We all have it. Whether we're willing to admit it or not, we all have it. We've all been raised in different situations, faced hardships, experienced loss and suffering, and have had our share of good times along the way too. All of these experiences have come together to help form the wonderful people that we are today. These experiences help us survive and help form our consciences. These experiences also contribute to what we react to and how we react to it. They impact what we take personally and what we simply let go. Our baggage has its hand in a lot of what we do and therefore plays a big role in who we are.
I am no different. I have experienced loss of loved ones, loss of job, depression, anxieties of every sort, self-consciousness, bullying, loneliness, anger, low self-esteem, betrayal, and deep hurt. All of these things have contributed in some way or another to the person I am today - good or bad. At first, I just chalked all of these things up to experience and tried to not let them happen to me again. I didn't fully deal with them. I didn't know I had to. However, later in life, every single one of these issues has come back to the forefront, and impacted me and my relationships with others. I had to deal with them.
Now here is where I differ from a lot of people. I love going after my problems. When something comes up that I need to deal with, I like to face it head on. When I encourage people to do the same, they just say "well that is just who you are... that's not me". I was not always like this.
I have been known to have quite the large ego. I used to hate feedback of any kind, especially the negative stuff. Whenever someone would sit me down and talk to me about how something I was doing was bothering them, I was always ready with a comeback or a reason why they needed to change. Not me! Even when I was growing up, when my dad tried to talk to me about something, I would always get very defensive. This has also followed me into my adult life and I have since (as far as I know) dealt with it.
It wasn't until I started getting more and more involved in my faith, frequenting the Sacraments, and surrounding myself with people who were also striving for holiness, that I began to be OK with looking inward. I began to be OK with "going there".
I started to go to the Sacrament of Reconciliation a lot more with the sinful parts of my baggage. I sought advice from my parents, close friends, and other members of the faith community. I asked for prayer a lot more. I began to be open to the blessing that our local mental health services are to our community. I began to realize and accept that I wasn't just able to "pray away" some of the more serious things I had been going through. *I completely acknowledge and accept that miracles can and do happen. God is bigger than anything I had been facing. But, I also understand that God created counsellors and mental health professionals too!
I had to face the fact that I wasn't perfect and that I needed help. This was not easy. In fact, calling the counsellor's office was one of the toughest phone calls I remember making (remember the ego?). But, I did it. And it has turned out to have been one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have discovered things about myself I would have never on my own. There's something about having an outside party who can give you feedback on your situation who has no bias whatsoever.
Sure, some people claim they get the same thing out of Confession, but I have two things to say to that:
Continuing to Face it
A retired Christian counsellor friend of mine once described our lives and baggage as being similar to a glass of ice water. If you pull an ice cube out, what happens? Another one rises to the top. This is how it works with our baggage too. Every single day we are faced with situations that impact who we will be tomorrow. It is up to us to deal with these things so they don't end up impacting us and our loved ones in negative ways in the future.
Admitting We're Broken
As I mentioned above, I had a really hard time admitting I was broken. I have come to realize that once you've admitted your're broken and imperfect, you no longer have to spend so much energy trying to be someone you're not. That gets so exhausting! Life becomes so much easier when you can admit you're human and trust that God loves you anyway!
Why do we stress out so much about looking perfect for others? Why do we spend so much energy on appearing "perfect" and not letting anyone see our faults. You see, this is where Christ lives. This is where Christ wants to meet us. He want's our broken, worn out, tired hearts. He wants to break our hearts of stone and give us ones of Love. He wants to heal us. But first, we have to admit we need healing!!!
Leonard Cohen touched on the beauty of brokenness when he said that "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in". How else can the light of Christ get into our hearts if they aren't broken down, cracked, and open? In order to fully accept Christ, we have to die to ourselves and our old ways and surrender our lives to him. We have to be broken before him. How beautiful it will be when we can all tear down our walls and be broken before the Lord. Because it is within that brokenness that we will finally find rest and freedom.
The Choice is Yours
So, if you're dealing with something that is impacting your life and your relationships, I urge you to seek help. There are other people much more qualified than you to handle it!
You can either deal with it now, or make everyone around you deal with it forever. The choice is yours!
This book is written, formatted, and published in a way that is easy to read and internalize without feeling like you're faced with hiking up a massive theological mountain that will take the better part of a quarter to complete. This book is different. It is separated into nice bite-sized amounts of profound considerations that you can chew on as long as you need.
