Taking the heavenly cough medicine: or this reality thing is a good for me?

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Remember when you were a kid and your mom told you to eat your broccoli? Or maybe you were one of those children who loved broccoli—weirdo. Or, remember, when you wanted to finish that marathon but you had to run everyday? Or maybe you like running. Weirdo. Well, maybe you always wanted to read Les Miserbles, but you don’t like the process of actually reading through hundreds of pages on the French tunnel system? Or maybe you are really fascinated by boring stuff…

Weirdo!

Okay. Fine. I’m really trying to find a good metaphor, here. Stick with me.

When I was little and I had a cold, my mother would make me take cough medicine. I hate cough medicine. It has this weird smell, a terrible aftertaste, and has totally turned me off to the idea of cherry as a flavor. But, my mother would still make me take it. Because, despite how gross it was, it helped me get better. The cough medicine,in a way, was a “good” for me, even it I found it—literally–painful in the moment.

For over a year, I’ve been a part of this group that started in Italy called Communion In Liberation or CL. One of the biggest things I’ve learned from this group is that we are on this earth to encounter the Lord.

I mean, duh, right? How many times does Jesus say, “Seek first the Kingdom of God”?. And, for crying out loud, the First Commandment is to love God with all my heart, mind and soul. I find myself certain that my mission on earth is to come to know and love God, but I certainly don’t live that way.

The other point at CL that has really touched me is that we encounter the Lord in the world around us. The events, people, and circumstances, in our everyday lives, are the tools God uses to bring us into communion with Him. In sum, what happens to me in my daily life or in the present, is a good for me because it’s how I come to know and love Jesus Christ.

But, I don’t live like that, at all. Before I moved to Indianapolis, for example, I spent six months chasing job after job, utterly convinced that this thing or that thing was where I was supposed to be. And I became frustrated with God when my reality did not match up with my expectations. Does that happen to you? You’re not happy with where you are, so maybe God has abandoned you. Or maybe you feel stuck or that God just isn’t listening. Whatever it is, reality is not going the way you planned it, and life sucks!

We all have an image or an idea of how our lives should go. You go to college, you graduate, get that job, and you fall madly in love with someone. It works in the movies, right? But, it’s not our reality. And when our reality isn’t what we plan, we get frustrated and start to think, maybe implicitly, that God will not provide for our needs or maybe He’s not really there, at all.

We fall into this trap in the small stuff too. I have work to do in the office but the doorbell rings. My expectation is that I’ll get work done, but the present moment is demanding I answer the door. Or I’m running late to a meeting, but someone has a question. I have an expectation to be on time, but the present moment is demanding something else of me

The funny thing is that the only thing that is actually real is the present moment. My expectations for what I think my life should be are not real. My plans for the future aren’t real. The only thing that is real is the present moment.

Our daily circumstances are the things God uses to bring us closer to Him. Not getting that “dream job” after graduate school was the best way, for me, to encounter God and learn new skills for the future. Moving to a new city was the best way for me to strengthen my prayer life because no one was there to hold me accountable

Maybe, for you, being single gives you more time to find your value in Christ instead of in someone else. Or maybe, not having children right after the wedding, brings you and your spouse closer together in a way that could not have happened if you had a honeymoon baby (I’m feeling sassy today, sorry :)).

Not only does God use our present circumstances to help us, but He also uses them to help others. We are dependent on each other. Maybe my reality does not match my expectations because God wants to use me as an answer to someone else’s prayers. Maybe being single means you have more time to serve the Church. Maybe you moved to that town to be a friend to someone who really needed one. Or maybe you haven’t meant that guy or girl yet so God can use you to make your roommate holy through sanctification because you STILL haven’t cleaned your freaking crock-pot.

In conclusion, though, I like to think that what is happening to us, right now, is a good for us, because our circumstances are the ways in which we encounter the Lord. Like cough medicine, the present is what is going to make us better in so far as we allow our present to lead us into an encounter with Jesus.

Now, that doesn’t mean that everything that happens to us is good. The Crucifixion, in itself, was not a good thing. But God used it to bring about something good. It also doesn’t mean that we need to repress sadness when our expectations and reality don’t match. But, we should approach reality with trust, that God is using what is happening right now, to bring us and others closer to Him.

If the present is a good for me, its made me think of three other things….

1. Cultivating curiosity. I really should pay attention more because there’s something, right now, that God is trying to tell me. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve gone to Mass, and thought, “Oh! This homily! I totally know what their going to say!”. Or the number of people I meet and think that I have the, figured out.

But, it shouldn’t be like that! There is something in that moment or this person that God wants to show me! God is giving me a gift in this very moment. I just have to look for it.

2. Being less self-absorbed. I spend so much time thinking about what I want or think I need, that I fail to see the gifts God has put in front of me. Maybe I spent so much time wishing I could do a certain kind of ministry, that I fail to see I’m already doing it. Or I want this relationship to work out so badly, that I miss the gift of this friendship I already have. Or I spend so much time thinking about my own problems, I fail to see how depressed my co-worker is today.

3. I need to stop rushing to get to the next thing. I feel like I live in that country song about being in hurry to get things done.In other words, I think I have to get this task done, just so I can move on to the next one, or I have to figure out my life to get to the next step. But, the only thing that is real is the present, so the only thing really being asked of me is to complete the task in front of me. Plus, I miss the joy of the present, if I’m spending all my time thinking about the next step.

So, read the cough medicine, drink the marathon…wait….what? Sorry. I got my metaphors confused.

Seriously though,the present moment is a good for us. God chooses to use the circumstances of the present moment as the way to bring us closer to Him.

Cough medicine is a bit easier to swallow when we realize that it’s going to make us healthier.

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