C.S. Lewis writes, It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
I stumbled across this powerful quote today and it startled me. In the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, retreatants looks at the concept of being lukewarm Christians. We are either hot or cold; there should be no in-between. C.S. Lewis suggests we are not zealous enough.We are half-hearted creatures who distract ourselves with the unimportant, who stay in the familiar because the unknown frightens us. We are content to remain with what we know rather than risk everything. We numb our emotions with alcohol, sex, and work rather than face the demons that pursue us. We are steps away from infinite joy but sit in the mud puddle, pretending we are happy.
I have no idea how many months I have left to embrace infinite joy. I do know that I still sometimes play in the mud puddle instead of choosing the holiday at the sea. Those who know me, know that I love the ocean; this landlocked prairie girl escapes often to the coast to breathe in deeply the salt air and walk along the shore. The days whiz by and I worry that I am whittling away chances to leave behind legacies that count, grasp opportunities that inspire, and share moments that will be lasting memories. Stop playing in the mud! I am not yet in a full panic but some days I wonder if I need to go to that meeting or why I have not yet been outside my home.
Recently after mass, I had an encounter with two women. The one is mentally ill and she does not yet know my diagnosis. I want to find the right time to tell her so that she can process it properly. She came up while I was talking to the other woman and asked me for a ride home. I informed her I was not heading home that night. The second woman made a comment that intimated that I was going to play in the mud puddle. The woman who is on the fringe of society went to Jesus-mode. She assumed that I was going out with friends and said that was nice. She told me that I looked great and she was glad that I was better. The other woman laughed at her the whole time, disrespecting her. She did not yet know the truth either. I could feel myself getting angry because she did not recognize the pile of dirt she was standing in as she mocked the woman who was being kind to me. Not only are we half-hearted people, but sometimes we are also mean-hearted bullies.
God offers us infinite joy. We cannot always rise from our mud piles to go to the sea. We not only fool around we fool ourselves into believing we are not worthy enough to move beyond the slum and reside at the beach. We settle. We let fear win. We stay stuck in the slums instead of stroll by the sea. This Lent, maybe it is time to choose differently. This Lent, say I am worthy of infinite joy. I am done fooling around. Enough with the sex, the food, the drink, the ambition, fame, or whatever it is that keeps us in bondage. I want freedom from the mire and claim the liberation of infinite joy. I want that to be my strong desire. I choose the good–the greater good for all, not the selfish good for me which really is not a good. Broaden my imagination, God, and expand my horizons.
What mud pie is keeping you in the mire?
How will you choose infinite joy?
God of the vast sea, invite us to come and stay. Help us to leave the mire of the mud puddle and to embrace the infinite joy that you gift us. Amen.