I'm the kind that waits until I get caught before I quit cheating. Like when someone calls me out at miraculously beating them in Hanging with Friends with one letter left. I've never been pulled over so I keep speeding. Worst of all - and this is a difficult confession - I read spoilers. I read the last page of Deathly Hallows before I started. I just don't want to get hurt. I don't want to get emotionally involved unless I know it's safe to attach. I Googled "Mary and Matthew Crawley" as soon as Mary and Matthew met because if they didn't end together - Downton was not going to be something I wasted time on.
Have you ever done that? Don't you wish you could read the end of your story to see who you shouldn't have trusted? Don't you sometimes just want to know who you should forgive, who you should keep fighting for and who you should just let go? Don't you wish you could just read the Spoiler Alert on your day, your boyfriend, your entire life?
Or maybe there's a difference between love, and universal popularity... Maybe world peace isn't just a naive wish but a heart-wrenching, gut-turning summons only for the brave.
I'm not an expert and can't provide an all-inclusive reflection on peace, the same way I can't do so for hope. They are counter-intuitive, counter-cultural and counter-common-sense. Only people much wiser, older, holier, better, than me can really teach anyone about these things. But I do know I'm trying to learn, or, that God is trying to teach me, His daughter who is very rarely able to be taught.
Grace helps us “to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse." (CCC 1189, CA 25)
Sometimes, even for good causes, we can get confused that the goal is to win. Our agenda. Our vision. Our plan. But isn’t losing together better than winning alone?
So who are your allies? Who wants what's best for you? Who wants the world to look the way you want it to? Who feels the same frustrations and complains about the same things?
Now, who have you been led to believe are your enemies? What do they want? Where have they been hurt? What were their parents like? What do they honestly think about you? What do they even know about you? How often do you see them? Do they see you turn the opposite way whenever they enter a room?
Did you used to get along? Did they used to be close to you? Did you change, or did they? What "camp" do you think they belong to and how did that "camp" hurt you in the past?
Who is it difficult to say "I forgive you" to? "I accept you"? "I love you"? "I can't live without you"? "I wish you wouldn't hurt me." "I wish you would just agree." "Why can't you see it my way?"
Truth is, not everyone is going to see things the way you do. We can't have selective hearing or selective sight when it comes to proclaiming Jesus Christ, crucified. He saw everything from that Hill and what did He do to His enemies? Opened His arms. Stayed silent. Died for them. Prayed for them. He didn't die just for Peter and the people who agreed. He died for the people who instigated and carried out His death.
No one wants to hold hands with someone who took their parking spot, their place on the football team, their land. Even Cain couldn't hold hands with Abel. God Himself is a family. In many of our Catholic prayers at mass we pray TO God the Father, the giver of all good gifts, THROUGH “Jesus Christ our Lord who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.” God works, answers and lives “in the unity of the Holy Spirit.” We are made one not only with God but also with each other through the Holy Spirit.
You only have one enemy. The enemy who tries to re-direct your negative feelings from sin, unto humans who are capable of love, albeit imperfect love. The enemy who tries to re-direct your love from God unto humans who are capable of flattery and companionship, but never heaven. The enemy who tries to re-direct your frustration with an imperfect world onto yourself.
Until you peak ahead to the end of the story and realize that the enemy loses, you might not be able to find the strength to fight it. Until you forgive yourself for not being enough, you'll never be able to love.
If I could teach my kids, my nieces, my nephews, my family one thing it would be this: how to be a peacemaker. How to seek peace in the nastiness of the world and nastiness of love. How to sow peace in every place they find. How to reap peace in their hard-working, exhausted hearts.
So many times, we base our worth on our status. Whether we want to be a doctor, a philanthropist, the next Bill Gates, or a famous athlete, we want to be famous. We want to be known for being awesome. But we can’t base our worth on that. We base our worth based on the unconditional love of God. This doesn’t mean you should become a couch potato. But no matter what you earn in life, it will be gained by the community of love that surrounds you. Your parents, your family, your friends or simply the God who loves you and gives you the passion and life to make it possible. Anyone who is successful can tell you that that their achievement in life is from someone who gave them a chance, someone who supported them, someone who believed in them. Your success is never really about you and your little kingdom, your self-built castle in the sand. It is about those who love you. Without them… you have nothing.
Because we believe in a God who multiplied the loaves and fishes (Luke 9:16). When we give from the depths of our pockets, there is more than enough to go around. When we believe that God can love all of us as if there were only one of us to love, we won’t worry whether someone else has more than us or whether we will have enough. So the next time you want to shout, “But that’s not fair!” or “What about me?” Just remember – We’ve already been given more than we deserve. All of us. The point isn’t that you come up heads and shoulders above the rest. The point is that we can all hold hands.
As a student of my life, I've been taking notes for the last three or four years on unity. I've come to the conclusion that we all are fighting for what we think are good causes but we are often misinformed about one another. Only God knows the fully published story. Only God is the author of all life, who has seen every page and every secret hiding place, every deleted scene. You never know the battle your former best friend is fighting. But we don't want to seem weak by giving someone the benefit of the doubt. So we fight. We don't want to seem lazy by giving ourselves a day off from the gym. So we keep pushing.
I think we have a negative stigma about the White Flag. As a soldier, perhaps surrendering in war was your only option or you did so to save your life. These days, it's like if we surrender or admit weakness we are letting the enemy win. But that's not true when it comes to the Church. The enemy is Satan, not each other. The enemy is sin, not the person opposite you who is letting their kid play games on their iPad during mass. When we start pointing out the sins of others we are only pointing away from ourselves, distracting ourselves from what regret and guilt we don't want people to see and we don't want to feel.
God is on the last page of whatever you're struggling with. He's already there. He's solved it. He's victorious. Don't let your relationships fall as casualties. Don't spend energy fighting against those who really want to fight alongside you. Reach for a cause and by all means work for it, but remember that anything done without love is done in vain. Anything done without submission to God's holy will is just a symbal clashing or a noisy gong.
Love seeks unity, not division. Love seeks the success of the beloved, and the failure of the self.
When you do it - whatever it is - out of love, you will never fail, never lose hope, always endure and always succeed. Love always believes. Love rejoices in the Truth, knowing that you may not know the perfect truth at this time. Love doesn't give up and will not quit. It's not tidy, and it hardly ever makes sense.
Because love isn't about you and your happy ending. Love is about the never-ending story.