Lara Patangan argues against our culture's message that where you are now is not good enough for God.
Every January we are inundated with messages of losing weight to prepare our bodies for summer as if it's as complicated as training for an Olympic sport instead of simply shedding coats and slipping on shorts. To be considered “ready” we are encouraged to lose weight, pump iron, and color ourselves caramel.
The message is clear. The preparation is all-important. Where you are now is clearly not good enough. You aren’t worthy of summer vacay unless, until, all that urgent striving sculpts you into the picturesque airbrushed model on the magazine cover who hasn’t eaten in three years and works out five hours a day.
I don’t know if it’s more demoralizing or depraved, but many of us buy into this if-then mentality. We do it in an array of scenarios: organizing our house before we can host friends, getting the promotion before we can pride ourselves on a job well done, or securing the relationship before we cement our self-worth. The perception that our arrival is more important than our pursuit is most damaging in our relationships with God. We often think where we are in our spiritual journey defines how much we please him, how much he loves us, and how worthy we are of his mercy.
Like the cover-girl clad in a bikini, we create a Christian ideal of what our faith life is supposed to look like. While intended to inspire us, it can become a deterrent in our relationship with God when we fail to measure up. We think because we don’t participate in Bible study, attend daily Mass, or volunteer weekly, then God thinks we are the equivalent of a pale slacker who needs to hide under her cover-up.
Yet God isn’t about the perfect but the persistent. He loves our trying. He loves that we want to even if it doesn’t always translate into "we did it." He loves it when we stay on our spiritual journeys even when we keep taking the wrong path.
Too often, we hesitate in our relationships with God because we aren’t where we know we ought to be – where we want to be. We get so focused on getting there that we forget that we are loved right here. We forget His mercy that covers the gaps. We forget the way He delights in our desire for Him.
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going … But I believe my desire to please you does, in fact, please you … I trust you always though I may seem to be lost … I will not fear for you are ever with me. (Thomas Merton, The Seven Storey Mountain)
We don’t need to fear that we aren’t where we desire to be in our relationships with God. It is wasted energy that distracts us from the pursuit of our longing. When we get caught up in the idealized version of Christianity, it’s easy to think it’s too hard, life’s too short, and we will never get “there.” We forget that in our humanity, none of us get anywhere without the mercy and grace God gifts us along the path.
Our spiritual journeys will no doubt meander, but our willingness to put one foot in front of the other despite the season of our lives is paramount. It won’t always be a day at the beach but it isn’t required to look a certain way either. There is no getting ready, only our getting going -- knowing that every step of the way we are right where we are supposed to be, pasty skin and all.
Copyright 2021 Lara Patangan
Image: Canva Pro
About the Author
In lieu of a more regrettable mid-life crisis, Lara Patangan, a freelance writer and mother of two boys, spent a year doing works of mercy that unlike aging promised to defy gravity. She has been writing about the life-changing power of mercy ever since. Her first book, Simple Mercies: How the Works of Mercy Bring Peace and Fulfillment will be published by Our Sunday Visitor in May. Please visit her blog, MercyMatters.net, to join this community that believes in the power of mercy to change the world.