Tuesday, July 27, 2021

We Want Our Lives "to Matter." Do They, Really?

These days of "sorrow and joy" seem to overcome my ability to say anything meaningful about them. Within the past month, my mother has died and my granddaughter has been born. Her baptism last weekend had a sense of "closing the circle" of generational transition.

I have had very little to say lately in this blog (though I have some good pictures). Perhaps it's just as well. There are too many words out there, "too much information," and it begins to sound like noise. I cannot analyze all that I feel right now, nor can I distract myself from the real experiences of these weeks. The "noise" in me and around me remains, but it's not loud enough to drown out the knowledge that has impressed itself upon me of the weakness and fragility of life, and at the same time its wonder, its beauty and goodness, and the responsibility it entails: its summons to our freedom.

Nothing really important in life "goes smoothly." It's always different from what we expected. It's messier, less coherent, more disproportionate to the energies of our small hearts. Its challenge to our generosity may indeed help us to grow in the courage of self-giving love, but it will also lay bare our selfishness, narrowness, indolence, resistence to change, and our meager resources of personal character that are so quickly exhausted in the face of the need to persevere, day after day, all the way to the end.

Earthly life might seem to be an anxious, ultimately insignificant ordeal: with all its grueling work, complicated relationships, changes, twists and turns, limitations, its birth and helplessness, growth and ambitions, vanities and empty attainments, shortness and rapid passage, and its sudden decline that ends in the silence and immobility of death.

Yet we continue to hope for ultimate meaning and happiness. Even with all our poverty, constraints, unworthiness, and exhaustion, we still seek a fullness of life. We ask for it. We beg for it. It's as if we have always heard a whisper in the depths of our hearts, a promise that the fulfillment of life is a gift (just as life itself is a gift); a promise that our earthly life is a journey, full of signs destined to be fulfilled, and that this journey is a mysterious preparation to receive this fulfillment.

And so we are called to live as people who are being led by the Mystery that has set the great hope of our hearts in motion and that continues to call us. In the face of disappointments and failure, we get up again and keep going, or even just cry out to be carried through overwhelming obstacles. Even when we stray from the path or betray it in malice, still the promise beckons us to return and be forgiven.

It is possible to freeze ourselves in a state of resentment or rebellion, but we can only have dissatisfaction and disappointment because our hearts began with expectation. We can only "give up" because first we were seeking something.

Why do we embark on the journey of life each day, hoping for something good, something better, something more? Who "told us" to expect anything out of life? Yet this expectation and seeking and longing are the deepest realities of our heart. We want meaning and fulfillment - we want our lives to matter - and even when we are lost, when the way seems impossible, there is a promise that speaks softly within the very foundation of our heart: "Don't give up. There is a way and you are being led along it. You are not alone or forgotten. If you are 'lost,' let yourself be found."