Thursday, August 25, 2011

Yoda and Mother Teresa

Last weekend, I went hiking with a friend.  When we wrapped up and headed back to the car, we ran into a man on his way to the shooting range.  He wished us a good morning and then asked, "Did you know Jesus Christ loves you?"  We said yes, and thanked him for asking. 

I thought it was kind of an odd thing to find in the parking lot of a state forest, but then I wondered why I thought that.  It boils down to I wouldn't ask that question.  Why not?  It isn't like there's any harm in asking, and it isn't like I'd ever see that person again.  On other other hand, they might reject me.  Or make fun of me.  They might hurt my feelings and I'd be embarrassed. 

I've written about fear in decision making here, here, and here.  The recent homily on humility also made me think of this fear idea, in that I can grow anxious and fearful not only in the decisions I make but also in my following of God.  Perhaps I've taken on a project or made a decision, knowing it is a good thing and pleasing to God, and then start to wonder about the outcome.  What if it doesn't turn out like I want?  What if I get hurt?

Other people are just as sinful as we are, and it is always possible when doing God's work we'll be hurt.  Missionaries in other countries doing God's work are at risk of physical hurt, but we are not entirely safe from hurt here at home either.  Loving our neighbor involves a vulnerability that can't be protected and can lead to pain.  It probably will, actually, given what we know about our own nature.

It really is possible the good we do today will be met with evil from others tomorrow.  Sometimes the big picture seems to go away and all we can see is the pain of the moment.  God doesn't promise us our lives will be easy, full of warm and fuzzy feelings, if we follow Him.  In fact, we're told it'll be awfully hard. 

We're called to love people, not push them away due to our anxiety over our feelings.  I'm not suggesting that we're all called to ask random people in parking lots about Jesus, like the man from the hike, but we are all called to love others completely independently of our feelings.  God didn't say "Love God and love your neighbor, unless of course he hurts your feelings."

To quote Yoda, "Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering."  Being afraid of being hurt leads to suffering, usually the very suffering one was trying to avoid in the first place.  Loving others brings pain, for sure, but can also bring great joy and peace.

I'm reminded of this quote, often attributed to Mother Teresa:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

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