Jessica Ptomey contemplates how the spiritual life requires more of us -- all we have to give.
The liturgical year has circled round. We find ourselves once again on the Lenten journey, but probably not walking the same path. If you are like me, you might have started preparing for the season by thinking back to what penances and sacrifices you made last year. Often when I do this, I realize that the present holds something different, that the Lord is inviting me to something more. There is always a new work God wants to do in me and through me; and this new work usually requires more of me, never less. Why?
“Nothing less than the whole is good enough for God,” says one Benedictine nun toward the close of Rumor Godden’s masterful novel, In this House of Brede.
The temptation to think that we have arrived, that the spiritual life is all downhill from here is quite real. We often complete a difficult spiritual assignment and think to ourselves: Ah, back to the way things were before; back to my place of comfort. But it’s never back, is it? Indeed, we may try to return, but we find things changed … find ourselves changed. It’s as if we have been stretched and are unable to retract back to feel at home in our previous state and surroundings.
Sometimes this frustrates us. We were looking forward to returning to the place of comfort that we had remembered after the hard work of spiritual growth came to an end. We can forget that God was using that time of stretching quite intentionally, to draw us close to Him. And when we are with Him, beholding him, we are “being changed into His likeness” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It’s then no wonder that we find the old comforts lacking, that the old places don’t fit as we imagined they would. It’s because we, in our new likeness, no longer fit in them. We have given God a bit more of ourselves, and we can’t go back to less. But we cannot maintain the status quo either. Once we have given more and have seen God transform that gift of self into such goodness, we suddenly realize that we have still more of ourselves to give, more of ourselves to be transformed.
The more God transforms our selfishness, the more we see our lacking areas of generosity. The more God extinguishes anger or hatred, the more we see the ways that we fail to love. The more the Father reveals himself, the more we see our poor reflection of that image. The more the Son makes real to us his sacrifice, the more we see how much we have to offer on the altar as well. The more we hear the Spirit’s voice, the more we recognize the noise around us and inside us that needs to be silenced.
The Lenten journey reminds us that we are in fact on a continual journey to heaven, and we aren’t ready for heaven until we have given our whole selves to God. During this Lent, embrace the knowledge that God wants more of you, that He ultimately wants all of you, and hold nothing back. You will have to give things up, but those gifts are investments in your eternal inheritance. You will be stretched beyond your comfortable spaces, but you will find new places made for you. As you offer more of yourself, more of yourself will be transformed. You will be changed into His likeness, one step closer to being ready to meet Him face to face.
Copyright 2021 Jessica Ptomey
Image: Jon Tyson (2019), Unsplash
About the Author
Jessica Ptomey, Ph.D., is a Catholic convert, wife, mom, writer, communications scholar and professor, and homeschooler. She blogs at JessicaPtomey.com. She is the author of Home in the Church: Living an Embodied Catholic Faith, and her research in inter-faith dialogue has been published in the Journal of Communication and Religion (JCR). She is also the co-host, with her husband Mike, of The Catholic Reading Challenge podcast.