Thursday, April 19, 2012
I had a conversation with a friend recently (on the way to IKEA, because that's when all good conversations happen) that I've been mulling over, off and on, ever since. She said something about how God has each of us here, at this particular time and place in history, for a purpose. We weren't born in the 1800s, nor were we around for the Trojan War. We're here now. Now.
The more I think about it, the more I think that this is actually really profound--I'd honestly never considered my existence in this light before.
And I've also been thinking lately about how we now live in an era of moral relativism, where womanhood has become a bit of a lightning rod and where religious views are shifting. Big-time. Did you read the cover story of Newsweek this Easter? Or if you live in Denver, how about the spread in 5280? Sigh. Then just last night, there was a meeting in my city to discuss whether a middle school would be allowed to distribute contraception to students (without parental permission, of course).
It begs the question, how does one express his or her faith lovingly and articulately in this day and age? Because it's no coincidence that you're here. Or that I'm here. And it's no secret that our culture is becoming increasingly post-Christian, and increasingly less tolerant of traditional Judeo-Christian views. (HHS Mandate, anyone?) So we really shouldn't expect anything else--nor should we be surprised--when Christians are labeled intolerant and unenlightened for holding an opinion.
Now most of us are not particularly active in the political sphere, nor are we setting out every day to make our voices heard. (Those things are at odds with my introversion, people.) But we do go to work, attend playgroups, shop for groceries, and dine with friends. And these are all prime opportunities for convictions to surface, whether we want them to or not.
So as I've been thinking, I've come up with five practical ways we can lovingly--and authentically--practice our faith within the context of our culture. It's not always easy engaging with a world that doesn't understand you, but what a blessed opportunity to take advantage of the now.
1.) Live out our calling. I shared here about projecting the image of a woman happy with her vocation. Because I truly believe that if there's one thing the world needs, it's women joyfully embracing womanhood itself. What am I communicating to the world when I'm yelling at my kids, angry and miserable in the Target checkout line? Probably something very different from what I communicate when I'm laughing with my children or simply remaining calm. God's plan for women and motherhood is a beautiful, liberating thing--even amidst the mess and diapers and tears and grass stains--and our world so desperately needs to see that. This is why I try to wear makeup and actual non-pajama clothing when I go places with my seven children. We can thrive as we live out our vocation.
2.) Show up. Hmmm, where have I seen that before? (See cheesy blog title.) It seems obvious to say this, but sometimes simply being who we are is a pretty huge thing. It can be challenging, but I try not to make apologies for having a slew of children, for being Catholic, for rejecting the culture's contraceptive mentality, for thinking adoption is the bee's knees, or for having old-fashioned, outdated, traditional values (oh, the horror!). I am regularly involved in real-life conversations where I'm in the minority on any number of these issues, and while I don't usually (think: ever) spew my opinions, I also try to be me.
3.) Embrace life. Jesus came to bring us life to the full, and if that isn't all-out inspiring, I don't know what is. No matter who we are, or where we're at in life, we can allow ourselves to be open to life in all its forms. How to do that? We can see children as a natural--and beneficial--end of a generous marriage. We can volunteer at a crisis pregnancy center, or become licensed to provide foster care, we can adopt a waiting child (or four), or be genuinely thrilled for a woman with a baby on the way. And, we can simply love those around us--probably the most difficult of all. The culture may do everything in its power to suppress authentic life, but we certainly don't have to.
4.) Love truth. I know I'm stepping on a landmine here when I even suggest that there is such a thing as objective truth. We live in a society that says what's true for you is true, and what's true for me is true--even if they are mutually exclusive claims. I am of the belief, however, that God has made Himself known to us, and that for some things to be true, others must be false. (My Critical Thinking 101 professor would be proud.) Now yes, there is nuance. Yes, there are shades of gray. And oh yes, there is inestimable space for God's mercy amidst our brokenness and despair. But how much more beautiful might our lives be if we truly clung to truth, if we followed after Jesus with a radical obedience, and immersed ourselves in books and words and prayers and relationships that fostered the virtue of faith, on account of the simple fact that they were true?
5.) Be not afraid. These timeless words (belonging to Blessed Pope John Paul II) kind of sum it all up, don't they? It can be intimidating to hold beliefs that don't square with popular public opinion. And more often than not, simply by living our lives, we become a walking endorsement of values that don't always make for polite conversation. People want to know why you did this or believe that. But we can be confident that if we are being charitable and kind, honest and gracious, we can humbly but truthfully give an answer for the hope we have found. It will take some courage, yes, but maybe this is precisely why God has you here, now.
Posted by Brianna Heldt at 6:00 AM