Without giving too much away, Messy & Foolish really inspired me to start focusing on what is important in my life. Sometimes I relate my life to one of those circus acts trying to balance all of those plates at the same time. This book has really inspired me to 'trim the fat' of my priorities and focus on what is important.
There is so much wisdom and inspiration packed into this amazing little book that I'll have to go through and re-read it multiple times, with highlighter in hand, to remember it all.
If you want to be challenged, inspired, and uplifted, this book is for you! If you have been searching for something or someone to breathe new life into your faith or evangelization efforts, this book is for you! If you have a pulse, this book is for you!
It's not too often that a book catches my attention long enough to read it multiple times, let alone once! I highly recommend this book!
Comment below with "Let's Make a Mess!" to enter to win a FREE copy!
- Lance Rosen
The third of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People talks about the need to put “first things first.” Looking back over my adult life – as a Christian, husband, father, and youth minister – I’d say that this has been one of my greatest areas of struggle. I think I’ve spent more than my fair share of time working on or worrying about the wrong things.
I’ve found it particularly easy to get sidetracked in my professional life. In ten years of parish youth ministry, I found myself as the youngest person on a parish staff – and in most cases, the one with the most care and concern for technology. As a result, I put hours of work into my parishes websites, sound systems, and computer workstations... and I was glad to do it (in fact I usually asked for these responsibilities!) The only problem was that every hour I put into these areas was an hour I wasn’t spending with young people, preparing upcoming activities, or generally building up the whole structure of our youth ministry. While part of working on a small staff means going above and beyond your job description, the fact remains that working in youth ministry (or for the Church in general) means that there is never enough time to get everything done.
But looking back, misspent time is not the worst way I worried about the wrong things.
Luke’s Gospel tells us of an occasion that John came across an exorcist who was not one of Jesus’ twelve, but who was casting out demons – doing what they had been called to do. Believing that this man was infringing on the disciples’ exclusive work, John tried to stop him. Jesus’ reply is succinct and to the point: "Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you" (John 9:50). I imagine this was a bit of a wake-up call for John, helping him look beyond himself to see not competitors in the work of evangelization, but potential allies. I don’t believe he had bad intentions, just that he got a bit sidetracked and self-centered.
I can think of far too many moments that I was just like John. Moments where I let my ambition or pride get in the way of the big picture of ministry (helping grow disciples). One of the most notable of these began with the noblest of intentions. I saw that some of my young people needed something that would challenge their faith more deeply than our regular gatherings were doing, so a group of us established a citywide evening of praise and worship/adoration. As a youth ministry event, it was incredibly successful: beyond consistent and growing attendance we had people discerning vocations to the priesthood and religious life, leaving for missionary years with NET Ministries, and the event itself spawned off several similar events in neighboring parishes.
It’s this last “success” that caused me all the trouble. I regarded these as duplicate events as threats to my event. I got defensive of the name and format, and resisted promoting the “competing” events at my own... after all, this had been my idea, it had grown because of my work, and it was supposed to be the lasting legacy of my ministry. And while my original motivation in starting these evenings had been good, as time wore on (at least in my own heart) parts of it had become more and more about me. Like John, I had started to believe that this was my exclusive work – and, like John, I needed a wake-up call to be snapped out of it.
It was in confession that I heard some haunting words that are most applicable here: would it not be a tragedy would it be if young people came to me looking for Christ and found (instead) only me? These words come to mind often when I struggle with prayer, but also when I’ve gotten sidetracked, allowing things to become too much about me, and not enough about Him. If Stephen Covey’s third habit of putting first things first is important for Christians, it’s doubly important for those of us engaged in ministry. I see ministry at its core as a love story. The first and greatest commandment is that we are to love God with our heart, soul, mind and strength... and the second is to love our neighbor as ourselves (cf. Mark 12-30-31). But the beauty of it all is that God loved us first (1 John 4:19).
I’d be lying if I said I’m perfect at this today – it’s a regular item on my examination of conscience. I know that when I’m doing ministry right, it is this love story that drives me. I am loved by God, and to return that love is to share it with anyone who will listen. But like John, I’m easily distracted – not only by good things, like trying to help anywhere that I can, but also –and much more dangerously – but by a self-centered concern that makes me sweat far too much of the small stuff.
- Mike Landry
(Mike Landry is the Chaplain for Evergreen Catholic Schools west of Edmonton. Visit his site at www.thirdplaceproject.com.)