Navigating the Maze

Sometimes in life we get too wrapped up in our daily problems. I forgot to get the mail! I need to pick her up from school! Where did I put my keys? If you’re anything like me, some tiny little problems can turn into overblown dramas. They will grow so big that they occupy all of our time, mind, and heart. We become so involved in the things right in front of us that we forget to see the big picture! I will shamefully describe one of the more recent times this has happened to me. 

I am currently studying abroad and staying with a host family. They are the sweetest couple, if a bit strict. The woman especially, is probably the most neat and organized person in the world! I remember one day coming home from classes feeling absolutely exhausted, I looked like a deflated balloon. I trudged into my room, threw my things aside and dropped in bed like a rock. The next morning I woke up rested and refreshed but discovered to my horror that I had forgotten to take off my make-up! There were black and red smudges on the otherwise pristine sheets. I was freaking out, my heart raced and in a hurry I tiptoed to the bathroom, I grabbed some toilet paper and a little soap. I began to scrub furiously and reciting prayers with every movement. Finally, the stains began to fade, until they were no longer there! I let out a huge sigh of relief.

What’s wrong with this picture? It took up every part of my mind and left me in a pit of worry and anxiety. For fifteen minutes I thought of absolutely nothing else but what was right in front of me, the smudges of make-up. Now you might say, she exaggerated. It’s just a tiny little stain! I have to admit it as well, I reacted as if the building was on fire or as if there was a snake in my bed. The curious thing is, for fifteen minutes, this little problem enveloped my life. Now how often does it happen to most of us that we concentrate all of our time and energy on minuscule problems? How often do we take a step back and put everything in perspective? Let’s imagine a bigger problem than the make-up, how about breaking up with someone? How about passing a final exam? How about working towards a promotion? If you think about it from a human’s point of view, these obstacles are tall and terrifying. They tower over the mightiest of humans.

How about we see these situations from God’s point of view ? In his infinite omnipotence, he looks down on us, all 7.125 billion of us. He sees our everyday struggles. He notices our interactions with other people and the daily snags that arise from a normal day. In truth however, I believe He sees his beloved sons and daughters. He gives us life, He gives us blessings we do not deserve, He showers the Earth with love, and then He takes back the life He has given us. Even though we are nothing compared to Him, even though we are the size of ants, God pays attention to us. He is anticipating the day when we will join Him in heaven. What do we do in response? We keep our gaze fixed on the ground, on what matters only temporarily. For Him, time is nothing, He is infinite, He is the creator of time! For God, material riches are nothing, He can create or destroy them in the blink of an eye! For God, all that matters is that from the moment we are born to the moment we die, we keep our sights set on heaven. That we never lose sight of who we belong to, of where we come from and where we must go back to. We tend to forget that our lives last less than a lit match in the eyes of God. 

That is why it’s important to take a step back at least once a day and think, truly think, “Is what I’m doing at this very moment leading me to GOD?” If the answer is yes, then please continue! If the answer is no, you might want to rethink the activity you are engaged in. Act on straightening your path quickly, as we do not have much time on this earth. If you ever feel stressed, depressed, angry, or lonely about a situation, take a step back. Think a bit about the grand scheme of things, will this matter in twenty years? Forty? Is this problem as big as it seems? If the problem or obstacle or facing seems terrifying, you might want to consider asking the one person that can help you out, the One that sees it as a tiny little blip, you might want to ask God. Ask Him about your decisions, ask Him about problems you are facing, ask Him about that person who is hurting you. 


It is easier of we imagine it like this. Imagine that life is a maze, there is one entrance and one exit. You know if you reach the exit you will succeed! So there is no time for distractions. You start navigating this complicated maze and you realize that you have the help of a friend! He is standing over the maze and he can see everything, including your position and the exit. If it was me I would immediately ask my friend for some guidance, he knows where I should go! If I follow his advice I will be on the right path to the exit. Now isn’t it interesting to think that many people choose to not listen to their friend? They insist on doing it their way, they insist on bumping into the same corner and getting stuck. 

Many of us go through life dismissing God and his advice. We try to navigate this maze by ourselves, not caring if our one true friend knows the answer and is ready to help us. We may even get stuck in front of a wall and start panicking because the wall is huge! How can we ever surpass it? How can I ever get into this college, get another job, forgive my brother, quit smoking, etc? 

