Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Selfish, Selfless, Self-Absorbed, Forgetting Yourself

Recently, because I am wont to participate in Facebook joking and teasing, I teased a friend about her status update. I can't remember it exactly but it had something to do with being childlike vs. being childish. I made a joke about farts or something. She challenged me to come up with an example of being childlike. I was stumped. But I didn't let it go. I've been thinking about it ever since.

Since I enjoy referring to my own work, I will say that it made me think about what I wrote about my childhood memories. There was something there that I couldn't articulate that seemed to contain the very essence of being childlike. The Bible encourages us to have a childlike faith. What does this mean? In my most reflective times--doing dishes, giving and taking baths--I've found myself thinking about it.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about the contradiction that is professed by modern culture. We laud people for being heroic. We also tell people that it's important to have "me-time" everyday. While I don't think the two are mutually exclusive, I think it's difficult to strike a constant balance. Perhaps we aren't meant to. Perhaps we're incapable of constant balance. We are not programmable after all. We are human and prone to sloth and pride. We can overdo being heroic and we can overdo our "me time."

It occurred to me, however, that the way to best balance being heroic with taking care of our needs is to forget one's self. We naturally learn how to protect ourself from hurt, embarrassment and discomfort from early on. Think of how it felt the first time you exuberantly waved back to someone across a distance only to realize they were waving to someone behind you. EMBARRASSING!! This might seem pithy, but I feel like it's a good example of how we learn to protect ourselves from early on.

We cannot appear too zealous or excited about things if other people aren't going to return that zeal or excitement. But children can. My little kids retain the ability to be unselfconscious about their interests. They aren't interested in whether or not I share this excitement, they only want me to listen to their descriptions.

It is this kind of zeal that is necessary for conversion--for constant conversion, for I believe it is a dynamic process. We are constantly being called into closer and closer relationship with God. Whether or not we are responding is what furthers or retards that growth. If we are able to forget ourselves and follow that call we will receive faith in kind. We will grow and mature as Christians. But it is not easy to continually grow closer to God. We will have changing appetites. We will want different things than friends and family who aren't in the same process.

Sharing about that growth requires vulnerability. It requires us to overcome the potential feeling of looking behind us and seeing the actual person who was being waved at. Overcoming the rush of embarrassment when others laugh at our lack of self-awareness. Because becoming more and more consumed with God means we become less and less consumed with ourselves. We will be putting many other things before our "me time" and we will want more of what God wants for us.

So when I think of what it might be like to have a childlike faith it is this: being able to go into your world, your vocation, every day with a foolish grin and a quick, responsive wave to every person that crosses your path--be it a wide, public path or a small, private path. It might even be addressing them by name even if they don't know yours. It is this kind of self-forgetfulness that enables us to want the good grace of God for others and to be able to be transmittors of that good grace.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Six Kids, Catholic

So says Jim Gaffigan. In the spirit of the only equality I can provide my children, I decided to move my blog from this address--heavily influenced by the first born's name--and make it an entirely selfish affair over at

Delphi's Tricks: Old and New

I think she is on the verge of learning how to climb out of her crib. This always makes for difficult nap time. One of her other tricks is to get all settled in her bed and then take a giant poop. This was what she was up to today. And now she won't settle back down for a snooze. It's a matter of waiting to see who is more stubborn--her or her mother.

She delights her sisters with a new trick. When someone is mean to her she points her chubby little finger at them and says, "Mean!" Everyone squeals. The problem is that they enjoy it so much that they hit her--though softly--and annoy her to try to get her to pronounce them as such.

She is definitely at that stage where most things she does can be considered cute and her older sisters are enamored with her. She does, however, remind me of that little poem by Longfellow:

There was a little girl,
Who had a little curl,
Right in the middle of her forehead.
When she was good,
She was very good indeed,
But when she was bad she was horrid.

It's all true except the curl. She can charm us first thing in the morning and then sneak into her sisters' bedroom and wreck all their Legos and Rainbow Loom creations. This is followed by wailing and gnashing of teeth. There are sometimes pronouncements about her existence--whether or not it is desired--and there is always another sister who gets blamed for leaving the door open. It is a vicious cycle.

The thing that I most appreciate about this sibling love, though, is how Delphina can inspire Stella to burst out into proclamations of love and devotion. "Delphi, you are the cutest!" or, "Delphina, I just love you SO MUCH!" I'm sure she will do the same for Dominic. However, it has taken her three siblings to get to the point where she can truly love with selflessness. It is a beautiful thing to witness. I'm especially thankful because sometimes Stella can be on the grumpy side and Delphina has the power to draw her out of her funk. I don't have to bribe her or send her to her room to pout, she need only be disarmed by the mere being of Delphina. By far the best of her tricks.