Just as I was typing up the title, my daughter asked me to wipe her bottom. And I had to chuckle because I thought, "Yep. This is my purpose, for now. Serving my children, which includes wiping they're cute little tushes." And I'm grateful for that, really.
On Friday, I will be joining my local, Orthodox girlfriends to talk about... well, life. We try to have a topic, and this month it's my turn. I haven't yet written about the fact that reading the book Kisses from Katie this spring totally turned my head around and I'm still trying to answer questions it brought about. Many of us in the group have read it and had similar responses. We're going to pick just one topic and start there on Friday night.
To choose a more specific topic, I asked all the ladies to choose from a list of questions or tell me their own. One friend responded,
"What does living a life in faithfulness to God look like for me personally?"
And I've really been thinking about that question. Don't we all have that question?
I was musing about it this morning. Obviously, the specific answer to that question will be different for all of us, hence the need to ask it. But, surely there are some general things that we, as Christians, ought to do. Things like: go to church, pray, read the Bible, etc. And that, to me, is a start. These thoughts reminded me of a podcast I heard long ago by Fr. Thomas Hopko. The title of the podcast is "Lent - The Tithe of the Year" but it's really about a list he wrote. He explains it like this:
"55 things that a believer, very simply, would do if they were really a believer and were really obedient to God and wanted to live the way God would have us live."
Some things from the list that speak to me right now are:
1. Be always with Christ. Trust God in everything. Never forget God.
9. Do acts of mercy in secret. Just do some good things that no one knows about.
17. Cultivate communion with the Saints. Learn who the holy people were in Christian history. Learn who they were who taught, who suffered, who died, who lived a Christian life. And emulate them. As St. John of the Ladder said: “Anyone who does not emulate the Saints is a fool, but also a fool would be someone who tried to imitate another person in the details of his or her life.” You can’t do that, but we must learn from the holy people.
29. Be grateful. Be grateful in all things.
30. Be cheerful. Act cheerful, even if you don’t feel like it, especially in the presence of others.
33. Listen when people talk to you. To be attentive to others is one of the greatest gifts. Keep your mind awake and pay attention when people speak to you.
36. When we speak, speak simply, clearly, firmly, and directly—nothing superfluous, not putting on airs. Again, simplicity is the rule.
39. Don’t complain, grumble, murmur, or whine. Complaining, thinking, looking at the faults of others, we work during Lent and all our life to stop doing that. We pay attention to ourselves.
40. Don’t compare yourself with anyone. The Last Judgment is not on a curve. God doesn’t compare us one to another. Each one of us stands according to who we are, what we have received, what we have been given, and what our vocation is.
42. We don’t judge anyone for anything—no matter what. This doesn’t mean we just say “Everyone’s fine and good.” That’s not true. But we don’t condemn them. We don’t get in to what makes them tick. We don’t tell them always what to do. What they do, we do. And we show people what we believe by what we do. But we don’t judge anyone for anything, and if we do, then the Lord judges us the same way.
47. Give advice to others only when asked to do so or when it is your duty to do so. This is very important. You don’t go around giving free advice or counsel. If people ask us, we tell them. I was asked, “Father Tom, say some things on Ancient Faith Radio. I say: “Okay, cause you asked me.” So when we’re asked, we can answer. If it’s our duty, if it’s our job—like a parent or a pastor or a supervisor in operation or a teacher—then we must do it. That’s our work. But we never give counsel or advice, unless we’re asked or unless it’s our duty to do so.
53. Endure the trial of yourself and your own faults and sins peacefully, serenely, under the mercy of God. This is very important. St. Seraphim of Sarov said: “To have the Holy Spirit is to see your own wretchedness peacefully, because you know that God’s mercy is greater than your wretchedness.” St. Therese of Lisieux, a Roman Catholic saint who died at 24, she wrote to a friend: “If you are willing to bear the trial of your own wretchedness, serenely, then you will surely be the sweetest dwelling place of Jesus.” We have to bear our own faults, serenely. St. Paul said: “Where sin has abounded, grace has superabounded.” And we cannot let the devil rejoice two times. Pythagoras said: “When we fall, the devils rejoice. When we stay down, the devils keep rejoicing.” And nothing puts the devils more to shame than having fallen, we stand up again. So we must bear peacefully, calmly, our own weaknesses, our own failings. Expect them. Don’t make them happen, but expect them. We are not God.
They are all good, but those are just a few I feel I need to work on specifically. Even this amount seems daunting. It's a place to begin though. It's a place to start. I can pick one and work at it. I plan to review this each January and choose one, or two, to work on that year, with God's help.
It's possible that I may never know in this life, just want God had in mind for me when He (so graciously!) created me. Some things are just mysteries, but I'm not so sure God wants to hide this. I believe that if I truly seek after God, starting with a few of these, and gradually doing more and more, then I will be living the life God designed for me. I will be living a life of faithfulness, in just the way He intended. All the specifics of my individual life will fall into place when I seek God with all my heart.
Note: You can use the link to either listen to the podcast (it's about 30 minutes) or you can read it. Thank you to whoever typed it up!