It never ceases to amaze me just how many similarities there are between my relationship with Mr. Irish and my relationship with God. In my mind those continuing similarities are only further proof that marriage is indeed a beautiful vocation, no less important than religious life or priesthood, as many people often think. In fact, often times it is because of my relationship (and the lovely little things that happen therein) with Mr. Irish that make me realize certain things about my relationship to God.
We, as humans, are afraid to actually dive in. We always want to know where all of the escapes are, how to get to them, how to open all the hatches, and how fast we can run away. We do it with everything: how long is my lease on my apartment? How long do I have to make car payments for? How long must I sit through this class? How long is the marriage preparation process? What is the least amount of work I can do and still pass this class or keep my job? We are constantly aware of how far away the “finish line” is, whether its the end of the semester, the end of the year, the end of the season or whatever else it may be, we are aware of it. And that awareness often times keeps us from diving in. We know that Christmas is coming soon, so why dive in to Advent? We know that Jesus comes back from the dead, so what is the point of Lent? We fear the depths of the ocean…we would rather just get our feet wet. We’d rather give up a little something for Lent instead of challenging ourselves; we’d rather get swept up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays rather than slow down and prepare for the coming of Christ. After all, no one else seems to be diving in, so the waters remain cold and we don’t want to freeze…we’ll just get our toes wet, thank you very much.
I could ramble on in vague ways about these similarities in these relationships, but I always love a good, concrete example – something I can really wrap my head around. Take this weekend for example: Mr. Irish challenged me to really be in the relationship, especially the more serious we get. I resisted…at first. We (I’m talking more about “we” as humans, not so much “we” Mr. Irish and I) get comfortable in our way of life, in our friends, in the way we like to do things and we don’t want to go any deeper for fear of…drowning? We all have our fears, and they are different for each one of us, but they are all there. Then I realized that this same fear, this same resistance is quite similar to the resistance we all experience at one point or another with God. I didn’t resist Mr. Irish’s challenge because I don’t love him (because I truly do love him), rather, I resisted it because I’m afraid of going deeper – its unknown, uncharted territory. The same is true in my relationship with God, I reach this nice, happy place with God and I want to rest. I think I’ve reached a mountain top, when, in truth, I’m only on a plateau, the mountain is still before me. We fear really diving in with God because we don’t know what lies in those waters…the lochness monster perhaps? As a good friend once told me, “you can’t keep asking for God to deepen your faith and then complain when you feel yourself drowning.” Such a statement is true in both relationships: I’ve blogged and talked and prayed about a relationship that would challenge me and push me to holiness – why would I resist when, thanks be to God, I’ve been given just that? At the same time, I’m always praying that God would dwell more richly in my heart, would take me deeper into His unending love – how can I continue to rest on this plateau when a mountain of Love stands before me, begging me to climb it?
It seems to me at this point, that in both relationships, I have three options:
- Sit on the plateau, refuse to move, go deeper, climb the mountain or do anything at all.
- Climb down the mountain and give up all together.
- Dive in and climb the mountain (and yes, I understand diving in and climbing are moving in two different directions, but you catch my drift.)
Any of those are fine options – I could go with any one of them, but when I break it down, there really is only one option. If I sit on the plateau and refuse to move that is about as much good as a surgeon cutting into someone and then walking away without bothering to finish the surgery. Why come all this way only sit like a bump on a log? What is the point in asking for depth, for sincerity, for committment in my relationships and then laughing in it’s face when it comes?
If I started to climb down the mountain, what good would that do? So I came all this way for nothing? What happens when I get halfway down and I realize that I want to go back up? Then I’m walking the same path over again, what a waste. If I walked away from either relationship I know I would be breaking my own heart…and someone else’s. I’m not a quitter…neither Mr. Irish nor God (though both in obviously different ways) have never given up on me so who am I to just quit on them?
That leaves me the with last option…keep climbing. I come back to one of my favorite lines from “Zombieland” when Woody Harrelson’s character says, “nut up or shut up.” It is comical and yet so true – we have to get off the fence, we have to dive in if we ever want to find true happiness. We have to set aside time in Advent to be still, to be calm, to prepare for the coming of Christ. We have to set aside time in Lent to be somber people, to prepare for Holy Week, to prepare for the death of Christ, not just His Resurrection. If I sit on the plateau, if I get caught up in the holiday rush then I may never be truly happy. Oh, sure, I might think that I’ve found happiness, but I haven’t. I found contentment, but I haven’t found joy, I haven’t found peace that fills my heart and soul, I haven’t found Him at all. Don’t be like all of the other apostles in the boat, be like St. Peter, though he may have been afraid of drowning, that fear didn’t keep him from walking on the water to be with Jesus. Don’t let the fear of drowning, or the size of the mountain, or the risk of heartbreak keep you from going deeper, from climbing, or from letting your heart truly fall. The glory of the depths of the ocean, the top of the mountain and true love are worth all the risks; let yourself believe in happily ever after. Amen.