When we hit an anniversary or a birthday, it is a very common thing to wonder whether all of our efforts–indeed, even our very lives–are “worth it.” There are some of us, myself included, who seem both cursed and blessed insofar as we constantly ponder upon the meaning of our lives. It is a blessing because these meditations deepen the soul with thoughts that raise us above mere animals and make life worth living. It is a curse because the same meditations can also lead to an unhealthy kind of obsessing that can spiral into guilt and even depression. Just recently, I came upon two major anniversaries of mine: my 42nd birthday (October 20) and my 12th anniversary of being ordained a deacon (October 21). As far as anniversaries go, they were good ones. I had some wonderful friends and parishioners who came to my rescue by remembering me in many ways–for this I thank them, and thank the God who gave them to me.
But that didn’t stop me from wondering if all of it is really worth it? All the pain? The toil? So much time wasted, with little to show for it? That is where my heart began to drift into dangerous waters. But can we really afford such morbid brooding, and is it really true? One very simple event happened yesterday to help shake me from this brooding and filled me with gladness. Here is the story:
As is sometimes my custom (particularly when I’m trying to comfort myself), I went to the local one-stop and got a very typical snack for me: Corn-nuts, Sweet-tarts, and a bottle of lime gatorade — not exactly a meal for champions, I realize. I had just finished Mass so I was dressed in my collar, which I had just pulled out and put into my the top pocket of my clerical shirt. The young woman at the counter looked tired and over-worked. As she checked out my snacks, she looked up at me and said, “Are you a priest?”
I responded, “Yes I am.” She began to cry.
“I was just thinking that I was at the end of my rope and that God doesn’t want to talk to me anymore, and then you walked into my store. I guess he hasn’t abandoned me after all. Thank you. ” I offered to talk to her, but the message that she needed was already given to her by GOD, not by me. I simply patted her hand and said, “Hang in there.”
Sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously. Sometimes we place entirely too much pressure on ourselves to “be all we can be” or simply “do God’s will.” But as this little event illustrates, God will use us to do His will quite on His own terms and in His own time. Maybe all we have to do is our duty and attempt some kindness to our brothers and sisters, and God does the rest? Could it be that simple?
Many of us actually claim (and truly believe it) that if we helped just one person in our lives–made one heart swell, saved one life, painted some bright beauty where only ugliness once scarred–then our life would have been “WORTH IT.” I think you can come up with a single thing for yourself. As for me, at least I can think of that one fateful moment that I walked into an Exxon gas station and simply was myself–a priest–for a woman who needed to see a reflection of God in me, no matter how dim. And I wasn’t even trying.
So there. I helped one person in my life. My life is now “worth it.” And likely, so is yours. So now that your life is “WORTH IT,” what are you going to do NOW?
Liberating, isn’t it?
Spiritual Principle #1: When you feel like you’re carrying the world on your shoulders, remember that isn’t your job because Jesus carried it on His.