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Ink Slingers

Getting Out of the Baby Pool

“The world offers you comfort. You were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness. -Pope Benedict XVI

I have always loved this succinct quote from Pope Benedict XVI. It’s a jolting statement that both convicts and motivates me.

And so does this particular, albeit more informal version: “Get out of the Catholic baby pool!”

This blunt directive is not a quote from a saint or a pope— it is something I wrote several years ago in the journal I use at Eucharistic Adoration. The words came to me quite suddenly, an unmistakable holy whisper to my heart, as I sat silently praying in the Adoration chapel and asking the Lord for guidance and direction. This was the answer I “heard” from him.

Well, Sistas, I don’t know if you’ve ever laughed out loud in an Adoration chapel, but let me warn you that if you do, you get some funny looks. I couldn’t help myself; it cracked me up. My Lord really knows how to speak to me on my level!

Are You in the Baby Pool? 

After I gathered myself a bit, I started to process this clever little inspiration. The truth hit me hard: As a Christian, I had been going through the motions and spiritually sleepwalking for a long time. I was not awake to how much Jesus loves me or how much he desires for me to tell his story and show his love to others. I was a spiritual couch potato, sitting around eating Doritos and flipping through channels, thinking I was doing just fine. I was going to Mass, trying not to break any commandments, being a “good” person. But I was unaware that my actions as a follower of Jesus Christ were lukewarm at best. [Side note: Jesus is not fond of lukewarm. Revelation 3:15-16 says: I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth.”] Yep. That was me, alright, splashing around in the shallow end, the Catholic baby pool, where it was safe and comfortable and I didn’t have to take any risks. It was time to get out.

Jesus wants us out of the baby pool, my friends. Life is short here on earth and there is much work to be done! We can dive in and respond to the hurt around us with love. And kindness. And mercy. And service. Every single day. We can be bold and brave and live out our faith in big and small ways. We can be the antidote to this cold, secular world.

But not if we stay in the baby pool.

We are the hands and feet of the Church. St. Teresa of Avila tells us: “Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world, yours are the feet with which he walks to do good, yours are the hands with which he blesses all the world.” Jesus needs us! Join me, will you? Let’s stand up, walk on over to the deep end, take a big breath (plug your nose if you must!) and jump in. Let’s get motivated, get moving and get involved. Sistas, we are not made for the baby pool— we are made for greatness. Come on in, the water’s fine! (And it’s definitely not lukewarm!)

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Ink Slingers Mary Beth

Jumping Off the Complain Train

Sometimes, I’m a willing passenger. But most of the time, I promote myself all the way up to chief engineer.

I’m talking about the Complain Train that I frequently find myself on. Let me tell you, last night I was definitely the chief engineer, taking the lead and steering my complain train all over the place, not stopping for anything or anybody, spewing complaints left and right.

How I relish my role as engineer of the Complain Train! Look out world—like it or not, this train is coming through! I say. Complaining makes me feel validated. And heard. And it gives me an opportunity to let off some steam, much like the Seinfeld episode where Frank Costanza establishes a holiday (“Festivus”) where one of the main activities is the “Airing of Grievances,” (i.e. “I got a lotta problems with you people, and now you’re going to hear about it!”).

Except the Complain Train is a train bound for nowhere (isn’t that a song?). It has no triumphant ending, no satisfying resolution. There’s no pulling into a station with a great sigh of relief and feeling of accomplishment. The Complain Train is nothing but an unproductive, herky-jerky, never-ending ride through Frustrationville, Crabby Corners and Waste-of-Time Town. It’s a fruitless journey.

And that doesn’t take into consideration what this harmful habit does to the state of my soul.

Because Sistas, here’s the truth about complaining: It steals my joy. It brings down the people around me. And it does absolutely nothing to change my circumstances. In fact, verbally flinging all that unhappiness into the atmosphere “boomerangs” the words right back into my brain and magnifies them even more. When we complain, the problems often become bigger, not smaller, especially when we aren’t really in the mood to look for solutions to those problems. Sound familiar? **raises hand**

I don’t purposely summon the Complain Train. I don’t seek it out or buy tickets in advance. It just seems to show up and I simply hop on with no hesitation. I don’t even think about it, I just get on and go. Not good.

I need to figure out how to permanently derail this train. What better time than the start of a new year, right?

In 2018, I hereby resolve to:

  • Pray to be more mindful of what triggers my complaints. When I become more aware of the situations (and people?) that compel me to climb aboard the Complain Train, I can pause and reframe the situation in a more objective (and at the same time probably a more merciful) manner. If my pet peeve is standing in a long checkout line, I can put myself in the shoes of the unfortunate cashier who is not in charge of staffing but who probably wishes she was. “Poor me” soon becomes “Oh, that poor thing!
  • Pray to speak only positive, encouraging words about people and to people. This can cut down on both complaining and its close cousin, gossip.
  • Practice counting my blessings and developing a habit of deep gratitude that simply overwhelms any impulse to complain.
  • Pray for others more often and more fervently. By focusing on the intentions of others, I am less likely to shine a spotlight on my own concerns.
  • Serve others less fortunate than I am. It’s a fact that on days when I get to serve as a hospice volunteer, I do not find myself anywhere near the Complain Train.
  • If I truly need to vent, I can choose to use my prayer journal to outline the problem and prayerfully seek the solution. Jesus is big enough to handle my complaints and loves me enough not to keep me wallowing there.
  • Just flat-out hold my tongue. Like my mom used to say, “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all!” And, more powerfully, as St. John of the Cross instructs us: “Whenever anything disagreeable or displeasing happens to you, remember Christ crucified and be silent.” Boom.

Goodbye, Complain Train. This passenger is ready to disembark and hang up my chief engineer hat for good. Or better yet, maybe I’ll look for a Mercy and Forgiveness Train—All Aboard!