on the baby chair and dinning room table. My wife’s school books are sprawled out on the kitchen table, her own socks lie before the grown and there are at least 2 cups of water lying around in precarious places. Dishes peek over the sink and there is a particularly yellow stain on the kitchen counter that I think just winked at me.

Not predictable…not constant…not comfortable and certainly not clean…

Seven years ago I left the Catholic seminary. I was studying to be a Catholic priest; something I had felt a calling in my heart for a long time. After a few years in the seminary I was hooked and thought this was where I belonged. It was predictable, constant and comfortable. I felt like this was where I was supposed to be. Yet, God had other plans. During my second year I began to get a sense from God that this was a pit stop and not my final destination. I was not comfortable with that. I liked seminary and what it was. Needless to say I left the seminary. Not because I didn’t like it, or had a bad experience or any of the sorts. God had made it clear, that for me, this was too easy. Don’t misunderstand what I am saying. Being a seminarian and eventually becoming a priest is not easy. Priests have very demanding and difficult lives. Ask to shadow your local priest and you’ll see how not easy it is. However for me, and the way I am wired it was going to be too easy.

This may seem confusing to people. Why not do what feels predictable, constant and comfortable? I thought the same thing until I got married. Pope Benedict 16 has a quote that I love, “The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.” In my life that which is comfortable and easy never helps me to grow. Sure, it’s predictable, constant and comfortable—all things I love. However, these things only help me to live a life that is comfortable and not great. Comfort in this sense is not the comfort one looks for in their couch after a long day of work. Comfort here refers to someone seeking to do that, which is less arduous, and doesn’t demand as much. Comfort in this sense is a lack of living to our full potential—half-assing if you will.

You and me are made for greatness, but a lot of the time we settle for comfort. It’s predictable and constant. But to be who we are meant to be requires effort, pain, sweat and tears—none of which are comfortable.

I stand before a room that is messy; a life that is no longer done “my way”; a life that demands that others be first and myself to be last. There are moments like this one where I miss the old days. Yet, I know that this new life is turning me into the man I am called to be. The lack of predictability, constancy and comfort makes me a better man, a better father, a better husband and a better person all around. It’s like going to the gym and working out. If I only lift weight that my body is comfortable with I will never breakdown the muscle fibbers that will in turn rebuild stronger and bigger muscles, which will make me a stronger and bigger person.

There are moments when I reminisce on the old days, but these new days are better. I have a loving wife and daughter that make life so much better. We can all look to the old days and say they were good. There was a lot of good stuff there that made life predictable, constant and comfortable, “but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness.”

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, home and family, manhood, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fully Alive: Part II – Waking the Dead

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So complacency has led us to not live our lives to the full. Complacency has in many ways stolen our ability to see what this fullness even looks like.  Worse of all, complacency has stolen our heart—the one thing we need to be fully alive.

How did this happen? How is it possible that we could have our hearts taken from us? Here is the thing, our heart is not something that can be taken from us—we give it away.

We hear the phrase, “He/She stole my heart” all the time. The reality is that when we say that phrase what we really mean is that we gave that person access to our heart and they did something with it—good or bad. My daughter has stolen my heart in the sense that I am so in love with her. That love is so strong that it physically feels like she has my heart in her hands. Another example can be a girlfriend who you have given your heart to that breaks it and causes it to ache. That pain is so strong that it physically feels like she has taken your heart but in this case has done harm to it.

We give our heart over to people and things. Some of these people or things never should have had access to our heart and this, is how we lose it. Here are some examples:

  • The man who goes online to watch porn. He gives those images permission to access his heart. He lets them in and those images speak to his heart in a destructive way.
  • The man who chooses work over family because he’s successful there. His heart connects to work more so, and family loses the rightful place of that heart.
  • The man who plops himself in front of a TV connected to a X-box and plays shoot ‘em up games till 4am. His mind tells his heart he is “saving the world” but it’s virtual—fake.
  • The man who has no control over food and eats everything and anything placed before him. His heart longs for pleasure and satisfaction but its disordered.

These are just some of many ways we give our heart away. I’m sure you can come up with others yourself.

To whom, or to what have you given your heart to? And does this person or thing deserve to have it?

I have been thinking, wrestling and praying about those two questions for a long time and the answer is: I have given my heart away to things that do not deserve to have it. Those things suck the life out of my heart and have led me to complacency, this sort of zombie like state I mentioned in my last post.

I recently watched this movie called Warm Bodies. It’s a zombie comedy that has a really interesting twist to the zombie situation.  In the movie a zombie pandemic consumes the whole world. There are a few humans who are surviving and fighting the zombies. The movie follows R, who is a young zombie that really doesn’t know what he is doing, how he became a zombie, or why he is living at an airport. R feels…dead. Yet, he knows there is something out there, something more to his current state.

