So, as I posted before, “What do we do with it?” I am still trying to share as much as I can of what I am given; especially with my faith. When we move around in life, we have the opportunity to learn from our environment and the people we meet. We can choose to disregard these opportunities, or we can embrace them.
I came up with a theory for myself years ago and it is based on the old-fashioned pinball machines. (I guess that sort of dates me!). There was this awesome pinball machine at a pizza place our sons’ soccer teams always went to for parties, etc. It was an outer space-oriented game and I could actually play it. Once the games started getting more computerized, I lost my touch! Ha-Ha! Anyway, the point is that we are like those silver-toned balls in the machines. We are launched into life and we bang into people and places along our way. Some of these interactions score big points, others we would prefer to have avoided. They are hazards or bumpers! Occasionally, we get to start over, if we are lucky, and still amass our points. But regardless of how we are launched each time, we keep on banging into all sorts of different hazards and blessings.
Once we get to a certain age, we sort of feel like we’ve got the hang of this thing called “life.” We make decisions and choose things in life based on our understanding of where we fit in all of this. Sometimes our choices look stupid or erroneous to those around us, and we often do make mistakes. One of the things that has become more clear as time has moved along is that these choices we make are solely ours. We cannot blame how we were launched, how many tries we got at this, or who launched us. Basically, we are responsible for our own misery or happiness. We cannot continue to blame others and to rest on paltry excuses.
I believe the idea is to gain perspective, like looking at this pinball game from the perspective of the player, where we can see the whole board. Peter Kreeft, in his oft-quoted book about heaven, tells us that God is like a master writer. And a writer knows the story in his head; he knows the beginning, middle, and the end; he has created a timeline. The goal in life is to stand outside the “Timeline” with the Author of Life, looking at our individual timelines. We will understand fully, when we stand with God. (ref 1Cor 13: 12). And He is the master-player, knowing all the players and options, knowing which hazards to avoid. Sort of like that song, “Pinball Wizard” – “He ain’t got no distractions; Can’t hear those buzzers and bells…”
And that is where faith and our prayer life come into play for us. We rely on God and try to “listen” to his promptings in our lives. Sometimes it is hard to hear Him because, unfortunately (and to carry this theme even further – sorry, I couldn’t help it!) we hear and see all “those buzzers and bells” in life. And for most of us, we don’t realize how much noise there is, between our hearts and God. We get distracted!
Quite often we need the quiet, the silence, the alone-time to re-connect to God. He is waiting for us, ever-patient, ever-understanding, ever-on our side. We are the ones wandering all over the place. Like I said above, moving around in life can be a positive, growth experience, sort of thing. Or it can be something that hinders us. It is all a matter of choice and free will. I am discovering through this Lenten period of reflection, that I have brought lots of things with me, emotionally, psychologically, and theologically, from all the places and people I have run into through my life. It has created within me the fabric of my “prejudice” – the place from which I view life. We all have it. We all make decisions based on our own worldview or prejudice. And it colors my world – and sometimes not for the better. When our own worldview becomes too entrenched, we are unable to learn. We feel conflict unless people have our exact, same, viewpoint. And trust me, with the myriad of options in life, not to mention the endless combinations inherent in genetic make-up, there is no exact match to any of us – it is part of the beauty of creation! Individuals, each with free will, trying to get along. And each of us trying to make our way through this life, to our eternities. I am praying my eternity is one shared with God.
To carry this pinball thing as far as I probably can, God allows us to fail. We bang into one too many hazards and are relegated to start over. What an incredible gift that is! Do we all realize how incredible it is that Our Lord offers us the same thing He asks of us? “Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.” (Matthew 18: 21-22). Each and every time we fall and get up again, it is as if the Lord has said to each of us:
“But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. “Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. “Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you. “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. “If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. “If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. “But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men. “Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. “Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.” (Luke 6: 27-35)
Can you imagine if those words were applied to each of us, by God? Do we judge? Oh, pretty much all the time! Do we love those who hate us? Not so much. Do we expect nothing in return when we give? Most times, no, we don’t. And what does that say about us? About me? That I have so much work to do on my salvific journey! Thanks be to God for Lent. Thanks be to God that the Church gives me this time every year, every year, to realize that I have fallen again and that I need to raise myself up, to be more in the likeness of God. And each time I realize this, it is as if that little ball on the pinball board hit a flapper – something that hurls me back into the game, just a little bit wiser! Just a little bit less prejudiced because I have (hopefully) grown. Isn’t God and His Church just so amazing? We think we are such intellectuals when we have the Church and the Church Fathers, who have gone before us perhaps 1,000s of years ago, and they’ve already laid this all out for us. From Ecclesiastes, Chapter 14, verses 11-12:
“What has been is what will be,
and what has been done is what will be done,
and there is nothing new under the sun.”
My continued prayers that this Lenten period be one of growth and prosperity in seeking a closer relationship with God. I am blessed and I appreciate this time each year so much. For me, the trick is to keep moving forward, keep learning, and to not repeat old patterns once the Great Fast has completed itself. Fasting is a time for quiet reflection, and not just a time when we leave food habits aside, but a time when we take on new, and better, traits worthy of a child of God. Blessed Lent!