Warning: Listmaking May Be Hazardous to Your Spiritual Health

I love to make lists.  I’m a list maker. You know, one of those people who write “make a list” at the top of their list so that they can have the pleasure of crossing something off right away.  Yep, that’s me.  I love the feeling of order (real or imagined) and the sense of accomplishment (real or imagined) that I get from writing a to-do list and attacking one item at a time until it’s been whittled away to nothing. Recently though, I’ve noticed a dark side to my list making. It usually reveals itself when I’m listing either my accomplishments or my struggles.

Let’s say I’ve got a speaking engagement and need to send a bio for the introduction, or maybe I’m updating my resume.  When I sit down to make a list of my accomplishments it’s easy to look at the things I’ve achieved and feel a sense of pride.  After all, I’ve worked hard.  And as my grandfather used to say, “He that tooteth not his own horn, the same it shall not be tooted.” But that healthy sense of confidence that comes from looking at that list can quickly turn on me and blossom into full-blown pride.  My inner voice begins to say things like, “Man, I’m awesome! Look at all I’ve done!”  If I’m lucky that inner voice will be quickly silenced by the greater awesomeness of someone else.  If I’m unlucky, it will be silenced by an awesome failure on my part.  Either way, the voice does get silenced but often not as soon as it should.

But it can go the other way too.  Let’s say that things have been stressful in my life; that I’ve really been struggling with things in my personal, professional, or spiritual life.  That’s when I’ll often start another kind of list.  This one isn’t quite as nice as the last one though.  This is the woe-is-me list that I make in my head. This list is the one where I rattle off all the “horrible” things in my life that can range anywhere from health problems to running out of milk.They all get equal treatment.  My stubbed toe will get put on the same list as a family conflict or lost job.  It doesn’t matter at that moment that my toe is a very minor blip on the timeline of my life.  It gets equal billing with “major life crises.” The danger of this kind of list making is that it makes everything sound worse than it really is.  Heck, when faced with a list like that most of us just want to curl up into a fetal position and suck our thumb!

My point is this-the truth about my awesomeness or my trials is somewhere in between pride and despair.  There are a lot of details missing from both-like the time it took me to accomplish all of those awesome things. (Awesomeness doesn’t happen overnight!) Or the fleeting moments of joy I’ve experienced or lessons I’ve learned amidst the struggles.

So, heed my advice and beware of lists.  They may help you get things done but they could also be your undoing.

May Your Journey Be Blessed,

S.S.

A Portrait of a Saint

Maria_Magdalene_prayingToday is Halloween which means that tomorrow is All Saints Day-a day we celebrate and honor all the holy men and women who are in heaven not just the ones that have the “St.” in front of their names.

Question-When I say the word “saint”, what comes to mind?

There was a time when I would have answered that question with words like: perfect, serious, pious, and righteous.  That was when my mental image of a saint included eyes cast toward heaven, a solemn expression, and hands clasped in prayer.  I guess my idea of sainthood was pretty superficial but it had a lot to do with the images of saints that I had seen throughout my life.  You know the ones-beautiful artists’ renditions from the Renaissance with the same facial expression on most all of them, the same pose, and the same lack of personality.

Don’t get me wrong.  These images are beautiful and are beautiful reminders of members of our Christian family.  I’ve come to really love and cherish many of these images.  In many ways, though, they’re like a family portrait.  When I get my picture taken, it’s rare that it shows me in motion doing the things I do in a normal day.  You don’t see me driving my kids to school, watching TV, working on the computer, washing dishes, cooking dinner, or even helping my kids with their homework.  You don’t see me spending time with my family laughing and joking.  You don’t see me in my struggles.  You just see a very two-dimensional image of me when I was standing still long enough to have my picture taken.

The challenge for me was to get beyond those superficial images and learn about the individuals behind them and their stories; to get to know them.  Those stories are the ones that helped them become saints and inspire me to become one too.  As I started to learn their stories and get to know these amazing people, I began to relate to them and see myself in their personalities and their faith journeys.  For instance, enthusiasm and a tendency to put our foot in our mouths are two qualities that I share with St. Peter!

So now my idea of sainthood has changed.  I don’t see it as an impossible goal anymore.  I see it as an ambitious goal but a very worthy one.  It’s also a goal that I can get a lot of help on from a VERY powerful friend.  I call Him “Lord” but most of the time, He prefers “Jesus.”

May your journey be blessed!

The Suburban Saint

What IS Suburban Sainthood?

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Welcome to Seeking Suburban Sainthood!  S.S.S. is where I’ll be sharing my own struggles to attain holiness in my ordinary, suburban, mini-van-owning, carpool-driving, soccer mom life.  Given the fact that I struggle ALOT in my spiritual life, I have a feeling that there will be plenty to share with you.

But it’s not just about me.  It’s about all of us and the spiritual challenges that come with a suburban lifestyle.  It’s also about a new attitude toward sainthood.  After all, sainthood isn’t just for the dead.  St. Paul called the early Christians “saints” when he addressed them in his epistles.  In his eyes, a saint was merely a follower of Christ.  So if that’s the case, all Christians should consider themselves saints, albeit imperfect ones.

The goal here is to help each other become better saints so that, when the time comes, we’ll be ready to enter the Kingdom of Heaven together.  So, here’s the deal-I’ll help you with your sainthood if you help me with mine.  Who’s with me?

May your journey be blessed!

The Suburban Saint (S.S.)

Next Post: What’s a saint supposed to act like?