Sunday, August 13, 2017


I'm seeing a negative tendency of mine surface again; I'll call it hypercompetence. I don't mean by this a special giftedness. I mean a tendency I have to mentally and emotionally take on what I perceive as problems caused by, or poised to happen as a result of, the incompetence of people around me, whose responsibilities they actually are. I get confused about whose job is whose.

I've told my spiritual director about this scene several times: many years ago during a snow emergency in Steubenville, I decided to go outside and shovel the driveway. A snow emergency means there are legal restrictions on travel due to the bad conditions of the roads. Most of the time, it also means that streets are not cleared at the time, especially not side streets like the one I lived on at the time. I couldn't stop with shoveling the driveway; I was compelled to go out and shovel in the street as well. Later, an acquaintance told me he'd seen me shoveling, and not knowing it was me said he felt sorry for the poor soul out there taking on the snow storm single-handedly.

There is something noble in this Goliath-style battle, and there can also be something danged neurotic in it. It all depends on why the battle is engaged.

Elijah expected God's presence, because God had told him to be ready. But Elijah had learned not to respond to everything as if it were God's messenger. Not everything is God's call to action. The need here is to be intimate with God, to know Him, to recognize His voice. Knowing him requires letting some things that would naturally get our attention pass on by us, and to wait for the supernatural presence of God.

This is no excuse for laziness or lack of discipline. Daily we pray, daily we meditate on the Word of God, daily we receive Eucharist, daily we examine our hearts and confess our sins. We respond with sacrificial love when needs are put before us; we don't walk by on the other side of the road and allow religion to exempt us from love.

But it does mean there will be monkeys and circuses that truly are not ours.

They may even be close enough that we hear and smell them; some of those monkeys may touch us. But to live with God is not to take on all the problems we see. I am not called to be the fixer of all things. I am called to be the lover of Christ and His people. A thousand competitors may clamor for my attention, but not one of them should pull me from this love into panic, worry, or hypercompetence, whereby I launch out to become the Savior apart from Christ. I am not the Savior, but I know Him. My call is to love, and by loving to open paths of grace in prayer, and sometimes grace in speech -- including encouragement, correction, rebuke, and teaching.

And sometimes all it takes is a deep breath, and letting the wind, the earthquake, and the fire pass by.

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