Friday, June 15, 2012

Good works, failure, and love.

A great undertaking (at least, one that appears great) is a frightening thing. 

For the more phlegmatic, the fear comes in the guise of work and conflicts. 

For the diffident, any demand that he really care about anything smacks of torture. 

For the controllers, the prospect of failure is terrifying. 

Controller. But that's a great bridge!

I fall into that controller group (strong northern European stock!). My natural vices tend to a real hatred of waste, laziness, and indifference. By nature, I also fear failure. 

And so, I am caught. I cannot help but undertake what seem to me Great Things. I often stall mid-way because I am afraid the efforts will come to Nothing. This is simply the sort of person I became through nature, nurture, and my own, regular rejection of God. Grandiosity, failure, shame. 

How does a controller--choleric, driven, and impatient--escape the brutal cycle? I'm facing this odd little project and all sorts of fears pile up. Have I disobeyed my archbishop? Have I tried too hard? Have I promised something unreal? Have I overreached my health? Is this to the detriment of my children?

Notice: at the heart of every fear is "I". I, I, I... as if everything depended on me. It does not. St. Ignatius wrote (and Mother Teresa was fond of recalling): "Work as if everything depended on you, and leave all the results to God."

Song of my heart. 

This is the salvation of the controller. If I must work (and I must, I am part German!) at some apostolate, then how has Christ redeemed my broken nature? 

In five words: You did it to me. 

The controllers and leaders can find freedom from all fear if they put all hope of success in this simple statement: You did it to me. 

It is a declaration and a promise. If I undertake this mission for Christ, to Christ, then whatever the outcome in human terms, all is fulfilled. He has fulfilled every action already. The goal of all our projects--great, small, successful, and futile--is to love God. And while our motives are always mixed and broken in life, He sees our hearts. He knows our love as intimately as our sins. We become "worthless servants," but servants set free by their worthlessness. Whatever we do is His, for Him to bless with success or to discard so that He might embrace us. 

My daughter brought me a painting yesterday. "Mummy, this is yours." I praised the effort and then I hugged her and told her I loved her. Now that painting is in the garbage outside, covered in milk and cracker crumbs. Failure? Only a cynic, closed to love, would think so. 

How beautifully the Father loves us, his poor little busy workers. I will bring Him a painting that He might discard it and hold me close.

1 comment:

LP said...

I love that you acknowledge the obstacles that present themselves to all the personality types (some of them at least - could we ever exhaust the potential obstacles to human efforts?!) at the outset - leaving little room for one to discount themselves from the experience. I don't know if I'm a controller or a naive optimist, but starting is hard and finishing is hard for me! When I read the "you did it to me" I am reminded of Fr. James McCurry teaching us about Mother Teresa's 5- and 10-finger prayers on the Fiat Retreat senior (your junior) year - what a guy! The quote that has been helping me lately, and I think it is specific to this translation because the word "intensely" feels new to me, is this: "let us love one another intensely, for love covers a multitude of sins." (1 Peter 4:8)Usually just that first clause does the trick, giving me the image and the force I need to flow out of myself, but if it doesn't, I read on and remember how many of my sins need covering!!!! lol.

Sorry for the stream of consciousness commentary - I'm going to bed! God bless you and your Great Work!