Category : Transformation

Small green seedling in the ground
Conversion, Human Dignity, Love, Metanoia, Transformation
0

Perfect

If there was one thing you could (magically, effortlessly) change about yourself, what would it be?

Play along: come up with one thing.  Perhaps it’s…

  • developing virtuous habits (and eliminating unhealthy ones)
  • addressing some physical characteristic (in the realm of body image or ability)
  • acquiring a desired talent

Sit with your answer.  What does it tell you about yourself?

  • Is it just for fun?
  • Does it have to do with something you struggle with?
  • How does it relate to your personal goals?  Hopes?  Dreams?

  • What does it tell you about where you are on the spectrum between self-love and self-loathing?

In the lifelong journey of growth and change, there is usually some thing or another that we are working on improving.  This is good.  However, there is a legitimate concern for our spiritual well-being insomuch as how we treat ourselves in the process.

You are a child of God, created in God’s image and likeness.

Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. Let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the tame animals, all the wild animals, and all the creatures that crawl on the earth.  God created humankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1:26-27)

  • When it comes to the things about yourself that you want to change, do you honor the image of God within?  Do you treat yourself with the love and respect that the image of God deserves?  

Healthy self-love appreciates the goodness that is.  It is from a place of love, not hate, that we are called to conversion – or metanoia.

In the reflection “Just Paint Over It,” I referenced the Greek word metanoia while discussing the transforming process of forgiveness.  Metanoia [pronounced meta-noy-ah] translates as “a change of heart.” Meaning a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Too often, however, we can be overly critical of ourselves in a way which is neither helpful nor loving.  There is a fine line between goals that motivate and the expectation of nothing less than perfection that can shut a person down.

The need for perfection.

There are two times that the word “perfect” appears in the gospels, both in the Gospel According to Matthew.  The first is in Matthew 5:48, which is the part of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus discusses Love of Enemies.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? Do not the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brothers only, what is unusual about that? Do not the pagans do the same? So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Matthew 5:43-48)

The Mount of Beatitudes and The Sea of Galilee

The second appears in Matthew 19:21 within the story of The Rich Young Man.

Now someone approached him and said, “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?”  He answered him, “Why do you ask me about the good? There is only One who is good.  If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.”  He asked him, “Which ones?” And Jesus replied, “‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; honor your father and your mother’; and ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” The young man said to him, “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this statement, he went away sad, for he had many possessions. (Matthew 19:16-22)

If you wish to be perfect…

In reality, there is always room for improvement.   If we think we are all done with the personal/spiritual growth thing (as if to say: “I have arrived”), we are reminded that our work is never complete.It is then, that Jesus will say to us:

If you wish to be perfect…

It’s the all-or-nothing extremes that are useless.  Unhelpful.  Paralyzing.  In no way does Jesus insinuate that this rigid interpretation of perfection is what we are to aim for.

Growth—change—is a process.  Metanoia is a “turning” away from something (sinful) and towards God (who is wholeness, life, and truth).

Think about the self-improvement / growth things that you are working on in your life.  Do you treat yourself with love in the process of turning?  Or do you become overly critical and hateful about perceived failures?  Because that “hateful” thing is not what Jesus would do.

To move beyond my own struggle with perfectionism, I found it helpful to redefine “perfect” as functioning at my best, right now.  For me that implies being my best and doing my best in the present moment, while looking to take the next step to become better.

The “next step” is an important concept in overcoming paralyzing perfectionism, because it recognizes the space between the “reality of now” and the “ideal” or “goal.”  And in order for it to function, the “next step” should be realistic.  Small.  Doable.

And then celebrate the success.  And build upon it.  Because that is perfect.

You are not now what you were… You are not now what you will be when God has perfected you.                  – St. Vincent de Paul


If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Harvesting grapes
Humility, Scripture, Suffering, Transformation
9

A Worker in the Vineyard

Think about a time in your own life when you were pretty much at your (emotional/spiritual) rock-bottom low.  What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time?  How did that insight come about?  Who or what helped make that happen?

