In a world where many of us are trying so hard to make a name for ourselves, worrying about how to present ourselves properly, seeking to be loved and accepted by others, I have heard and personally seen many people who gave up. They gave up in different ways, some to the extreme of taking their own lives, some just chose not to care anymore. Let us be honest, many people — including ourselves at times — are tired of always trying to present themselves in ways that are attractive and appealing to others while risking the loss of their own true identity and self-knowledge of who they truly are. Therefore, the journey of self-discovery has always been an integral and foundational one for humanity, and especially for us as Christians, both a communal and personal effort.
First, we are a people of history. We know where we come from humanly speaking. But much more important than that, it is important that we know where we come from biblically, theologically, and soteriologically speaking! Those three fancy words simply mean to say that we are not a product of our own making or self-identification. We were made, formed, loved into being, and given life by the Almighty. We are not products of some random or coincidental chances, for each and every one of us has a history that begins with God. Even before we were formed in our mother’s womb, He knows, loves, and wills us into being with His providential grace. Therefore, our history is one theocentric and grace-filled, and that is why we can only understand and know who we are in light of His love for us. Who we are and what we are called to become have to be understood in relationship to Him who has willed, watched, and guided us in our life journey. We can spend our whole life trying to figure out what we want to be by ourselves, but we will just end up wearing different facades, masks, and self-made instruments to present ourselves to everyone else as we think they would like us to be without knowing who we truly are. To truly love is to be who we are and to love as God loves!
Nevertheless, to truly love ourselves as God loves us is easier said than done. We are so scared of loving ourselves in all its vulnerability, helplessness, and transparency. As a matter of fact, too many of us rather spent a lot of time and effort to present ourselves as someone else more powerful, influential, attractive, or manipulative than our very own identity and self as we truly are! Since our ego is fragile, it constantly tells us to add self-made layers to make ourselves look bigger and more appealing so as to be better than what we think we are. Yet, this is the irony. We spent so much time running away from loving and accepting who we really are, created in the image and likeness of God, in order to create other forms that leave us empty and unhappy. Many hate themselves because of their own doings; therefore; to love one’s self as he or she truly is, that takes a lot of grace, courage, and trust. This self-knowledge and acceptance go beyond our egocentric sexual identity, career prospectus, financial security, success gauge, influential sphere, or power play. The saints have taught us this reality over and over again, yet it is so hard for us to truly understand and make it our own! Our prayer should be, “Lord, what is your will for me? How can I love, seek, and be with you more each day?” To seek His will, to love His will, and to live His will is what it means to be saints, to be holy, and to be joyful, content, and happy in the midst of our daily trials. This is the will that He has revealed to us through the Scriptures, salvation history, and in our own daily prayers.
What the Lord has revealed to us through creation, divine revelation, and personal prayers has to become internalized and enlivened. Our prayerful and daily discernment has to be grounded and balanced with what He has revealed through salvation history and divine revelation, especially in the holy texts of the Sacred Scriptures. We cannot simply think this is what He wants us to do and do we like because that often ends up being the projection of our agendas and plans! We also have to align our own will with what He has revealed and taught through the Church’s Holy Tradition and the lives of the saints. They are real, enduring, and holy examples of what it means to follow the divine will with humble hearts. If we do all things well but lack humility and genuineness in front of God, we ultimately end up serving our own self and can easily be manipulated by the evil one. Yet, with humility and rightful discernment of our daily actions with what He has revealed in the Scriptures and Tradition, as well as the lives of the saints, we can learn from genuine teachings and examples of what it means to be good sons and daughters of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ chose to become one of us, to live like us in all things but sin, as to show us what it truly means to be and live as children of God our Heavenly Father. He shows us through His own life what it means to love and to serve, especially to give the real, personal, intimate, and sacrificial gift of self for the greater good of all, not just the self-centered demands of being loved and being served. If we really want to know what it means to be children of God, beloved sons and daughters of the Most High, look at our own Lord’s life examples. He did not just love those who are like-minded, amicable, or agreeable, He also loved those who were different, forgotten, and abandoned. He was direct to those who were arrogant and full of themselves, but merciful and patient for those who were genuinely humble and contrite of heart. Often times, we think to be happy is to have everything right and according to our ways, Christ showed us that true happiness is found in seeking, loving, and living the will of our Heavenly Father. This is our true consolation, source of hope, and strength in bearing the trials, obstacles, and sufferings of this world.
We do have a choice… We can continue to choose to go through life with the same ol’ attitude and letting ourselves be stuck in our own meaningless monotony or we can take the time to slow down, reflect, understand, and embrace the divine presence of God in each and every moment, person, and encounter. It is perfectly fine to step away from the usual things in order to spend and waste time well with God! We understand who we truly are when we spend the time to listen, understand, and receive from the One who created and loved us into being. Life is meaningful and full of teaching moments if we understand that nothing is coincidental, for everything is providential! We find meaning and can be a source of blessing when we understand that we are not some random objects, instruments, or pieces that make things go along or only to exist only to do certain tasks, but that we are called and meant for greater things that can only be understood in and through the Creator of our very beings and Lover of our hearts.
When we spend time well with God, we will understand things better and be more at peace with ourselves. The things of this world tend to agitate, make us lose our peace, or just end up being “bland” after a while, that is why we need to go deeper in order to seek the savoriness and depth of beauties from the Lord. Other people will think of us funny because they will never think of prayer and spending time with God as the solution or answer to what is going in their lives. They will think that it is a waste of time and one can do better if he or she just finds the right tool, right person, or right method to overcome whatever is going on right now. Many will think that there are better things to do or better solutions to seek than to do something spiritual. Yet, at the end of the day, how many people can truly say that they are happy, content, and at peace with themselves with whatever solution(s) they have found for themselves? All the things that people have medicated or tried for themselves often ended up satisfying them for a short moment (if not causing more problems or are detrimental to them). Perhaps the one solution that many had overlooked, dismissed, or thought to be ineffective is the most effective of all! We can choose to be like leaves being carried by the torrents of this world or finding ourselves anchored in the almighty and loving God.
Every time we pray, we learn to reflect and discern all things through the lens of faith as we try to understand all things through the original purpose, meaning, mission, and vocation given to us by the Creator. We become bored and cynical when we are lost without knowing what is real, true, and transcendental than the things that are around us! Yet, when we take the time to pray, willing to reflect, know, and discern all things in God, we become more at peace with ourselves and others. Even though the small inconveniences will still bother us from time to time, we can find our peace in Him in the midst of all the usual things that surround us. Our faith teaches us that peace is not simply about having things our way or a lack of violence and war, but the personal, intimate, and deep sense of rest, being loved, and belonging to One who is always with us. As with all good and qualitative things in this world, we need time to bring what is surrounding us to maturity with patience and prayerful discernment. That means that it will take time (while we naturally want things immediately in our own timing) so we all need to learn to patiently trust, prayerfully hope, and lovingly discern all things in accordance to the will of God. This goes back to the essential trust and personal knowledge of not how or what needs to be done, but who do we trust and love! Therefore, all these things can only be answered when we spend the time to get to know the Lord through prayer by using all things to lift up our hearts from the mundaneness of this world and to spend time well in seeking, loving, and living His will for us.
Wishing you and your loved ones a blessed Christmas! May the joy of Christmas strengthen and deepen your commitment to love Christ every day. May the joy of the Incarnated Word enlighten the darkness of your present trials (and sufferings) so you and I can know what it truly means to live in the goodness and love of God. May we emulate Christ‘s charity and imitate His love for the Father‘s will. May the peace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with each and every one of you.
A blessed and merry Christmas to all!