Being Over Doing: A Story of a Youth Minister and Graduate Student
I’m always amazed by my inability to discern my needs and desires; how I might even violently protest against what’s actually best for my heart, body, mind, and soul in a given moment. This resistance normally arises when I have an endless to-do list and I falsely believe I don’t have the time to be present in relationship with God, my friends, and myself. In moments of busyness, I morph into a pragmatic machine, quickly moving from one task to the next, as if I believe accomplishment is the pinnacle of human flourishing. But what happens when there are no more tasks to complete; no more goals to chase after? Who am I when I have nothing left to do?
This describes a sliver of how I felt when Helen mentioned that we have a retreat scheduled for the weekend of February 12-14. My heart slightly panicked as my grad school assignments and work items circled in my mind, “When am I going to write my paper for Psychopathology? I still need to record a talk for my Youth Confirmation program and read a couple hundred pages for my Therapy and Vocational Counseling classes. I definitely cannot go on retreat now!” Being the most recent addition to the Lisieux House, I was unaware of our scheduled retreat with the SOLT Sisters in Ballard and wasn’t prepared with my school and work load to take a weekend off and be with the Lord and community. Instead of voicing my concerns and anxieties, I thought of Mother Teresa’s famous quote, “If you are busy, pray twice as much”. I swallowed my concern and knew, in the long run, I needed a weekend away from my busy and demanding schedule to reside in God’s love next to my sisters in Christ. I am immensely grateful how I resisted the temptation to view myself as a human-doing instead of a human-being.
The Catholic Church wisely uplifts the contemplative vocation as the highest good on earth because it most perfectly exemplifies life in the next world to come. Contemplation forces us to be, which can be quite difficult if you’re like me and you often put your worth and identity in what you accomplish and produce. Jesus and the teachings of the Catholic Church constantly affirm that we don’t have to earn the love and grace of God. We don’t have to accomplish and perform to receive good gifts. Contemplation invites me into my identity as a child of God.
On retreat, the Spirit led me to Psalm 131, “I do not busy myself with great matters, with things too sublime for me. Rather, I have stilled my soul, hushed it like a weaned child. Like a weaned child on its mother’s lap, so is my soul within me.” I often see my troubled and distressed self reflected back to me in a baby crying, when their Mother briefly leaves the room, or in a toddler throwing a fit in a grocery store because their parents won’t grant them their most pressing desire. I’ll jokingly say in my head “I get it” to their sudden bursts of emotion. From my own upbringing, I felt like I had to earn the love of my parents, I had to work in order for connection to be present. I’ll project this false belief onto my relationship with God the Father, especially when I’m busy. I’ll withhold my tears and tantrums from the Lord, believing in my mind that He doesn’t want to receive the tangles of my heart. But on retreat, the Lord simply wanted to hold and console my tired and troubled soul, as a Mother comforts her distressed infant. My failures, mistakes, and missteps are like a baby dropping their binky on the floor or spitting up on their Mother’s shirt. They are very small hurdles when faced with love. When I am confused, lost, and filled with anxiety, I am still held by the all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-loving Triune God who can easily and swiftly clean up my mess, like a Mother smiling with delight in the messiness of their children.