Because in the school of the Spirit,
man learns wisdom through humility,
knowledge by forgetting,
how to speak by silence,
how to live by dying.
-Johannes Tauler

Friday, October 15, 2010

relative success

Following up from my last post, I wish to share a story of how a gift that I was humbled to receive affirmed my decision to "politely" proceed with dinner plans I had made with co-workers during September. 

Two of my female co-workers and I try to study together once a week or once every couple weeks (although, one has a Masters, the other has a Ph.D. so why they're studying is beyond me - I'm the only one with actual homework to do! Although that might explain why I'm the one who is the most focused...). Often, we will plan our study sessions near a restaurant we've been wanting to try, so that after a couple hours of hitting the books, we have as our motivation the reward of a good meal waiting for us. Not only does it help to have some study buddies, but it is nice to spend some time "off the clock" with a few co-workers and to enjoy each other's company. 

We had already scheduled a study/dinner night for the middle of September, with our destination the Cheesecake Factory, and rather than backing out on them and delaying the evening til October, I decided it might be better to go ahead as planned (they were not aware of my commitment) and tack on an extra day or two at the beginning of October in reparation. However, I was feeling quite guilty about it, especially the day of our plans, and kept thinking to myself that if I was actually being strict with myself in this experiment, I wouldn't have relented so easily. 

God hushed me, though, when quite unexpectedly, that very day after daily Mass I received a thank you card from the priest for the work I had done all summer as a sacristan for the young adult Mass here in Indianapolis, and inside was a gift card: to the Cheesecake Factory. 

Someone once brought to my attention the fact that this is not about being so stubborn that "come hell or high water, I will not eat out this month!" but that it is more about the spirit of the undertaking. In the case of my Cheesecake Factory experience, I had to surrender to the poverty of 'yes'. By adhering to our plans and "breaking my commitment" I had to swallow my pride, proceed with the dinner plans, and realize that not eating out for a month is not about gaining bragging rights or proving that I can do it: it's about what I learn by making (or not making) that sacrifice. The fact that I even set out on that path and was open to the lessons that would come with it is more important than if I "succeeded" in the mission of the month. Success is such a relative term anyway. 

This experiment is not perfect, and I realize that more and more each month as I think of a greater challenge, a more authentic form of poverty that I should be living, but my shortcomings do not limit God's work in and through this experiment - it has still been beautifully fruitful. +

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