Eventually R meets a human named Julie and this is where things get interesting. Julie’s company does something to R that begins to change him. R recognizes that Julie is beautiful, strong and that her presence begins to wake him up from the inside out. R starts to become human again. He is reclaiming his humanity and the way he does this is through whom he gives his heart to. R falls in love with Julie and love awakens him. By the time the movie gets to the end R protects Julie from a fall and as they get up they both realize that R has woken from the dead—he is fully alive. R comes back from this zombie-like-complacent-state due to his desire to love the right thing; in this case it is a person—Julie. R reclaims his heart by giving it to Julie and he comes back to life.

Giving our hearts to the wrong things leads to death. Giving our hearts to the right things helps us to be fully alive. This is how we reclaim our heart. We love the right person, the right things.

So what does this have to do with fatherhood?

To be a good father I must be the best version of myself—that is who God has called me to be. To be fully alive is the best thing I could ever be for my family. To be anything else is simply unacceptable.

So rise up men! Reclaim your heart. Wake the dead. Be who God has called you to be.

Because the glory of God is you fully alive.

Categories: best self, complacency, fatherhood, fathers, fully alive, God, holiness, living, Parenting, surrendering, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fully Alive: Part I

fully alive
There are so many things to fear in this world: death, being mugged, losing a loved one, loss of financial stability, cancer…the list goes on.

I fear never becoming the man God has called me to be.

There is something incredibly frightening at the idea of someday standing before God and Him saying, “What happened? I gave you everything you needed to be what I called you to be, and this is what you did.” Maybe this isn’t the thing you fear the most, but I think its something worth looking at.

One of my favorite quotes of all time is from a man named Saint Irenaeus. St. Irenaeus lived in the second century and died in 202 A.D. St. Irenaeus is known to have been a hardcore Catholic man who fought some nasty heresies in his time. He wrote lots of great works, but the quote below is one that has always struck my heart.

“The glory of God is man fully alive.”

When I first encountered this quote I found it curious and confusing. The glory of God is man fully alive? How is that possible? Man fully alive? What does that even mean?

In a simple way it means that God rejoices when man is being his truest self. A being that lives in grace and embraces love, uses his talents, and is willing to be a total gift of self to others. There are so many ways to try and describe or interpret this quote, but I think that these examples help explain the heart of it.

Claire recently started eating pureed foods—it gives me great joy seeing her take this next step in life. I guess you could say, ‘The glory of Dad is Claire eating her pureed food and growing into a toddler’.

Or

A Dad is teaching his son to ride a bicycle without training wheels. The son starts to peddle and Dad lets go. The son is riding alone. ‘The glory of Dad is his son learning to ride his bike.

We could say in these examples that, ‘The glory of Dad is his child being fully alive.’

If you have experience similar examples you know exactly what I’m talking about. That moment when you see the full potential of your child reached—and it is glorious.  You stand proud at his/her achievement and you can’t help but light up. As Father I rejoice when my child is living to her full potential. We all do. God, as Father does as well. He knows us through and through so when we are fully alive He is in glory. He beams with joy at seeing His children living to their full potential, just as we do.

The question is how many of us are fully alive?

I don’t know about you but I don’t feel like I am fully alive. I know many people who feel the same way. We read the above quote and wonder how is this possible? Have I ever been fully alive, fully me, fully what God has called me to be? There are moments when we brush past this fullness; we get a glimpse and do a double take.

I recognize in my life that the reason I am not fully alive is because of complacency. Complacency is that terrible, insidious vice that tells us, ‘its okay just the way it is’, ‘we’ll get to it tomorrow’,  ‘someone else can take care of it’. Complacency is a cancer to the heart of man and it leads us to being fully dead. The worst part is, we chose to be complacent.

If the glory of God is man fully alive, then the glory of Satan is man fully dead. Complacency is Satan’s favorite strategy to get us to live lives that are not full.

Complacency is what leads man who can be great to settle for good. When you are meant to be great, good is never good enough. Complacency allows a man to recognize that he must love his wife more, but lets that recognition slip away because it is too difficult, or will demand change on his part and so the love continues to fade. Complacency allows a man to sacrifice his goal of health and fitness to eat the cheeseburger because it’s fast, easy and tomorrow he can run an extra half hour.

Complacency kills us…slowly…and silently.

For many, we recognize what is happening too late. We go from somewhat alive, to fully dead. Maybe this is why the whole zombie phenomena is so attractive to us. We recognize in zombies what we see in ourselves—the walking dead.

Yet something deep in our hearts tells us that this quote is true. It may not be true in our daily lives, but we recognize its reality, its tangible-ness. Pause for a second and read it again. “The glory of God is man fully alive.” Does not your heart burn as the words enter your mind?

Fully alive…what a glorious thing to be.

Complacency has stolen our hearts. We have lost the realization that we were never made to live lives that tip toe the surface and never dive in. I know it, you know it, we all know it—but we sit in the shame of knowing this without doing anything about it. We pretend no one sees it, but deep inside our hearts we want this quote to be true in our own lives. We want to be fully alive, because to not be is the greatest fear and failure of all.

So if complacency has stolen our heart, then how is it that this happened, and more importantly how do we get it back?

Categories: best self, complacency, dying to self, fatherhood, fathers, fully alive, God, holiness, Jesus, living, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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