By Amber Kinloch
“This is all I desire: to be where God wants me to be.”Venerable Frederic Baraga (1797-1868) from his November 27, 1833 letter to Rev. Frederick Reese, vicar general of the Cincinnati Diocese.
I often hear people expressing a wish to possess some good quality another has. They wish they were more humble and patient, better at singing, more disciplined, or possessed of a deeper interior life. These comments, voiced with honesty, do not seem to be rooted in envy. Rather, someone is expressing a genuine desire to be better.
But is that desire a good one?
Sometimes it is. We are called to be saints, not mediocre, half-holy souls. We should aspire to be the best we can be, but not for ourselves. Rather, we aspire to be the person God is calling us to be. And here is where the rub comes in.
I might wish to cultivate a deeper interior life like my friend. Indeed, I should try. But I cannot simply imitate my friend in everything. God has traced out a unique path for each one of us, and I must let Him lead me along the path He pleases. Likewise, we should strive to cultivate an appreciation for who and what we are, right here, right now.
Sometimes, our gaze gets riveted on our defects and shortcomings. We regularly lose our temper while a friend is always calm and cheerful. We struggle to mortify our sweet tooth while another apparently has no trouble with passing on dessert. When it comes to serving at our parish, the best we can do is bake goodies for the parish picnic and serve as a lector at Sunday Mass. Meantime, that one lady teaches 4th Grade CCD, heads a Bible study and a knitting group, and serves as an adorer. She does this all while raising a family and looking after her elderly parents.
In comparing ourselves to others and saying, “If only—”, we lose sight of God and the truth of what is.
I would like to be a runner. It seems like such a joy. But my body is not built for running (at least not this current earthly edition). So, I walk. And I enjoy it.
We should aspire to be better in many aspects. But we should not desire to change the essence of who and what we are. We can admire the good qualities in others while appreciating our own selves and being content with who we are and what we have.
The scope and magnificence of one’s virtues and gifts is of no account. St. Thérèse of Lisieux reminds us of this when she writes in her autobiography about the garden of souls.
“Jesus deigned to teach me this mystery. He set before me the book of nature; I understand how all the flowers He has created are beautiful, how the splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the Lily do not take away the perfume of the little violet or the delightful simplicity of the daisy. I understood that if all flowers wanted to be roses, nature would lose her springtime beauty, and the fields would no longer be decked out with little wild flowers.
“And so it is in the world of souls, Jesus’ garden. He willed to create great souls comparable to Lilies and roses, but He has created smaller ones and these must be content to be daisies or violets destined to give joy to God’s glances when He looks down at his feet. Perfection consists in doing His will, in being what He wills us to be.”(The Story of a Soul, p. 14, translated by John Clarke, O.C.D.)
Keep your eyes riveted on God and His Will. He will lead you to become who you’re called to be—a saint.
Meantime, appreciate who and what you are, right here, right now. Write down a list of your good qualities—don’t be shy about it! This isn’t a matter of puffing up your pride, but of honestly assessing yourself. Praise God for all that is admirable about you. It all comes from Him and has been given to you for a purpose that you might manifest His love and glory. Don’t hide that light under a bushel basket.
“But what about my defects?” you might protest. “They’re so obvious and numerous. My good qualities seem very small in comparison.”
Perhaps that is so, but it’s no cause to be discouraged. Everything about you in this moment, this is the material God desires to work with. Already, you are graced with the incomparable dignity of being created in His Image and Likeness. You mirror a unique facet of Him as no one else can. Trust!
Let God work in you and mold you further into the person He desires to be. The process, slow and painful as it is, will be brought to completion, and you will marvel at His work.
So will I.
Amber writes from the bunker of her living room. There she hunkers down with her laptop and a blanket while keeping an eye and ear tuned in to the activity of family life. Music set on loop keeps her energy flowing as she muses on the deeper happenings of ordinary life and what food to restock the fridge with.