My own lowest-low time came when I was 24 years old.  Just three weeks short of what would have been my first wedding anniversary, my spouse never came home one evening, which in itself was significant, but it was a pressing concern because we had plans to drive to his sister’s for an overnight visit.  Upon returning close to midnight, he casually responded to an offhand remark I made by revealing that he didn’t want to be married, had never wanted to get married, and thought we should just “break-up.”

And just like that, life as I knew it changed forever.  Once I recovered from the shock and came to understand that there was no chance of reconciling, I picked up the shattered pieces of my life and vowed to learn, fix, heal, and ultimately become a better, stronger, and more whole person.

One of the most difficult pieces of this process was coming to terms with my own Crisis of Faith.  I was a theology teacher—teaching New Testament Scripture to high school sophomores—at the time.  I had a Bachelor’s degree in theology.  I was not only committed to my Catholic, Christian faith, but I had specific, poignant conversations with my estranged spouse during our 17 month engagement about the Sacrament of Marriage, about the Covenant which we would be entering into, and about how divorce was not an option.  Not for me, anyhow.

An excellent therapist helped me dissect the unhealthy dynamics and patterns which led to this whole situation, but I was still left with the God question:

I had responded to God’s call to be a teacher of faith.
I had given my life to God.
How could God have allowed this to happen to me?

broodingWhen I returned to my classroom after taking a week off to get my head together, I told my students that I was “going through a difficult time,” which was an understatement, but it was all that I could muster.  It was incredibly difficult to be teaching about the faith when I was so very angry, confused, hurt, and broken in my own relationship with God.

So it was in this context when I happened to assign a Critical Thinking Reflection on the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable (Matthew 20:1-16).

Jesus told his disciples this parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.  After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard.   Going out about nine o’clock, the landowner saw others standing idle in the marketplace, and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard, and I will give you what is just.’  So they went off.  And he went out again around noon, and around three o’clock, and did likewise.  Going out about five o’clock, the landowner found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’  They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’  He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’ Grapes in a Vineyard When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  When those who had started about five o’clock came, each received the usual daily wage.  So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more, but each of them also got the usual wage.  And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last ones worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us, who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’ He said to one of them in reply, ‘My friend, I am not cheating you.  Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?  Take what is yours and go.  What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?  Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?   Are you envious because I am generous?’  Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As I facilitated a class discussion with the 15 year olds, one kid raised his hand and earnestly asked:

I just don’t understand how this is fair.  How can it be ok to give the same amount to all-day workers and those that only worked an hour?

Still a novice teacher at the time, instead of prompting him to think it through or asking other classmates to respond, I sought to answer his question directly.  And when I did, I heard the truth that God was trying to speak to me come out of my own mouth:

The workers think they “deserve” something more because of their efforts, but that’s not how God works.  We don’t earn it.  God’s Kingdom is offered to us, and we either say yes or no.   God loves, gives, and forgives with generosity. 

Or are you envious because God is generous?

The kid paused for a moment and said “Hmm, I never thought about it like that”.  And there I am standing in front of a class of 36 students, apparently continuing to facilitate a discussion, thinking to myself, “Me neither, kid… me neither”.

How could God have allowed this to happen to me?

Yep.  I thought I “deserved something more” because of my efforts.  I couldn’t believe I actually had a sense of entitlement.  With God.

The last will be first and the first will be last.

It’s like when we were in elementary school and would race to be first in line (for almost everything).  There was actually a sense of superiority that being first had for those at the front.  As an adult, I see how juvenile the need to be first was; I mean we’d all be going to the same place.  I can imagine how frustrated God must get with us for fixating on this juvenile need, and then getting all irate at the perceived injustice of someone “cutting in line.”

With greater humility, I began to look at my situation, which was honestly the consequence of actions.  God’s care, concern, and presence enveloped me in the network of support from friends and family.

