Tag Archives: vocation

The Other 98%

It’s hardly our fault.  From the time we are very young we watch Disney movies that begin with “Once Upon A Time” and end with “Happily Ever After.”  From our earliest years we are told that the greatest good we seek in life is True Love.

And in theory, there’s nothing wrong with this.  I do agree that love is the greatest good.  It’s just that, if you ask around, it seems nearly impossible for us humans to settle on an objective definition for what real love actually looks like.

At my graduation last month, our commencement speaker challenged our graduating class with the task of redefining love for the culture.  “There are so many songs or stories out there about falling in love,” he said, “when falling in love really only makes up about 2% of what love actually is!”

You can see how this is problematic.  Not only are we looking for the treasure without a map, we haven’t even really any clue what the treasure will look like when we actually find it.  We know the 2% of how the story is supposed to begin, but we are less familiar with how to live out the remaining 98% of the equation.  Enter broken relationships and confused hearts.  The truth is, a lot of people could fill the first few pages of several books with the 2%, or the “Fairytales” of past relationships—but because we have believed for so long that “falling in love” is the whole picture, the remainder of our love stories are empty pages.  And then we wonder when “true love” will come.

A wise priest once told me, “Once falling in love ends, true love can begin.”  Falling in love is a feeling.  It’s a rare feeling, but that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed that it will only happen once in your lifetime.   True love is more than a feeling; it’s a choice.  And it’s not just one choice; it’s a series of choices.  It’s a lifetime of choices, and it usually comes down to the choice between yourself and your beloved.  You can tell it’s real love when you find mutual self-gift—when both parties involved choose their beloved over their individual desires.

If there were no choice in love, then it would not mean a whole lot for someone to say that they loved you.  The other 98% of love is not always easy, and it’s not always fun…and it definitely doesn’t always feel romantic and fairy-tale-esque, but it’s real.  Personally, I’d prefer to be chosen.

From the Flight Deck: A Wake Up Call

Two days ago, I found myself on an airplane flying home from Dallas.  I am not at all a chatty person on airplanes.  I’m that person who is either buried in a book, or plugged into headphones, or sleeping (or both).  I will probably greet you at the beginning of the flight, but if it’s up to me, that will be our only real contact.

Things were going fine.  An older gentleman took his seat next to mine, and we exchanged the typical greetings: “hello, how are you?”, “coming home or leaving?”, “what line of work are you in?”

And then I learned something rather terrifying about my chosen path in life.  If someone asks you what you do, and your response is, “I’m studying to get my MA in Biblical Theology,” you better be prepared for what is about to happen.

“Biblical Theology!” the man exclaimed, “You’re going to have to explain that one!”

As it turns out, what my defensive, introverted, and terrified self initially mistook for judgmental scoff was actually something closer to inspired shock—which only scared me more.  Here sitting next to me was this pleasant Christian fellow, amazed that someone my age was actually pursuing studying Scripture, and he was dying to talk to me about it.  He had all these questions and things he had recently read or heard that he wanted to get my opinion on, as if he assumed that I would be someone who could answer.

It didn’t scare me simply because I couldn’t answer all of his questions (I am a student, after all, and no one can be expected to have all of the answers).  It scared me because in that moment I began to realize what responsibility this degree is going to come with.  People are going to look to me as if I know the answers to some of the most important questions you can ask.  That’s a lot of pressure.

The plus side is that it all has to come from God, and I will succeed in achieving His plans for my life so long as I stay close to Him.  I guess sometimes I just need God to put that guy on the plane next to me to remind me.

It Was the Worst of Times…

It’s often said that the reason we need to go through difficult times in life is so that we are more able to appreciate the good times.

At face value, this is kind of a nice way to understand suffering.  After all, we more easily recognize light when we see it in comparison with darkness, don’t we?  Similarly, falling on hard times in life can definitely stop us and make us more appreciative of those times we often take for granted.

However, I think if your understanding of suffering simply stops here, you’re going to run into some problems.

We don’t always need something bad to happen to point out to us how good we currently have it.  Sometimes we already know—and fully appreciate—all of the wonderful things in our life.  What purpose does suffering serve then?  …To make us really really appreciate what we had?

Sometimes bad things happen and they make us more appreciative of the good.  Sometimes they teach us something about ourselves, or about someone else, that we never knew, and wouldn’t have known otherwise.  Other times, years can go by (maybe even a lifetime), and we still have no real clue what purpose was served by our suffering.

