Luke 9:57 As they were going along the road, someone said to Him [Jesus], ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’ . . . But he said, ‘Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.’ 60 But Jesus said to him, ‘Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.’ 61 Another also said, ‘I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.’ 62 But Jesus said to him, ‘No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.’
I must confess; I’ve turned my back to the plow many times. It wasn’t that I didn’t feel the Spirit leading me. I did! But I could feel many other spirits–the spirit of doubt, the spirit of fear, the spirit of so much worry. God have mercy on me, a sinner. At least I know I’m in good company. Jesus hand- selected twelve men to walk beside Him in his visible flesh, and every one of his disciples turned his back on the path at some point. No one said discipleship was easy. What Saint Ignatius of Loyola said rings much more true.
In his famous rules for discernment of spirits, St. Ignatius theorized that it is whenever we are moving in the right direction that the spirits of doubt and anxiety will attack us the most. When we are just about to take that next stride forward, our excuses come– the little voices in our ear telling us to turn back. Oh how we wish we could make these voices stop, but they will never completely go away. That is why many teachers in the church say it is better to know these voices and give them names. Lately, as I have been considering the excuses that discourage me and seem to discourage others, I think I have found their names.
The worries say: “The stress is too much; I’ll never get all this work done.” “There is so much wrong with me that no one could ever love me.” “My life is out of my control.” The excuses say: “I am too overwhelmed to set aside time for prayer.” “There is nothing I can do about the problems of the world.” “I just don’t have any gifts for that.”
Do you see the pattern? Almost all of our anxiety and excuses boil down to one basic thought… “I’m not good enough.” This spirit makes us worry because we believe we won’t be able to stand up to the challenges that face us. This spirit makes us turn away from God’s call because we don’t think we are good enough to answer. No, this isn’t humility; it’s one of the Devil’s oldest tricks. Right when he knows we are ready to make a crucial step, he slithers up beside us and whispers, “Just who do you think you are?”
You can’t make the Devil go away. That voice will always be a whisper in your ear. But you can learn to call his bluff! Because Jesus came to answer the Devil’s question. He came to tell us exactly who we are. Think back to what you have been taught. You can look the Devil in the eye and answer:
“I am not the center of the universe.”
Job 38: 4 Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it?
True humility isn’t being terrified that we can’t hold the heavens on our shoulders; it’s knowing that we don’t have to. Good news, there is a God. Better news, it’s not you. Atlas can only shrug when we get dumb enough to believe the world started and ended with us. You didn’t lay out the foundation of the world, and you won’t be able to wreck it either.
“I am special.”
1 Corinthians 12: 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.
My spiritual adviser sometimes says everyone has gifts; we just don’t always like ours. But your gifts were carefully chosen for you. God made you carefully and wonderfully, and you have something special to give this world.
“I am not alone.”
1 Corinthians 12:26 And when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. 27 Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. 28 And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that, miracles, then gifts of healing, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.
People tell me all the time that problems are just too big and too complicated for me to solve [especially in areas of social justice]. About me personally, in my lifetime, they are probably correct. But they have completely underestimated the body of Christ. There are over 1 billion Catholics (and many more protestants) in the world, and we have been slowly making history for over 2000 years. If you’re naive enough to tell me what we can’t overcome, please review your history books first!
One of my favorite parts of being Catholic is knowing that no matter how big and intractable a problem is, there is surely someone in the Church somewhere who is working to solve it. So I don’t have to solve the problem on my own. I can add my support to my brothers and sisters already chipping away. Life is a long journey. Do not be fooled if the first steps seem insignificant.
“I am needed.”
1 Corinthians 12:21 The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’ 22 On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable.
Once we think about what the body can accomplish, it is tempting just to step aside and let “them” do it. That is not how it works. God chose you to be an indispensable part of that body. You were lovingly and fearfully made so you can say for certain God is calling “you” just as he has called all of us.
“I can do anything with Christ’s help.”
Philippians 4:13 I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
And for anything you really can’t handle, you can turn to Christ. Whatever it is, Christ can handle it. Don’t avoid the rocky paths; He will carry you.
“I am a child of God.”
1 John 3:1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!
Cherished, protected, loved, you are a child of God. What could scare a child of God? What excuses does a child of God have? I leave you with the title that silences all of the voices. “Who Do You Think You Are?” You are a child of God! You are enough. You are all that you ever needed to be. You are more than you ever hoped to become. You are a child of God!
So my challenge to you this post is to be mindful of the voices in your head. Name your fears. Name your excuses so you can answer them all. One by one you can tell them, “I am a child of God!” Now take up the plow again. It is lighter than you think.