Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Why Are We Always So Frustrated?

Everything is grace,
Everything is the direct effect of our Father's love. 
Everything is grace, because everything is God's gift....

--St. Therese of Lisieux

Everything? Really??

Okay, I can do the theology here, but when it comes to actual stuff that happens ... its very hard to see everything as a gift. Sometimes "everything" is a train wreck. Where is the "gift"?

At such times, it seems easier to understand that proverb of contemporary worldly wisdom, which might be paraphrased as: "Life stinks and then you die!"

But no. Those are always words of profound dissatisfaction. The human person knows they are wrong. If there is any "resignation" in them, its only in the attempt to make a cynical peace with the idea that the universe is one big scam.

But I can't say "I've been cheated by life" except from the expectation that life is supposed to give me something, that at the heart of life there is a promise.

Thus, people go on hoping for something, and if they say things like this its because they are trying to cope with a sense of frustration that seems to renew itself over and over again.

I usually don't go so far as to say that "life stinks..." (well, not lately anyway). But I do feel that "life is often frustrating."

How can my frustration be a gift? Why do I have to live with frustration, day after day; dull, throbbing frustration aching through the day; frustration like a prison that seems to build walls in every direction? What's the "gift" in that?

Well, frustration provokes me; it challenges my freedom, and my sense of who I am.

In the face of frustration, I can choose to give up. I can say "life stinks" and wallow in pity for my isolated self.

Or I can remember that my very self is a gift, and that this moment of frustration (with all of its bitterness, pain, and incomprehensibility) is a gift because it deepens my awareness of who I really am. It reminds me in a concrete way that I am made for something greater, something beyond my control, something I don't make or measure or manage, something that I can't find anywhere in this world.

Nevertheless, this "something" is real. It is at the root of me, it sustains me, and it carves itself into my heart in the form of a promise.


What does my six year old daughter do when she's frustrated by something?

"Daddy, Daddy, Daddy, Daddy! Help! Please help!" She asks for help. She asks Daddy to come.

What do I do if I see Josefina crying, helpless, frustrated by something because she's just too small to understand it?

I go to her and pick her up and hold her. She still cries. Sometimes she cries even more. It seems like she doesn't even notice I'm there.

But I am there, and I keep holding on to her.