reconciling things

“Allow it all to happen: beauty and terror…” Rilke

As I grate cheese by hand, “You know the store sells cheese that is already grated, right?”

As I chop piles of vegetables for fermenting, “Why don’t you own a food processor?”

As I light dozens of candles in the evening, “Why don’t you just turn on the lights?”

As I mix herbs and store them in jars and soak them in vodka to use later, “You know there is such a thing as Advil?”

My choices are not always the easy ones, the quick ones, or the convenient ones. However, I am far from being the self-sufficient die-hard. I like my hot showers, my WiFi, and my Kitchen Aid mixer. Yet, often I find myself doing things the inconvenient way. And I like it. I choose it. I wouldn’t trade it, even if you offered to buy me a microwave.

I had dinner out with one of my teenage sons last night. I love those longish car rides when we just talk about anything and everything. I asked him why he wasn’t interested in a certain youth activity much anymore. He said it was because they try too hard to be cool and to appeal to teens. “They try to make everything fun. I mean, if we were doing something boring like praying the Rosary, I would be there for that. But, trying to make religion into something entertaining doesn’t interest me. I can play games at home.”

“Say the Holy Rosary. Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary’s which purifies the monotony of your sins!” (St. Josemaria Escriva)

My heart was so convicted. Yes, it is true. We were not given a very convenient religion that caters to our feelings, the trends, or that cares about being cool. Christianity has never been perceived as relevant by the world. Which is precisely why the world needs it.

If I were looking for something convenient to believe, I would choose something with less fasting, Sunday obligations, and doctrines about sin and hell. Honestly, who wouldn’t want to go to brunch and a movie on Sundays? I mean, really, if one were not compelled and convinced of the truth of this, why bother? It’s a hard thing. And so inconvenient.

Meanwhile, everything else in our lives is so very convenient. From our packaged-and-ready-made-food, to curbside pick-up of our Wal-mart orders, to valet parking to paying bills in my pajamas at midnight. (Heck, I remember the days when I had to take the electric bill into the bill-paying-place and actually stand in line to pay a bill!) We stream our church services while sitting on our sofas with our morning cup of joe. We work remotely with Zoom meetings only having to get dressed from the waist up! Really our lives have become a step away from the opening scenes of Wall-E, sitting on our fat asses, being moved by intuitive electronic chairs, and taking our food in scientifically prepared super formulas.

As I meditated on this I thought about how the easier we make life, the more easily it could be perceived as less than beautiful. I think beauty and inconvenience may be a match made on earth to fit us for heaven.

“If only we arrange our life according to that principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful.” (Rilke)

And, “To love is good, too: love being difficult. For one human being to love another: that is perhaps the most difficult of all our tasks, the ultimate, the last test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation.” (Rilke)

And as I meditated on this I thought about how the more we try to avoid difficult things the more tiny things that require even the smallest effort start to feel very heavy. It reminded me of this paragraph from Merton’s Seven Storey Mountain, “Indeed, the truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering, the more you suffer, because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you, in proportion to your fear of being hurt. The one who does most to avoid suffering is, in the end, the one who suffers most: and his suffering comes to him from things so little and so trivial that one can say that it is no longer objective at all. It is his own existence, his own being, that is at once the subject and the source of his pain, and his very existence and consciousness is his greatest torture.”

There are many things that are difficult—such as loving our enemies and turning the other cheek and praying without ceasing. To hold to that which is difficult, I feel like a good place to start might be to just start embracing small inconveniences without whining about how difficult my life is. Maybe before I am perfected in love I could tie a less complicated knot—like making my bed faithfully each day and taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Maybe a thousand yeses to tiny things might amount to moulding my soul into a better vessel of love, better fit for heaven and for a sign of contradiction here on earth.

(I asked a question on my Instagram, “What is something inconvenient in your life that you keep that way?” Lots of fun answers, which I will put in the story highlights.)

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