If “control = happiness = holiness”, something doesn’t add up

My attention gets sucked into things very easily. One of my offices has a giant window that looks over a hill that can somehow make any season seem beautiful. I look out this window a lot. When I used to share the office, it wasn’t uncommon for me to need to interrupt a conversation and let my supervisor know that there was a groundhog and some birds fighting on the hill and my brain wouldn’t be available for intelligent conversation until the battle was finished.

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Currently, my attention has been pulled into the world of podcasting. I’ve been binge-listening to podcasts to the point where I need to turn my cellular data off so I don’t spend millions of dollars listening to other people talk at me. My focus has mainly been on podcasts that combine some of the following topics: Catholicism, Mommy-ing, wife-ing…well I guess that’s mainly it. Catholic, mommy podcasts (let’s call them CMPs…initialisms make me feel cool), it’s INSANE how addicting I’ve found them. There’s different topics with each episode and, even if they have ABSOLUTELY nothing to do with my current situation, I can’t stop.But, that’s not what I want to focus on.

I need to talk about what the CMP’s have brought out in my brain: the need for control. It’s crazy and there’s probably a CMP episode that talks about “letting go and letting God” (gag) or “who’s really in control?”

…unrelated, I wonder if there is a job in naming podcasts cause I’d be super good at that.

 

Anyway, through learning about family budgets and books I should read and how to properly self-care, I’ve realized that I equate my sense of control not only  with happiness (a pretty common trait) but also with holiness. Being in charge of my schedule means I’m totally on the road to sainthood, eating vegetables CONSISTENTLY has to be on par with doing works of mercy  and, all those faceless people who chime “Cleanliness is next to Godliness” understand that an ordered household is the only road to heaven, right?

Clearly, the answer is no, but my brain doesn’t always live “seeing things clearly” land.

Case in point, I’ve been trying to focus on my weight/eating differently to see if I could actually take care of my body for health rather than beauty (easier said than done…look for endless ways that I will both congratulate myself and fail miserably at this endeavor). And then tonight, I ate almost an entire bag of Cheetos simply because they were sitting in my office. What followed? Guilt. Resentment. Fear of being punished.

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Hold up now. Who’s going to punish me for eating delicious cheese food-type things? God. Not eating an entire bag of Cheetos in one sitting is probably the commandment Moses would have seen if he turned the tablet over.

Ridiculous? Absolutely. Felt in my heart regardless of the ridiculousness? You betcha. I lost control and screwed up and punishment is sure to follow. I’m losing my closeness to God with every bite, even if only in my mind.

It happens in non-cheese related ways as well. If I fall behind on laundry or forget to answer a voicemail, I feel “off the straight and narrow”. These things that have nothing to do with my relationship to God are really screwing up my faith.

And here’s the thing I need to remind myself, say it with me now:  I’m actually not in control at all. The most freeing and exciting and terrifying realization about my life is I’m not in control. I need to trust in my God, who loves me in spite of as well as because of all the calories in my fitness tracker. And my dirty house. And my cluttered office. And on and on and on. He’s got this and, more importantly, He’s got me.


Be strong and steadfast; have no fear or dread of them, for it is the LORD, your God, who marches with you; he will never fail you or forsake you.

Deuteronomy 31:6

But, what’s the point?

Without going full-out drama queen on this topic, do you ever find yourself asking the question of worth? Like, what is the point…really?

I’m having those thoughts/feelings a lot lately. In some cases, it’s overly obvious.

The point of changing my daughter’s diaper is because she smells bad and if I let her sit in her own filth, some sort of rash/illness/unpleasantness will affect her backside.

The point of making dinner is so that we can nourish our bodies and function properly… or as I tell my students constantly “Eating and sleeping promote optimal brain function”. (College students seem to have the hardest time with this concept for some reason.)

The non-obvious “what’s the point” answers are the ones that are getting to me lately. The times I ask the question and can’t answer myself are the times when I sit and wallow and don’t get much done because I don’t see the point…those moments seem to be taking over my week.

Here I sit. Here I wallow. And what’s the point of it all?