In summary, when life has got you down: 1. Put it all into perspective 2. Ask God for help and guidance 3. Listen to his advice! (He is only the most intelligent being in the universe after all)  

 See? Now does that parking ticket still seem like a big deal?

The Common Cold of Christians: Spiritual Drought

If you’re anything like me, you have probably experienced what is called a spiritual drought. It is a period when we feel we are separated from God, and that He does not hear us. It is in these droughts where we feel we speak to a wall when we pray. Do you ever have the feeling in Mass, that you look around and you feel that praying is silly? It’s a terrible thing to feel, to think that when we are speaking from the heart, no one is listening. As if God has hung up the phone and gone for a walk. Maybe he isn’t listening, you may think. Maybe he doesn’t care, after all I am just one of seven billion. How can he listen to my minuscule worries when he has so much to do?

 

 First off, the first thing to know is that in these times is when God is especially attuned to you. He listens, he knows what you are going through. He feels the weight that presses on your shoulders and the troubles that make you weary. He knows because he created you. You are not alone in feeling like this. Even Mother Theresa, an emblem of the Catholic Church, wrote in her letters about feeling as if God didn’t exist. Imagine that!  A saint that was having trouble communicating with God. This happens to every Christian at one time or another in their life. It is a preparation of God for better things. It is a test of faith and love. In the end, He will appreciate the times when you prayed even though you felt unheard. He will know of the times that you attended Mass even though you felt it to be pointless. It is then that you will be closest to understanding what true faith means, what true loyalty to Jesus Christ entails. Remember in the garden of Gethsemane when He was praying to God to rid him of his responsibility? There he too felt that God was turning a deaf ear. See, feeling like this is completely normal! But how to fix it?

1. Pray pray pray

Never in our lives do we need prayer more than during spiritual droughts. Pray when you don’t want to, especially when you don’t want to. Pray with obstinacy and never forget that there is the One that listens. 

2. Virgin Mary= your BFF

You know how Jesus told the Virgin Mary that she was your mother? And that we are her children? That wasn’t for nothing you know! There is no one that wants you to get to heaven more than Mary. She is your coach and your #1 fan! Talk to her about what you’re feeling as you would talk about it to your mom. Ask her for advice and guidance, eventually she will show you the way.

These are the best solutions I can think of to cure spiritual drought, just remember that it happens to the best of us, even to Jesus Christ! Remember to never lose faith and be sure that once you traverse and conquer this difficult time in your life, you will again feel God’s grace! You will feel His presence like never before, be sure of it.

You’re a Virgin? Marvelous!

Now probably this was not the response you were expecting to obtain, bashfully you awaited stares and inquiries about your inexperience. Most likely you would have heard things like “oh, I wish I had waited,” or “Is it a religious thing?” Maybe even some nasty smirks aimed your way.

Well now, you can proudly state that yes, indeed you are a virgin. Here’s why.

I grew up in a tiny town, where truly the only option was to attend a public high school. My freshman year I awaited eagerly for what, according to Hollywood, would be the best time of my life. I remember the first year being overwhelmed with all the changes in scenery, I had no idea that I would encounter such differences in lifestyle! I came from a small, Catholic middle school, where really cursing was the most rebellious thing we could do. Now, entering a public high school seemed incredible and awe-inspiring. For the first time in my life, I began to socialize with people that weren’t Catholic.  As high school progressed, so did my awareness of the activities that were considered “fun” in my school. Sneaking out of the house, attending parties laden with the excitement of obtained alcohol, smoking, and finally, what I like to call, “The Pointless Race.” The pointless race is easy enough to understand, everyone was pushing the limits to see how far they could get with their boyfriend or girlfriend. Everyone “raced” to achieve more and more sexually with their partner. Excited gaggles of girls gossiped throughout campus about their latest “achievements.” Guys hung around with swagger boasting about how many girls they’d been able to get in bed.

At this point, I started asking myself, “for what?”

I started wondering if maybe I was the weird one for staying a virgin. Was there something wrong with me? Shouldn’t I have some experience too? To this day I am incredibly grateful to God for having carried me through high school safe and sound, I thank him everyday that I did not lose my virginity.

But what’s the big fuss about? Why is your v-card as they say, so important? What’s the big deal?

Trying to explain the big deal about virginity is like trying to explain what the big deal about Nutella is, or pizza, only a million times more! It’s incredible! It’s beautiful! It’s an absolute gift! More than anything, it’s an honor.

