Sometimes when I read history – such as the life of Gandhi or the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s – I think of how active and “useful” I would have been in these great non-violent waves against injustice; if only I had been there. Or I think of what a great spokesman for environmental justice I would have been if only I had pursued the graduate studies in marine science I had planned before making my first mission trip to Haiti – a trip that changed the entire course and focus of my life.
These moments of fruitless nostalgia; either for a previous time in our own lives, or for a time unknown to us, are vicious attacks on our souls. For we can become nostalgic for a time or place where we claim we would have made the ultimate sacrifice to God. We can convince ourselves, “If only I had been in that moment or followed that path, I would have changed the world!” But when we honestly look at the simple intentions of these thoughts and feelings we find that they are rooted in ego and not love. We are seeking praise among men and not to praise our God. We want to be the centers of our own universes.
When we speak of ordinariness, God has made no mistakes. We were all “graced” with a time in history, a specific family, and were born into a certain culture and society. These ordinary things are fixed by our Almighty Creator so that we may fulfill His will for our lives. We must undoubtedly accept them and pray for rest within our souls.
During my times of nostalgia, I find my soul to be weary and restless. Then again, there are fleeting moments when I fully accept my ordinariness. In these moments, I find myself to be a quality-time father, a loving husband, a compassionate veterinarian, a seeker of justice. Essentially, I find myself acting as God intended – simply seeking Him rather than the satisfaction of my own ego – and then I find rest. God is then free to work in my life and I am free to be His instrument. When I strive to know the Lord, He uses me to bear great fruit.
Take 10-15 minutes and think about the simple intentions of your heart. Think about the coming small moments of the day. Think of how the Holy Spirit is trying to guide you subtly in a direction toward holiness and a pure heart. Think of how your actions and words can be channeled away from your ego and toward God’s will and fulfillment for your life.
We all have sinful tendencies toward other people in our lives. Think of different ways you can react so that your simple intentions will be rooted in love and not in ego.
God, You are our ground and our origin. We ask that You give us the grace to accept the “givens” of our life and to face the reality of who we truly are, so that we may return with gratitude to an innocence and nakedness that allows us to see, through new eyes, the incommensurable brightness of your creation. We ask this in the name of Jesus, Your Son and our brother. Amen.