Just as my divorce and annulment were a turning point in my personal journey, this insight from the “Workers in the Vineyard” parable was a turning point in my faith.

This was my story.  This was my insight.  This was my process.  How about you?

And so I conclude as I began: 


  • Think about a difficult time in your own life. 
  • What insight did you gain about life and faith from that difficult time? 
  • How did that insight come about? 
  • Who or what helped make that happen?


“Harvesting Grapes © Depositphotos.com/Bunyos30″

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Sanding
Action, Projects, Transformation
2

Take the Time to Do the Prep Work

I am a project person.  From brainstorming to execution to reveling in the completed product, I love projects, especially the home-improvement, crafty, organizational ones.  I think what I love most, however, is how much I have learned through doing projects.  I’m not talking about the technical stuff, either.  What I’m talking about is wisdom.

About four months ago, I decided to refinish some old, tired looking patio furniture from IKEA.

Originally purchased eight years ago, the set fit the necessary criteria: it had a TABLE and CHAIRS that we could AFFORD, and it was STURDY (at least sturdier than the plastic stuff).  Neither ugly nor attractive (nor comfortable), we never really enjoyed the set.  And after we got nicer stuff, it was pushed to the margins of the yard, somewhat functional, but hardly used.

Refinishing the set was going to be a four-step process:

  1. Clean and Sand the Wood
  2. Prime with an oil-based paint
  3. Decoratively paint
  4. Finish with polyurethane

In all honesty, I don’t necessarily enjoy every part of every step in any given project.  Specifically, I neither enjoy cleaning years of caked on dirt and spider webs nor do I like sanding.  But if there’s one thing you cannot skip it’s the prep-work.

Taking the time to do the prep work always pays off in the long run.

In the case of this project, I begrudgingly admitted to my insistent husband that yes, I wanted to avoid frustration when it came time to paint the chairs, and yes, I wanted my efforts to be long-lasting, so yes, I would take the time to clean and sand the wood.  Yes, I would properly prime everything with the smelly, difficult-to-clean oil based paint.

In reality, “taking the time to do the prep work” applies to practically every aspect of our lives.  Take the “PIES” model of self-examination: Physical, Intellectual, Emotional, Spiritual.

  • Physically, when we don’t properly warm up or train, slowly building up to the goal, we are more prone to hurt ourselves.
  • Intellectually, when we don’t do the necessary reading or studying in preparation for a class or a meeting, the parties involved experience the frustration of wasted time, and the failure to perform can have ever-widening implications on our jobs, our reputation with others, and even in our personal integrity.
  • Emotionally, taking the time to do the prep work can impact our ability to truly be in the present moment.  Sometimes this is about coming to terms with where we are in the process of “change.” Other times, this is about working through “differences.”  Acknowledging and attending to emotions helps us to be more present to one another in the situation at hand, rather than being fixated on the past or the future.
  • Spiritually, taking the time to do the prep work is about cultivating ourselves as people of justice.  Spiritual prep work is about developing the moral character to be good people who do the right thing.  It’s about becoming a person who means it when they pray, “Thy will be done.”  It’s about setting aside the time to be with God in prayer while reflecting on life.  It’s about aligning our whole selves with the folks to whom Jesus says, “Come, inherit the kingdom…For I was hungry and you gave me food.” (Matthew 25:34-35).
When we take the time to do the prep work, the finished product doesn’t just look awesome.  It is awesome.  Through and through.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In what areas of your life do you take the time to do the prep work?  In what areas do you need to be more attentive?  How have you noticed the difference prep work makes in your own life?

“Plank preparation with sanding sponge © Depositphotos.com/simazoran”

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
Drip Painting
Hope, Joy, Projects, Sabbath, Transformation
4

Just Paint Over It

For the longest time, I really didn’t have a discernable hobby.  I mean I’ve always enjoyed doing lots (and lots and lots) of different things, but I never felt like I had a concentrated focus on any activity or interest to consider it my answer to what I would do for pleasure or relaxation.

