It won’t shock you to hear that sometimes, Catholic bloggers have nothing to say. It won’t surprise you to hear that inspiration doesn’t routinely and spontaneously descend from the heavens and whisper insight into our ears, leaving us only with the problem of rushing over to the keyboard fast enough to copy it all down before it flutters off in search of a writer who can type faster.
Sometimes, we have nothing to write about, but we still have to write something. So we look around, and we think, “Well, that thing that happened to me is kind of a lesson. About Jesus. Because I’m Catholic, and this is what I do.”
Let’s see. Well, my dog goes berserk and barks like crazy when the UPS man comes by, because my dog, being a dope, doesn’t realize that we wanted that package. And that’s like when the Holy Spirit tries to give us grace, and we, um, bark at Him.
Or, the baby spends all her time trying to throw herself off chairs and eat glue, and then she gets mad at me when I rescue her. That’s kind of how we are with God, thinking the commandments are God being mean and wrecking our fun, but really He’s trying to keep us safe.
Or, my four-year-old asked, in a worried voice, if people are made out of meat. It turned out that she was trying to figure out the motivation of the Werewolf of Gubbio. Took a while to untangle that one, and to figure out what her real worries were (namely, that St. Francis is real, but so are werewolves). It was only because I know her, and I know what books she reads, what games she plays, and how she thinks, that I was able to understand what was in her heart, even while she herself didn’t have the words to express what she was thinking. Just like me and Jesus, me all inarticulate, Him all knowing, etc. etc. etc.
In other words, it’s very easy — almost a game, or a chore — to browse the shelves of our daily lives and find little shrink-wrapped lessons about our relationship with God. I could do it all day. Sometimes I do it all week. It’s not a terrible thing to do, and often enough, people tell me, “That was exactly what I needed to hear today. ”
But after a certain point, it feels grotesquely cynical. Oh, look, Jesus is on sale this week! I’m going to buy a nice hunk, and I have the perfect recipe in mind. I’ll just chop Him up into nice, bite-sized pieces . . .
It won’t shock you to hear that this is what I do. We all do it, in one way or another.
As I pushed past the hysterical dog, lugging my package (which was a colander I ordered in a fit of despond, and hadn’t been sent by Holy Spirit at all, at all), I fretted over how late it was and how I still hadn’t come up with anything to write about. And I thought with a little groan, “Okay, Jesus, get in the box.”
It was the best possible prayer I could have prayed.
Not because of what I said, but because I was praying. I was talking to Him, rather than about Him.
Yesterday on the radio, Mark Shea recalled how a priest once said, “Don’t ask yourself, ‘Do I really trust Jesus?’ Because that’s a question you could go on asking yourself forever, wondering, fretting, challenging yourself, never being sure that you really, truly trust God as much as you should.
“Instead,” said the priest, “Ask yourself, ‘Is Jesus trustworthy?'”
And the answer to that is always, “Yes.” Full stop. That’s all there is to it. It puts an end to the navel gazing and refocuses our gaze on the only gazeworthy thing in the world, which is Jesus. He really is the answer to all of our questions. Not because He gives us something to talk about! Because He is the answer, full stop. There’s no way to make that bite-sized.
Talking about Him is good. It’s great. We’re commanded to do it. But let’s remember what it’s all for. Through Him, with Him, in Him. It’s Him. It’s about being with Him. No story or lesson or parable or metaphor is a substitute for that. Whether you’re a Catholic writer, or a teacher, or a catechist, or a parent, or a combox warrior, or a politician, or a rosary-maker, or someone who, for reasons unknown, shares those gifs of sparkly flowers fluttering around the Sacred Heart . . . stop.
Stop and pray. Stop and be with Him. He doesn’t want you to put Him in a box. He doesn’t want you to put Him in shrink wrap, or a recipe, or a lesson, or a meme. He doesn’t want you to set up a tent for him. He just wants you to stop, stop, stop, and be with Him.