Before waking, I dream about being part of a team tasked to visit a rich family who say they want to help a poor community. It soon becomes apparent that the family only wants to show off their wealth, especially the dad, and gain prestige, especially the mom, while the kids ran wild like little animals. When we finally sit down to talk, I decide to use my gift of leadership.
I introduce the team members, identify their individual strengths, and pinpoint what we can offer. Then I ask, “What are your goals, and which community do you want to serve—your family or the poor?” Though both are much in need, the family must decide.
Decide about Belief
In his May 13, 2023 speech, “The Most Important Decision in Life,” at Hillsdale College’s 171st Commencement Ceremony, Bishop Robert Barron said the following:
“…one of these truths, which is articulated over and again in the great Western intellectual tradition… is typically accessed by means of a question—not the question of what we are to do, as important as that is, but rather what kind of person we ought to be. Do we hunger and thirst for righteousness? Or do we seek our own advantage? In a way, there is no question in the moral and spiritual order more fundamental than that.”
Bishop Barron went on: “…the world is basically divided between those who worship the one true God and those who indulge in idolatry or false worship.” All of us have free will; all of us decide.
As David Foster Wallace said in his 2005 Kenyon Commencement Address: “There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everyone worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.” Wallace recommended a Deity or an inviolable code of ethics because “pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive.” You can read more thoughts regarding this decision in my post titled, What do you worship?
Decide about Actions
Our beliefs and actions are intimately intertwined. For believers, one cannot realize orthodoxy (right belief) and without orthopraxy (right action), as discussed in this post. Of course, people can do good works without right belief—many times God uses nonbelievers to do His will—but the lack of that stated belief ultimately taints our actions. So, the focus of what to do in our lives is also important.
Were the family members in my dream believers or non-believers? Hard to say. Even believers struggle with consistency. Our actions often betray our selfishness; we can’t help it because we’re not perfect. And so, we confess in church, “I, a poor sinner, plead guilty before God of all sins. I have lived as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most. I have not honored my Lord’s name as I should; my worship and prayers have faltered. I have not let His love have its way with me, and so my love for others has failed…”
Decide about Relationships
In my dream, I hoped the family would decide to address their selfishness before reaching out to others. We grow the most when intimately connected to one another. But we suffer when our love for them falls short or they die.
Here is an essay of mine that went live today on Please See Me, an online literary magazine about health narratives. I wrote about how the loss of our beloved dog Heathcliff in 2021 helped me with two more complicated loses: my ex-husband in 2019 and my mother in 2020. Pictured above: lunch with my daughter, granddaughter, sister and Mother two months before she died; celebrating my granddaughter’s birthday with my children in Hong Kong one week before their father died; Keith saying goodbye to Heathcliff’s buddy Freya in January 2023.
Who we welcome into our lives is an important decision. Spouses, family members, friends, even pets. But in our relationships, do we choose righteousness or self-righteous? Back to the fundamental question.
Bishop Barron: “…whom or what do you worship? Again, everything in your life will flow from your answer.” And one way or another, we all decide.
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