I had a difficult time getting to sleep last night. As a result of my nightly toss and turn, I was quite tired this morning but got up and decided to put some order to my home. When all my cleanliness-next-to-Godliness-obsessive-straightening-up was accomplished, I headed out to return an item that I purchased on a whim and decided that I didn’t need…so off to the store I went.
I tend to make lists on Post-It Notes© of what I am going to do. My list earlier this afternoon read: return useless item, pick-up package at leasing office, go to confession, walk on treadmill, and read for property class (the last two being accomplished simultaneously). Somewhere between “pick-up package and confession,” I realized I was heading south instead of north. Heading south was taking me quite a way off from where I wanted to be, so I did the all-American U-turn and headed in the right direction—a roadside metanoia-of-sorts.
As I did a 180º turn, I realized that while headed south, for about three miles, I was convinced that I was headed north—the direction that I needed to be going in order to arrive at my desired destination. In fact, when it dawned on me that I was not headed north, I was blown away at my own credulity. What is the matter with me?!?! Then it hit me: I am given freedom to head in whatever direction I choose to head in, but that does not mean that I am headed in the right direction. In fact, more often than not, my own measure is in error. I need an objective reality outside myself to guide me.
Following Christ is not about being good, following the rules, doing this and not doing that. Following Christ is about heading in the right direction—towards Him—because He is the fulfillment of my happiness. But I can only head in the right direction if I am headed in the right direction. There is north and there is south. North is not south—no matter how much I really believe that it is. You get the idea.
The first chapter of the Gospel of John records that when Andrew and John heard the Baptist say, “Behold, the lamb of God,” they set off in hot pursuit of Jesus. In fact, the evangelist was so impacted by the events of the day that he records the exact moment (around 4 p.m.). In my mind, this has to mean that the witness telling the story had a before and after moment so poignant, he remembered every detail about it. The impact of hearing the words from the hoped for Messiah, “What are you looking for?” elicited from Andrew and John the question, “Rabbi, where are you staying?” Jesus quips back, “Come, and you will see.” That was it—they followed Him home and something amazing happened—so incredibly exceptional, they were hooked. They had finally found the Source of all Good.
This is exactly what happened to me. And it is an objective fact that I am free to deny, but choose not to (at least on most days). Christ happened in my life and I have never been the same since. I remember all the details. I’d intuited His presence, wondered at His acts, was challenged by His call, but refused to recognize Him—until I finally did, because nothing short of absolute stupidity and anti-reason would have justified turning away. I can even tell you where I was (in Madrid in front of the Santiago Bernabeu soccer stadium—how cool is that?) and who I was with (my good friend Nacho), when I finally had to recognize His presence or deny my very existence.
My desire for holiness is born of that encounter. Yet, I know that no matter how hard I try, I will never be truly good. I can be honest enough with myself to admit that, on most days, I just don’t cut it. And what is more, I don’t cut it because I don’t even want to (@#?!). This is not some radical departure from grace in desperation of my fallen nature—this is merely an acknowledgement that He condescends to me, not in spite of my fallen nature, but because of it. Hallelujah for that.
My desire is that the people that I love (and even those that I don’t) could recognize that Christianity is not about being good. Christianity is about being fully human and paying homage to all that is in light of all that I am not—but have the potential to be—because He extended that initial invitation to come and see.