The truth is that suffering is a part of everyone’s life.  It’s not the fruition of some sort of bad karma sown at an earlier time; it’s a part of being human—and a necessary part at that.

There is a fine line between recognizing and embracing suffering as a necessary part of life, and using it simply as litmus test to tell the difference between good times and bad times.  The good is good no matter how much we suffer.  Suffering is suffering no matter how good (or bad) our life may be.  To say anything else cheapens the true meaning of both suffering and life itself.

Regardless of the apparent reason for it (or lack thereof), suffering is something we are supposed to embrace because the measure of our life is not simply the sum of all of our good times.  Rather, the meaning of all of the events in our lives—the good taken with the bad— can only be understood as one, complete picture.  We play a role in shaping how the picture turns out, but nothing happens on accident.  The hard times, just as important as the good times, are used to paint the picture of a beautiful life.

How NOT to Express Your Love

Sometimes I think we make extravagant promises because they are easier than little ones— especially true when it comes to love.

Yesterday I was working on some homework when Grenade by Bruno Mars came on the radio.  The chorus played and he vowed his love by singing:

“I’d catch a grenade for you/ throw my hand on a blade for you/ I’d jump in front of a train for you/ You know I’d do anything for you”

This is just one example of the countless number of songs that have this similar theme: It must be real love if you are willing to die.

Now anyone who has read my blog long enough will tell you that I am all about a guy being willing to fight for his girl.  It’s not that I want a guy who will get into a fistfight over me at a bar (please, no); but I do want the guy whose love doesn’t fail when things start to get a little rough.  And I guess that is sort of my issue with songs like Grenade.  Promising to die for your love sounds nice and meaningful, but is Bruno Mars’ girlfriend really so at risk of getting a grenade thrown at her that it even means anything at all for him to make that vow?  I’m guessing probably not…

For me, a much more meaningful demonstration of love would be not a promise of death but of life.  You say you would be willing to die for your love?  That’s great!  But will you live for her?  Will you wake up early and sacrifice your sleep to spend time with her?  Will you stop looking at pornography for the sake of the one you love?  Will you love regardless of your busy schedule or how you may be feeling on that particular day?  It’s the little decisions like these that we make every day that will ultimately demonstrate our love.

This May Make You Uncomfortable…

Everyone knows the couch potato doing nothing with his life has a problem. But I want to talk about someone a little closer to home. Let’s talk about that student in high school with mostly A’s and a few B’s:

On the surface, this student looks like she is doing great. Her grades are above average and she is on track to get into a decent four-year college. When she gets in, she’ll continue to do well in her classes, and maybe when she graduates she will use her bachelor’s degree to get a decently paying job to support herself. She’ll move out on her own and, aside from maybe getting a few promotions and pay raises every now and again, for the most part, that will be that.

Isn’t that, more or less, the kind of life we are all working towards?

I write about that girl because for most of my life I think that girl has been me. I’m pretty good at school and I get good grades. It’s not that it comes without hard work; but I don’t mind the work so much because it yields a result that I am comfortable with.

But for me, comfort alone has never really felt like enough. Maybe you can relate…

I think the answer to why it never feels like enough has something to do with the fact that no 5-year-old, when asked what they want to be when they grow up, answers, “I just want to support myself,” or, “I just want to get good grades in school.” Yet for some reason, as we grow older, it becomes more and more acceptable in our minds to settle for this answer. We settle for comfort as opposed to greatness.

It’s not that achieving comfort is easy or that it requires no work. It’s not easy to make it through four years of college, or to stick with a job and get promoted. It takes hard work and dedication. So why is that not enough?

The truth is that deep down, whether we are brave enough to admit it or not, we all have a desire to be great—to somehow use our life to make a difference in the world, and not just “get by”. That desire is not meant to go unanswered. You may not have the most important career in the world, but no matter what you do, that call to greatness never goes away.

Greatness is more difficult than comfort because, in addition to it taking hard work and dedication, greatness mostly means being uncomfortable. It means stepping outside of your normal comfort zone to stand up for something that matters. Whereas the ends of comfort are merely food, sleep, and leisure, greatness is so much more than that. It’s about making sacrifices for and believing in something greater than yourself. We are all called to be great.

So how are you going to answer the call?

“The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness”
-Pope Benedict XVI