I’m going to have to start this blog with a small confession. When it comes to dating, my approach has been notoriously ineffective. Don’t worry, this blog isn’t about dating. But for a single man in his thirties, I have decided it is time to be more intentional about changing my approach. I’ve taken a good look at the things I do, and with a little reluctance, I’ve started trying some new habits.
How is it going? Well, I have succeeded in pushing myself out of my comfort zone. I have successfully upturned the delicate balance of time and commitments in my life, and that has effectively driven me a little bit crazy. Growth! So far so good.
A few years back, I might not have taken this in such stride, but I know what I am good at. When it comes to dating, I’m working on it. When it comes to personal growth, I’ve got that down pat. About five years ago I was a reclusive, workaholic with severe social anxiety. That wasn’t fun – I changed that. About four years ago I was a middle pew protestant with a much less fervent spirituality. I was missing out on so much – I changed that. About two years ago I was over weight and in rather poor health. I didn’t like it – I changed that.
None of those changes were easy. In their own way, they each forced me to leave my comfort zone and patiently preserver through awkward new things. But this initial struggle was vital in making me the person I am today, and today I am convicted that those changes were partial steps towards making me the person God wants me to be. Isn’t that what Catholicism is all about?
Sometimes we call it “Formation”. Sometimes we call it “Discernment”. Sometimes we call it “Metanioa”. The Catholic faith is a process perhaps a struggle to turn our lives and our selves inside out to become something different. God is calling us (all of us) to become saints. If you’re anything like me, you’re not their yet. Well first off all, relax because every sinner has a future… Now stop relaxing because growth is hard work!
In every journey, the first step is to understand your destination. Our father has a grand and unique plan for you and your sainthood. He will gladly share it with you but you may have trouble hearing him. Usually because we hear everyone but God. The loudest voice we hear is usually what everyone else wants us to be. Our friends, our family, our culture all have many subtle and unsubtle ways of impressing upon us their expectations. Then we also hear our own concupiscence. How can we hear God over the sound of our own self-centered desires. Then we hear our own self-doubt. Everyone has their inner voice telling them they must be and what they can never be. God has a bigger vision we can be anything through he who gives us faith.
But if you learn to tune all of these voices out you can also hear God’s voice. Saint Ignatius developed some good tests to chose God’s voice from the others. God’s voice is the call that leads your life towards Faith, Hope and Charity. When you sin, God’s voice is the one that warns you not to become complacent. You were meant for more than a life of sin. When your growth becomes a struggle to preserver God’s voice is the one that comforts and reassures you. God’s voice alone can tell you who you are meant to be.
If that were the hardest part, this blog would be called “finding yourself”. Hearing God’s call is just the beginning. God wants to change your life. Let’s not pretend this isn’t an overwhelming task. Perhaps this is why there seem to be more Catholics who hear the call and get lost along the way than those who reach sainthood. When a task is too big to wrap your head around, break it into pieces you can handle. If there is anything my many changes have taught me its that changing your life starts with changing your habits.
To break myself free of my depression I had to learn new mental habits and new ways to thinking. I had to try new my social habits to meet new people. To lose weight I had to develop new habits of exercise and radically change my dietary habits. To grow in my new faith I had to develop the habit of spending more time with the sacraments and more time reflecting on where God was in my life.
What habits make you a saint? The church is blessed with a multitude of saints to venerate each with a multitude of habits to venerate. Here are a few I believe are important.
- Be mindful of your thoughts
- Avoid anger and judgment
- Avoid worrying about what you can not change
- Practice Non-Dualistic thinking
- Educate yourselves about the needs of those around you; especially those on the margins
- Study the scriptures
- Study the documents of the church
- Study the saints
- Study good theological material
- Take part in the Sacraments
- Perform acts of Charity regularly
- Work for peace and justice
- Live simply
- Spend time in silence
- Make you work an offering to God
- Practice asking for forgiveness
- Love your neighbor
- Trust in God
- Don’t lose hope
- Keep your intentions pure
- Be Joyful
This is just my list. It is no where near complete, and I would love for you to share your contributions in the comments below. But the real question is, what habit is God asking you to take up? Where in your life are you still not quite the person God wants you to be? What is your next step towards sainthood?
My challenge to you is to take just one new habit God is calling for you. Sinners do not become saints overnight, but no matter how long it takes God will give you the strength to persevere. He will be calling you. He will be loving you. Together you can become who you where always meant to be.