Monday, October 28, 2013

When the Gopsel Punches You in the Face

So it's my last week teaching 7th grade.

I was very fortunate to pick up a long-term sub position at an excellent Catholic Academy just outside of Washington, DC.  Over the past 8 weeks, I've been dying to write, but have scarcely had the time.

Teaching boot camp, as I've fondly been calling it, has been a wonderful experience. I will tell you all about it another time and how much it has changed me, stretched me, awakened me.

I mention it now to explain my lack of blogs. I feel certain you can smell the chalk all over me and might realize I've forgotten my name is Amanda, after being called Miss Hamilton a million times.

But this week. This Sunday. My gosh. I have to share this. It's burning in my heart and I can't sleep.

I've spoken to a few friends about how deeply the Gospel struck me in mass this past Sunday.  I felt as if I'd been sleeping for a long time, and woke up hanging from the reins of a horse off the top of a sky scraper (yes, just like in the movie "true lies"). It was a wake-up call; one that I hope to experience every day for the rest of my life.

We read the contrasting story of the Pharisee and the Tax collector. It's short so I will post it here:

Luke 18:9-14

9 He spoke the following parable to some people who prided themselves on being upright and despised everyone else,
10 'Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax collector.
11 The Pharisee stood there and said this prayer to himself, "I thank you, God, that I am not grasping, unjust, adulterous like everyone else, and particularly that I am not like this tax collector here.
12 I fast twice a week; I pay tithes on all I get."
13 The tax collector stood some distance away, not daring even to raise his eyes to heaven; but he beat his breast and said, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner."
14 This man, I tell you, went home again justified; the other did not. For everyone who raises himself upwill be humbled, but anyone who humbles himself will be raised up.'

I stood there as it was read.
I listened intently.
I felt blood rush to my cheeks.
My stomach dropped.
I felt ashamed.

I am like the Pharisee.


I am so often like the Pharisee in this parable.

It humbled me to reflect on how many times I had prayed the same words: "Thank you, God, that I am not like those people."

I know. I'm embarrassed. I should be.

Those with poor educations. Those with addictions. Those with low self esteems or terrible friends. The list could go on.

Somehow I had slipped into the disorder of affirming my own life by pitying the misfortunes of others. This is not sanctified. This is not loving. I doubt God is pleased to hear any sentiment that begins with, "At least I am not blah blah blah."

As I sat down mortified, I thought of the tax collector. He did not even dare to raise his eyes to Heaven.

I believe we are all the Pharisee; I believe we are all the tax collector.

As often as I am prideful, hypocritical and selfish.... I am also my harshest critic. I'm keenly aware of my faults. We all are.

It is a genuine desire for God that brings us to this place in the middle. Walking the line between confidence and pride, for me, is like a tight rope.

There is nothing wrong with thanking God for our lives.  I doubt I will ever look upon someone less fortunate without a deeper appreciation for my own life welling up inside me.  Deep gratitude for our existence is essential for joy to conquer.

But to judge ourselves compared to other people; to see others as less holy; as less deserving of God's love, or even our own time or attention...this is unacceptable.

May I never use the phrase, "At least I am this," or "at least I am not that," ever again.

That attitude sells me short. It sells humanity short. Most of all, it puts some sort of measurement on God's grace, which has no limit.

I don't want the "least" of anything. Not in friendship, not in my career, not in love.

I don't want to offer God enough to feel good; to feel like it's enough.

I want Him to take everything I have. Take my best. Take my most.

He will show me the woman I can be when I let Him in.

The Priest summed it up well. Sinners go to Church. Our presence there is no great token to God.

May our hearts always be honest before Him. May our prayers only be, "God, I beg for your mercy, " instead of, "God, I'm awesome and I showed up so everyone else can see."

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