I have always been a fairly good speller, contrary to the 60 I remember receiving on one spelling test in third grade. I had a friend in high school who once spelled “knowledge” beginning with a “g.” She should have gnown better.
“Holiness” seems so far away sometimes. It seems like we have to be perfect in order to get there: pray seven times a day, never get distracted during prayer, give all your possessions to the poor, kneel on rocks for penance, fast every Wednesday and Friday, pray in front of the Blessed Sacrament for at least an hour every day…
Surely I’m not the only one who thought of holiness like that. I thought it was utterly unattainable, something only for the perfect, something I could never even come close to.
All this time, I have been spelling “holiness” the wrong way, and I had been thinking about it the wrong way. I read recently that we might try out a different spelling:
When I think of “whole-ness,” I think of something complete, someone living to their full potential, an entirety of something. I think one of the hardest things for me to realize is that God wants ALL of me. He doesn’t want just the good parts like my prayers, good actions and holy thoughts. But at the same time, He doesn’t want just the bad parts, the aspects of my life that need conversion. No, God wants ALL of me, just the way I am.
This is a terrifying concept.
Why can’t God just want the bad parts so that He can fix them and let me get on with my life? Why can’t he just concentrate on the good parts so I don’t have to expose the wounds of my life? Why can’t God just accept the little bits I give Him and be satisfied with that? Goodness gracious, He’s so demanding, wanting everything. Greedy, even.
Blasphemy? Hopefully not. God wants you desperately, and He doesn’t want just morsels. Don’t tease Him with little tidbits of your life. Don’t throw crumbs down for Him. Don’t torment Him by saying, “You can have everything Lord. Oh, except this thing. And that. And this, don’t touch this. But feel free to have Your way with everything else!” It’s like telling a master painter to paint only with two colors. Can he still make a beautiful masterpiece? Of course. But the beauty of art is in the complexities, and the beauty of us is in our idiosyncrasies and joys, fears and failures, boredom and excitement strengths and hypocrisies.
The Saint that is Just Me.
Danielle Rose has a beautiful song called “The Saint that is Just Me.” I discovered the song years ago, but sometimes I listen to it as if for the first time. She sings my story: I have tried to emulate the saints, hoping at least do one thing like them, but eventually I realized I could stop attempting to masquerade as someone I can never hope to be. As Danielle sings, “You didn’t die so I would try to be somebody else, you died so I could be the saint that is just me.”
As hard as it was for me trying to be Mother Teresa or Catherine of Siena, I have also found it hard to be “the saint that is just me.” I cannot tell you it has been easy. But it’s so freeing. I gave myself permission to not expect a crazy strict prayer life. I allowed myself room to grow and explore the Catholic faith. I questioned the reason the Church says and believes certain things. I asked Jesus to show me who I am.
I’m finding it’s a lifelong process.
I finally learned that to give God everything is to be free. Happy. Joyful. Blessed. It’s a scary leap, a free-fall into God knows what, but we can fall because we know God knows what He’s doing. When a woman finally quits trying to lead the man in dance, she will stop getting stepped on. She can relax and enjoy the beauty of the dance. Giving God everything means allowing Him to lead you in the beautiful motions of life.
God wants all of you. Stop pretending God doesn’t care what you eat for dinner. Next time you wash your laundry, remember that God knows where that sock went. God cares about what books you read and movies you watch, not because He’s a cosmic parental control, but because you are His child and He wants to be in every aspect of your life. He cares that you had a bad dream last night. He knows you were nervous about seeing your ex. He, too, understands that inside joke with your best friend. He was laughing with you.
I challenge you: do not live your life in segments. Don’t put prayer in one little box, separate from hanging out with friends and your job. Did you have a bad day? Offer that to God, along with your distractions. Your emotional struggles affect your prayer life, your physical activity influences your mental health, what you learn on the soccer field can change how you pray. You are one: be who you are. Don’t leave anything out. God accepts it all. It’s about time you started seeing yourself as a whole person, too.