Go In, Go Out

The following reflection comes from my book, The Sun and Moon Over Assisi. Before April of 2013, I had not read it since I wrote it in 1999. At the end of the essay, I ask myself more than a dozen questions that all sought a “yes” answer. I struck out on all the questions. More than a dozen years later, I may, on a good day, give a positive answer to perhaps three, maybe four, of the questions. Progress along the spiritual road is slower than a jammed LA freeway.

I’m torn. Discordant currents within me pull me in many different directions. This hardly makes me unique. Humans are steeped in complexity, loaded with strengths and weaknesses, gifted with vast potential and plagued with severe limitations. Tensions are a natural part of life. I want to write books, which is an internal, solitary act of contemplation, and I also want to make films, which is an external, communal for of action. I once felt a desire to work in a soup kitchen, a desire that stood in opposition to another desire I had, to be a hermit devoted to prayer. When I’m reading a book on spirituality or theology, I feel as if I should be feeding the hungry. The other day I was running an errand for an elderly, feeble neighbor, and while doing so pages from unread books danced in my head. How do I find balance and harmony?

People are always talking about the importance of unity, either within families or communities or the workplace. Forget that stuff – how do I find unity within myself? God seems to be telling me that I need to be still. But I also feel God wants me to change, to move into a new reality of life. The call to conversion implies the continual need to grow, to change. More tension. Change is always stressful. Even a casual reading of the lives of the saints tells me I must face the darkness in order to experience the light. Christ, being fully human, also lives a life of tension and contradiction. While hanging and dying on the cross, Christ became the apex of contradiction: promising the fullness of life in the barrenness of a cruel death.

St. Francis saw God in the tensions and conflicting forces within himself. He accepted his own complexity, and created something new and fresh for himself. He responded to the Christ he saw in everyone by living a life for others. But he also paid attention to his need for solitude by finding (or making) a time and place for withdrawal so he could enter fully into contemplative prayer. He was able to do this because he centered his life on Christ, listening to and experiencing both the suffering Messiah and the risen Lord in his daily life. Christ himself went into the marketplace, preaching and curing the sick, and he also went into the desert, praying and seeking the will of the Father. Francis found unity for his life by imitating the life of Christ.

Is there another way? I don’t think so…at least for me. But I am not sure I have the courage and strength to imitate Christ. Am I able to be content with what I have? Can I rejoice in the way things are this very moment, whether good or bad? Am I capable of not acting in anger when I am wronged? Can I avoid nursing a grudge? Can I bear injuries patiently? Can I pray for my enemies? Am I willing to put the needs of the poor ahead of my own selfish desires? Can I treasure chastity and shun arrogance? Am I ready to bury jealousy and envy? Can I avoid grumbling or speaking ill of others? Can I stop engaging in foolish, idle chatter and immoderate behavior? Can I rid my heart of all deceit? Can I acknowledge my own sinfulness? Am I willing to devote myself to prayer? Can I place all my hope and trust in God alone?

Can I say yes to any of those questions?

No.

God give me the strength to turn my “no” into “yes,” to turn my old ways into your ways. Help me say yes to You, yes to Life.

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4 Responses to “Go In, Go Out”


  1. 1 greatart3923 April 18, 2013 at 8:10 am

    How weak and limited we are – even as we are offered the grace and strength of our God whose profound love makes all things possible. Wrestling with this tension is our human condition. Thank you for articulating your questions. We need to ask these every day.

  2. 2 sheradac April 18, 2013 at 9:21 am

    I just said YES to them all. I have 7 years sobriety in AA. We work the 12 Steps together in the fellowship of AA. I think it is called accountability. I do not think these kinds of spiritual gift come from prayer. I think you need to go out into the world…get hurt…Just like Jesus did..but you need the support of a fellowship where all are doing the same thing. AA is unique. Sherada

    ________________________________

  3. 3 aliceny April 18, 2013 at 9:35 am

    That is a formidable list of questions for any human being to answer – even if one were given a lifetime to do so. It would be possible, I think, if we sought and accepted the gift of God’s healing Grace. I confess that I fall each and every day, but through that Grace I am able to get to my feet and continue on.

    Perhaps I am missing the point here, but is God really asking us to achieve absolute perfection in the comparatively short time that we have?
    My understanding of Scripture and of my own unfolding spirituality is how much I love God and how I treat my fellow human beings. As I understand Jesus’ teachings, those were the two criteria that He stressed.

    I looked at each of the questions carefully and, I hope, objectively. In complete naked honesty, I could answer ‘yes’ to only four! I think the answer to all or most of the questions is the last one: ‘Can I place all my hope and trust in God alone?”

    Thank you for the much-needed ‘tune up,’ in my 80,000 mile checkup, Mr. Straub.

  4. 4 Rev. Paul McKay April 20, 2013 at 7:17 am

    We definitely live in the paradoxes, in all the tension, feeling pushed and pulled here and yonder, between the good and the bad, the saintly and the sinful. So very well said as always, Gerry. Blessings on you.


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