My Spiritual Director has taught me much.
In both big ways & rather small.
Regardless, he has always guided me wisely – toward ways of living a life
centered around God.
A simple example has been in the way I begin a New Year. Instead of creating a New Year’s RESOLUTION, he has suggested in its place the consideration of discerning a
New Year’s DESIRE.
As he explains: “a resolution can tend to be more “I” centered; whereas, a desire is relational.” Fr. Dan Hoffman
A desire is between God & self and a willingness to give God control. Versus maintaining control ourselves, with the end goal of accomplishing a resolution.
Beginning the New Year with this mindset has proven quite fruitful for me; so much so, that I used this same method for discerning my annual lenten sacrifice this year!
In pondering what to give-up in this way, praying over what sacrifice I could make to keep me more mindful of the Great Sacrifice Jesus Christ made in hanging on the cross for my Salvation – I was able to keep a perspective on God’s gaze upon me. Just like at the the start of the New Year I was able to ask myself:
What is my lenten desire?
And my answer was quite simply…
to spend more time with God.
As a way to do so during the lenten season I sacrificed the only Social Media account I have open, Instagram; so that I might break free from any concern of man’s gaze to better focus on God’s gaze alone.
In social life we experience constant tension about meeting other people’s expectations of us (or what we imagine them to be) which has become an overwhelming burden through-out the world.
Ironically, the world has turned its back on Christianity – with its dogmas and commandments – on the grounds that it is a religion of guilt.
Yet there has never been a time when people were so weighed down with guilt as they are today.
And a large cause of this increased guilt has come from Social Media.
Girls feel guilty for not being as beautiful as the latest fashion model. Men feel guilty for not being as successful as the inventor of Microsoft.
And so it goes.
The standards of success dictated by contemporary culture weigh on us much more heavily than the appeal to perfection made by Jesus. He says to us in the Gospel:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”Matthew 11:28-30
Well known Christian author, Lysa Terkeurst discovered in a 2015 study she conducted in partnership with Barna Group, women ages eighteen and older in the United States go to social media looking to connect and feel better about themselves, but only 14 percent walk away feeling encouraged.
That’s a whopping 86 percent who may be going about their day feeling emptier and more deprived than before!
Nearly half of women reported feeling lonely at least occasionally after spending time on social media. Sixty-two percent of Millennials said they felt lonely at least occasionally, with one in ten saying they usually do.
Also, interestingly – six out of ten women said they felt like they want to change something about their lives at least occasionally after looking at social media. More than 78 percent of Millennials felt that way at least occasionally, with 21 percent saying they usually do.
Lysa asked her own Facebook friends how they would describe their experiences with social media to see if it lined up with the research. And it did. Some of the submitted comments were:
“I’m connected to so many, yet I feel lonelier. Isn’t anyone out there having a bad day, too? Life feels less honest somehow.” Donna N.
“I can’t help but compare myself to others’ lives and feel like I don’t measure up. People are only posting the positive stuff, so it’s easy to look at it and feel like they don’t have their own problems.” Kelly S.
“I feel lonely and left out. It’s not right when I see women from my church posting pictures of themselves out having a good time and I have not been invited. I feel lonely all the time as I do try to make friends but everyone seems so disconnected. If I could just have one close friend it would mean so much to me.” Shelbie B.Univited, Lysa Terkeurst
However, under God’s gaze, we are delivered from the constraint of having to be “the best” or perpetually having to be “winners.” We have a deep sense of release, because we don’t have to make constant efforts to show ourselves in a favorable light or waste energy pretending to be what we are not.
We can quite simply be what we are!
There is no better form of “relaxation” than to rest like little children in the tenderness of a Father who loves us just as we are.
We find it so difficult to accept our own deficiencies under man’s gaze because we imagine they make us unlovable.
Since we are defective in this or that aspect, we feel that we do not deserve to be loved.
Living under God’s gaze makes us realize how mistaken that is.
Love is given freely, it’s not deserved and our deficiencies don’t prevent God from loving us – just the opposite!
God’s gaze enables us to be supremely daring in our desire for holiness. We have the right to aspire to the summit, to aspire to the highest level of holiness, because God wants and is able to grant it.
As I have mentioned repeatedly throughout this hugs n’ blessings space – God can make us, sinners that we are, into saints!
His grace can accomplish even that miracle, and we can have unlimited faith in the power of his love.
Even if we fall every day, as long as we get up again and say, “Lord, thank you, because I’m sure that you will make me a saint!”Jacques Philippe
In honoring my lenten desire – by spending more time with God during this period of lent – I have discovered, just as the famous philosopher Jacques Philippe describes: “The right attitude toward God, is having a very peaceful, very “relaxed” acceptance of ourselves and our weaknesses as well as an immense desire for holiness, and a strong determination to progress, based on limitless trust in God’s grace. ”
I plan to grow even quieter in the time leading up to and during Holy Week to spend even more time with my God.
Please be patient with me as I do.
Rest assured, I will be praying for each of you – that you find yourself solely under the gaze of God – during this most holiest time of year.
hugs n’ blessings for time well spent.
I desire to love You more than anyone has ever loved You before. And in spite of my wretchedness and littleness, I have my trust deeply anchored in the abyss of Your mercy, my God and my creator! In spite of my great wretchedness, I am not afraid of anything, but I maintain the hope of singing my song of praise for ever. Let no soul doubt, even the most pitiful, so long as they are still alive, that they can become a great saint. For great is the power of God’s grace.”St. Faustina, Petit journal, p. 140