Many of my closest friends and family members (especially my husband) would readily agree that the lack of doing something purely for pleasure or relaxation has been kind of a problem for me.  I don’t know if anyone ever bluntly told me to “go find a hobby.” Maybe they should’ve.  Hmm… Actually, I probably would’ve responded with, “I don’t have time,” which is evidently exactly why I needed one.  But I digress.

Several years ago, I discovered paint-your-own-pottery.  I loved the creative process.  I loved that so long as I approached painting like I was a 9 year old coloring a picture, it turned out pretty cool looking.  AND, I loved that I could use it in my daily life.


Painted Mug 1
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 2
Painted Mug 4

Painted Mug 3
Painted Mug 6

After a while, however, I found that paint-your-own-pottery was getting pretty expensive.  And really, how many mugs, plates, bowls, and light-switch plates does a girl need?  Well, over the course of 10+ years, it amounts to quite a bit of both: cost and stuff.

While excitedly working on painting a replacement tea mug, I mentioned my creative joy and my stumbling blocks to my friend, Stacey.  I wanted to do “this kind of thing” more often, but didn’t want the excessive cost or stuff.  She suggested: “Try painting on paper, just for the fun of it.  No one even has to see it if you don’t want them to.”

So I did try.  Twice.  Instead of feeling excitement, relaxation, and pleasure, I was filled with anxiety, completely stressed out about what I was supposed to paint and why.  The process itself was tainted by the fact that I genuinely didn’t like what I painted.  Moreover, I really did want to do something with it.  There was something about the overall purpose of the creation that generated joy for me.

Shortly after these failed attempts at making painting itself a hobby, Stacey’s sister Sara offered her own version of “Pinot and Picasso,” where she taught my group of girlfriends how to paint our own copy of a work of art with step-by-step instructions.  In case you missed it in the class title, there was also a promise of wine, so I was in.

Intimidated even further by the thought of painting on canvas, I hesitated at every step.  Then Sara said something that changed my whole approach to painting:

If you don’t like something, just paint over it.

How freeing!

This insight allowed me to experiment without hesitation.  I had infinite do-over’s.  If something didn’t work, I could just try again, and again, and again until I liked it.  Sometimes that meant starting over.  Sometimes it meant painting over the one spot that wasn’t working.  It removed the pressure of feeling like I had to have the whole thing perfectly planned out before I even started.  Or feeling like it was ruined by one little (or big) mistake.

As a proactive person, I don’t ever want to feel stuck in a complaining rut.  I’d much rather feel empowered to do something about it.  With this just paint over it insight, instead of feeling bound by a choice my attitude became one of exploring the possibilities.

What a wonderful approach to all of life!  If you don’t like something, just paint over it.  As I looked around at my house, my relationships, my work, and inward at myself, this insight became one of transformation.  Don’t trash it; don’t brush it under the carpet and ignore it.  If I didn’t like something, I could transform it.

The very idea of transformation cultivates hope.

In faith, this is the transformation that is linked to forgiveness.  The Greek word for what happens in the transforming process of forgiveness is metanoia.  It is a change of heart, a conversion where the person turns away from what is destructive, hurtful, hateful, and instead turns towards God.

Turning towards God involves

  • forgiving oneself and transforming one’s own character
  • forgiving others, seeking forgiveness from others, and transforming relationships
  • seeking forgiveness from God and becoming transformed.

Put another way, metanoia is about

  • becoming more (and more and more) of a good person
  • doing what is right
  • acting with love
  • helping others
  • Looking around your own life, what would you like to just paint over and transform?

Drip painting by Justin Green licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

If you enjoyed this post, Please Share

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Delicious
  • LinkedIn
  • StumbleUpon
  • Add to favorites
  • Email
  • RSS
Read More
1 2