A while back I was talking to someone I didn’t know very well at a social event, and she offhandedly mentioned that she’d recently suspected that she was pregnant. She said she was relieved to find out that she wasn’t, but that if she ever were to get pregnant she’d have an abortion without a second thought. I was sort of nodding politely, not sure what to say, when she caught me completely off guard. “Why do you guys [Catholics] believe that’s wrong?” she asked sincerely. “I’d honestly like to know.”
Whoa! I had no idea what to say. We only had a few moments to chat. I didn’t even know where to start. I wished I had some sort of “DIE TO SELF” button I could push to instantly rid myself of ego and sinfulness so that whatever I said would be pure Holy Spirit, that my shadow wouldn’t block out God’s light, so to speak. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a button like that at my disposal and I ended up stammering an overly complicated version of why I used to be pro-choice but now am pro-life. It was kind of a mess.
Of course I’ve thought about that conversation many times since then, thinking of all the great things I could have said that might lead this nice girl to consider exploring the pro-life point of view a bit more. I’ve been assuring myself that it was fine, that maybe the Holy Spirit might have worked through my rambling response in some mysterious way…but that never really sounded right. I realized after a similar occasion this week that what is more likely is this: the Holy Spirit did not work through me nearly as much as it could have. This occurrence and others like it were definitely prime opportunities to share the love and peace of God with other people…but instead I shared mostly the ego and talkativeness of Jen.
At that time I’d fallen into an apathetic mentality that I was a “good person” so therefore I didn’t need to worry too much about spiritual growth. I held on to this vague notion that since most of my sins were “small stuff” like a little gossip or anger or sloth here and there, I really didn’t even have that much to worry about. Was I anywhere remotely close to being as Christ-like as people like St. Francis of Assisi or St. Josephine Bakhita? Nah. But, oh well, I thought. I have a lot on my plate, maybe I’ll work on being more saintly some other time.
It was when I thought of how many missed opportunities I’ve had, how often I probably could have been a conduit for another person to experience God but blocked out his presence with my own ego and sins, that I realized how serious it really is. Of course ideally I should hate all sin simply for the fact that it is a betrayal of God and his infinite love and goodness…but, to be honest, I’m not spiritually mature enough for that to resonate with me on a gut level. It’s surprisingly easy to forget about that whole “offending God” thing and not worry about taking my spiritual growth to the next level, patting myself on the back because I’m not a thief or a murderer and I even use the f-word less often than I used to.
But then I think: what if I had achieved great spiritual growth at the time that girl asked me about abortion? What if I were in a state of great peace and closeness to God when I got into that conversation with the bank tellers last month about why I am no longer an atheist, or when the nurse at the doctors office told me she’s a lapsed Catholic and asked why I go to a Catholic church, or when that atheist relative of mine asked me to recommend some books about religion?
Every time I’m tempted to pat myself on the back and not worry so much about “small” things like being a little lazy or angry or gluttonous or uncharitable, I think of those occasions and others like them. If working hard becoming a saint, at being as Christ-like as possible, would mean that God is able to add even a little bit more of his love to the world through me, any amount of effort is worth it.
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