For thus says the LORD: Only after seventy years have elapsed for Babylon will I deal with you and fulfill for you my promise to bring you back to this place.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope.

When you call me, and come and pray to me, I will listen to you.

When you look for me, you will find me. Yes, when you seek me with all your heart,

I will let you find me—oracle of the LORD—and I will change your lot; I will gather you together from all the nations and all the places to which I have banished you—oracle of the LORD—and bring you back to the place from which I have exiled you.

Jeremiah 29:10-14

What do you do?

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I sat in the office of my Ecclesiology professor anxiously as he read ALOUD the answers I had written to the assigned questions. Not really out of the ordinary, since it’s an independent study and all of our meetings take place in his office as he looks over my work. But there is still something nerve wracking about hearing your own thoughts read back to you.

He pauses as we chat about the Apostles and the role of Judaism in the early church.

“You’re a nurse, right?”

“Ummm, no.”

“Oh. I just assumed because of your name-tag and purple shirt. The nursing students wearing purple tops during their clinicals. So, what do you do again?”

Ugh. Double Ugh.

Ugh #1 (the smaller of the ughs): We have met before. We have had this conversation before. Repeating myself makes me feel unseen, Father. And, yes, I know we will probably have this conversation again.

Ugh #2: I hate this question. This goes even beyond a hatred of talking about myself. The reason I hate this question is twofold (apparently everything is going to be twofold today):

Reason number one I hate this question is that the answer is not simple. I cannot finish this conversation in one or two words. I envy people with succinct titles. Teachers. Doctors. Accountants. Astronauts. Princesses.  I am usually lucky if I can wrap up this answer within 20 minutes. It’s complicated.

Here it is in a nutshell: My paid jobs are two part time jobs squished together to form a full time job so that I can enjoy benefits. Most days, it feels like two full time jobs with part time hours. They are both in ministry positions, one in direct service of college students and one at a more administrative level at our diocesan offices. Both are very important, time consuming and, at times, brain-meltingly stressful. Beyond my paid work, I can see the finish line of receiving my Master’s degree, but I’m not quite there yet. Oh, and after that I try to fit in taking care of a house, being a mom (to a nine month old who’s new favorite way of communicating is bloodcurdling screams) , a wife (to a wonderful husband who also works way too hard at too many jobs) and a human.

That last one is debatable. I think humans have sleep and nutritional requirements I’m not meeting.

to do

 

Reason number two that I hate being asked what I do is that I’m not in love with the answer.  I like the answer well enough.I like that ministry is actually a job, since most days it doesn’t really feel like work. I like paying bills. I like health insurance. I like feeding my family. I like not having to serve fries and medium Diet Cokes to total strangers. I like being useful.

I don’t like having to split my focus between two communities that deserve more. I don’t like the hours. I don’t like the stress. I don’t like dropping my daughter off at a babysitter. I don’t like the thanklessness. I don’t like calls that inform me that I am allowing Satan to corrupt our children. (true, and very long, story)

Now, I’m not under any false impression that I am going to love any career path I take 100% of the time. And, while I still hold out for a lottery win so that I can stay home with my family full time, I’m not under any delusion that our mortgage or student loan debt is going to magically disappear and give me that opportunity. But I can get so bogged down in the labels and the titles and the logged hours and…and…and…

It’s so easy to forget my purpose in the midst of my roles, both paid and unpaid. I’m supposed to help other people get to heaven and I work to be able to see them there myself. End of statement.

 

Easier said than done, right? True. I’m not saying being a good Catholic Christian is “easier” than my day jobs, which just happen to be ministry related. In fact, it’s actually probably a million times harder.

My point, I think, in all of this rambling is that I let the little, unimportant worldly things get in my way. And I let it happen all the time. I get bogged down and wallow in my hopelessness. I let the dark win.

And, maybe even a bigger problem would be that I let all the “what do you do?” questions cloud my view of answering the real question: “Who are you?”

So, maybe that’s the lesson for the day:I am more than what I do. Or what I don’t do.

What I do will change. Who I am will not.

And who am I?
Well, at my very core, I am loved deeply by my Creator. And once I come back to that realization, which seems like a daily journey sometimes, I can do anything.

 

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