Sunday, September 23, 2018


I’ve spent the past two years trying to remove things from my life--dieting, selling cars, getting rid of possessions, cutting expenses, and focusing less on loose relationships and more on a small core of friends and family.

This was partly done out of a self-diagnosed need. In the case of my diet, I was 15 pounds overweight. While that doesn’t sound like a big number, my clothes weren’t fitting comfortably anymore. It was time to either make a change or buy new clothes, and clothing isn’t very high on my list of spending priorities--especially when an ongoing basement project provided more interesting ways to spend money.

The past two years have also been in response to the struggles I could see in the people around me. I knew people who needed to lose weight, had too many vehicles, homes overstuffed with possessions. These people had grown very comfortable with indulging their vices, and I wanted them to embrace a necessary and beneficial turmoil in order to turn their lives around. In some cases, I had been outspoken and critical with these people, and I wanted to use my response as not only an example--if you want someone else to basically turn their life upside down, you should be willing to accept your own challenge--but also as a means of removing the plank from my own eye. And while the latter reason served only myself and the former reason was expensively explained to be a wasted effort when dealing with adults, I am at least able to enjoy what I would think are the obvious benefits of having a more regulated life.

Yet, in all of my efforts to remove excess from my life, I did not put any energy towards finding a focus. I withdrew from one side without reaching out on the other. And that is not to say that I haven’t taken steps to expand my life--leading a Discipleship group, embracing the joy that comes (for me) from cooking, and consciously seeking to add partners to my inspection business--I hadn’t actually made any sort of strategic goal(s). Who do I want to be, and how can I use my resources to become that person?

A lack of goals leads to a combination of a lack of well-defined priorities and priorities which are out of order. This has become more and more obvious as the cause of the symptoms I’ve spent two years attempting to treat, as effort in and of itself--even when the effort is effective, such as successfully losing weight--is little more than flailing when you don’t have an established goal. This is like living a life based solely on the action-focused tenets of the ten commandments--yes, it’s good not to murder your neighbor, steal his goat, and get his wife pregnant. Those are pretty universally understood as good things to avoid, yet knowing what not to do is not the same as having a goal and directing resources towards that goal. If you indulge yourself to the point that you spend all day looking at your phone, chasing a sports team, or diving into a selfish and reclusive hobby, these actions can be just as destructive towards becoming the best version of yourself as, say, wasting your life in prison because you killed someone. Lesser evils are still evils.

I find myself looking to my own understanding of my faith to find who I should be. I’ve gone to church for 36 years now, and when I ask myself “what should a Catholic look like?”, I see a sheep. It’s an image that is used both as an example in gospel readings, and as an insult used by critics of Christianity and Catholicism. So, if not a sheep, then what? When I hear Jesus’ words, I don’t hear a man who wanted to make people into sheep. I hear a man who wanted to make a million copies of himself, and to have those million make a million of themselves. Nature dictates that this isn’t a personality-removing goal, as no two people can become Jesus in the same way. And it’s one of the last dissident things left to do, as there’s nothing so truly contrarian as living a virtuous life in a world where the material rewards are found in selfish action.

That doesn’t answer the resources issue--and holy hell does it leave out a few details--but it does establish a target on the horizon. So let the afflicted be comforted, and the comfortable be afflicted. Let’s find a place where we can share this walk together.

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