First, let’s think about sex. The popular view today is that sex is nothing more meaningful than scratching an itch. Sex seems to be a way to let off steam, a way to pass the time and have fun for a while. It is actually, a 1,000,000% percent more meaningful than that. See, when God created man and woman, he made us so that we could fit perfectly with each other. Think about common acts of physical affection: hugs, kisses, pats on the back. Think about how wonderful it feels to hug the right person, to get a kiss on your forehead from your mom, to get a pat in the back from your dad. This was created intentionally, so that we could love others and show them not just by words, but by actions.

When thinking of sex picture it as the closest any two people can get. How beautiful that this was made to be a supreme act of love for the person you choose. You go beyond kisses and hugs and you give this person your body, you give them the gift of you. How wonderful would it feel that you are their first, and that they are yours. How wonderful would it feel on that wedding night, that your husband or wife resisted all manner of temptations and mockery so that you could be the first one? That they resisted the waves of racy ads on the media,  casual sex in TV shows, “How to have a successful one-night stand” articles in magazines.

To further reflect on this, think about the passage in the bible:

So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” Mathew 19:6

 See? When you finally find the woman that inspires you, the woman that makes you happy, you will have saved yourself only for her, you have given her the gift of waiting, of purity. For girls, when you finally find the man that you want to spend the rest of your life with, you two will become one. When God has joined you, you will engage in the most physical expression of love and devotion. Because in the end, sex is meant to be a beautiful and pure act, that is how God intended it. 

So when they ask you if you are a virgin? Now you can say “yes!” with pride and honor.

So Why Be Religious?

This is my first blog ever, and yes I am freaking out. Either only my cat Peanut will read this, or maybe a few more people will. If a few more people decide to read it, well I just want to let you know why I made this blog. I made this blog because a few years ago an old man shakily poured water on me, muttered some words, and then proceeded to rub oil on my forehead. Yes, extremely strange ritual. No, I was not being inducted into a secret club, no I was not being cooked for dinner. As it happens, I was becoming a member of the Catholic Church.

Well, jeez that seems to have mixed meanings nowadays doesn’t it? It really isn’t that cool to be religious. Honestly it seems better to sleep in on Sundays than to wake up early and go to 10:30 mass, so again the big question: why be religious?

Picture it like this: you are incredibly thirsty. It’s a hot day and you need a cold glass of water. Everyone around you is suffering from the sweltering heat as well, no one knows why everyone is thirsty, it’s just that everyone is! So you look to your right and you see three stands. In the first one is a set of beautiful wine cups filled with sand! Several people are standing around it pouring the sand into their mouths. Astonished, you ask “Why would you drink sand to quench your thirst?” And they start to explain how the sand is actually better than water, how “everyone” is drinking sand nowadays. Why would you drink water anyway? You stare dumbfounded at these people, and then you start to notice how actually this stand seems pretty full, and pretty freaking popular for a glass of sand! Then you walk further and you see a stand full of posters and picture frames, you step closer and realize that every single picture contains water. People are hungrily staring at the pictures and some are even tilting them into their mouths as if the water might pop out of the paper. Again, you cannot believe your eyes, but some in the stand proceed to explain how if you stare at the picture, you cease to be thirsty. “If you believe it, you can achieve it” they say. But you start to wonder if staring at a photo of a waterfall is really the solution? Maybe, since so man people seem to be doing it! They seem satisfied don’t they? You walk on a bit further and now the crowd is definitely thinning out. “This must be even wackier than the first two” you think. So you  arrive at the third stand and realize there are only a few people standing around it. Hesitantly, you look to the contents of the stall, and what do you see? Water! Endless glasses of clean, fresh water. In an excited hurry, you run to the other stands to announce an end to their problems, but they don’t seem to listen. Why not? Why is everyone pursuing a temporary solution to their lack of water?

This is what it means to be religious. Although I was baptized at birth, I often found myself wandering among the first two stalls. Catholicism, God mainly, is the only thing that will truly end that longing inside. It seems so obvious now that I  some of the water. But usually, and not logically at all, I go back to drinking sand. Why? Sand distracts me from the need of drinking water. Why? Everyone is drinking sand, I am afraid to be seen drinking water. Although I understand why water is the solution to my thirst, I am embarrassed to explain it.

That is why God is important, that is why Christianity matters. For those of us who have been lucky enough to visit the third stand, we can no longer go back to drinking sand or staring at stock photos of lakes..

So why be religious? Because at last, in the never-ending desert, you have found solace. Finally you found water.