Details, details…they are what bog me down. We are planning to relocate north of us, about 2600 or so miles, within the next couple of weeks. I look at all the things I have gathered into the living room and I think, “This is not gonna fit on a 14-foot trailer.” What do I get rid of? What do I ship up separately? Are we going to “be” moved or are we moving ourselves up? When exactly do we pull out of this driveway and onto the road? Will my husband get the job he wants? Will they realize the treasure he is and hire him? Soon? So many details.
I get this great blog in my email and it is called, “Hands of Mary/Heart of Martha” through the Smart Martha web site. Today the article I honed in on right away was called, “Cleaning out your closet?” and it had some wonderful wardrobe hints from the “minimalist” movement. Their suggestion was to take your wardrobe down to 10 items. Well, looking at what I have and what I NEED, versus perhaps what I have and what I WANT…I know I could cut down on so many things. This suggestion is one that has caused me to ponder…and blog.
There are so many “things” we cling to in our lives. Exemplary as it may be to prune and purge our things, there are some things we just cannot let go of. I have been dragging a couple of things with me since my childhood and I am not sure if I could ever get rid of them. My dad once told me that clinging to things is selfish in a way, because perhaps if you gave it away, someone else would have the joy or practicality of owning it. His comment has stayed with me, and it has helped me to let go of things. In addition, when you look to some items, they may mean something to you, but no one in your immediate family will want them, once you have gone. What else do we cling to? A lot of misconceptions!
When I have mentioned our move to people, they immediately think we will be living in igloos and wearing muck-lucks. They do not understand that the modern world has stretched to cover the entire North-American continent. There are housing developments, shopping centers, movie theaters, and heaters! It is also not snowing all year, neither is it dark all year. And yes, there are more animals than people, but not reindeer. What other misconceptions do we cling to? Well, for me, in my blogging life, I have had to fight many misconceptions. The biggest one I know of, although have not addressed until now, is that the “Immaculate Conception” refers to Mary not having marital relations with Joseph, to conceive Christ. Not so. Oh, that happened, Mary did conceive Christ without “knowing” Joseph, but that is not what the “Immaculate Conception” refers to. That “misconception” has spawned numerous jokes and sayings down through the centuries, but it is completely incorrect. It refers, instead, to the conception of Mary, the Theotokos (Mother of God) and the fact that she was conceived without the stain of sin, or the results of the sin of Adam. Christ chose His Mother before time (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1: 1-6) and He chose a perfect vessel to carry Him into this imperfect world. I heard a priest once explain the Immaculate Conception by saying, “When you have the perfect rose, you want the perfect vase to place it in. How much more so for the Son of God to be born of the most perfect womb?”
There are so many misconceptions that we have all come to accept through the years as truth, without bothering to uncover the veracity of the very things we say we believe in. The misconceptions I have run across have caused division between countries, friends, and within families. There are also misconceptions about faith, that abound in cultural mythology. Being an anthropology major in college, I was given the privilege of being taught to look beyond what we see, and what we assume we see. Very often, beneath the surface of what we surmise, is a very different reality. We see that throughout history, the uninitiated saw practices they did not understand and made assumptions about them. From those assumptions spread rumor, which became misconceptions, and in time, beliefs. In a study done years ago, well-meaning health professionals traveled to countries unfamiliar with modern medicine. They presented some very primitive peoples with all the items they would need to ensure a lower birth rate – birth control pills, condoms, and other items. They gave presentations and instructions to these peoples. When these same professionals returned years later, the population had maintained their same growth patterns. Some anthropologists were invited to participate and what they found was the science being imposed on these peoples was so foreign to their practices, they instead had set up altars and placed the items on them, thinking that by praying to them they would not conceive children. The anthropologists brought in natural family planning experts who explained the Billings Method, using farming terminology. The people took to it very easily and childbirth rates were not as progressive. The scientists were very ready to tell the world these people were far too primitive to understand modern science; from the outside looking in, perhaps they were, through assumption. But in reality, they were a farming people; their culture revolved around the cycles of the moon and planting seasons. They were highly intelligent and a very evolved culture, but our modernity dismissed them out-of-hand. The opposite was true and the scientists learned a valuable lesson – they had to remember their audience and to teach and share with the idea of the receiver in mind. This has a twist to it, as well. Quite often, because we have heard something from someone, we make assumptions and we also assume the information as our own “fact.” This study showed scientists – and we can extrapolate from this experience, they show all of us – that we cannot assume our words and instructions have been received in the way in which they were intended. We need to be sure what we are sharing is heard by the head, and the heart. The Word of God is immutable; it is eternal. We can be taught by, and we can learn by, investing the time and the prayer in pursuing those eternal truths left to us by our Lord, through His Church, the Church Fathers, and all those traditions formed over the centuries – either a big “T” tradition or a small “t” one.
“My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2: 1-5
When we enter into dialogue with those who patently disagree with our viewpoint, sometimes it is difficult to express ourselves to them clearly, because not only are we fighting opinions, we are fighting opinions based on misconceptions. I have experienced this exact thing over the past few months of my blogging history. And this Lent has been a time of vigorous discourse, as well as intense learning, laced with emotional turmoil. In other words, “What a Lent!” The fruits of suffering, however, are a more intense relationship with our Lord. We know the steps we are taking are through His guidance and that He is leading our journey.
As we come closer and closer to the end of Lent and I ponder all that has taken place to date, I am in awe of my God. I have been shown that silence is a blessing; that Our Lord waits on us and is always there for us; and that when there are those who disagree with us and prefer to live in their misconceptions, that we need to, and are called to, pray for them and to love them in all things.
“A man who is wrathful with us is a sick man; we must apply a plaster to his heart – love; we must treat him kindly, speak to him gently, lovingly. And if there is not deeply-rooted malice against us within him, but only a temporary fit of anger, you will see how his heart, or his malice, will melt away through your kindness and love – how good will conquer evil. A Christian must always be kind, gracious, and wise in order to conquer evil by good.”
—St. John of Kronstadt, “My Life in Christ”.