I happened across this image on Facebook, shared by a friend from a Yoga (Hindu–yes, yoga is a religious exercise, not just stretching, and a somewhat surprising religious exercise at that, if you read here) source of similar images. I’ve written before that, (as attested to by long-standing Catholic Church writing, especially Fides et Ratio) true knowledge is not only to be found in the Catholic Church, but (by way of natural revelation and our creation in the divine image) in all cultures, philosophies, and religions of the world. But often the full truth is missed, and only a partial truth is seen, because natural revelation is a precursor and preparation for the full revelation available only through the Incarnation of God in Christ. Lacking this fullness of divine truth, natural wisdom can only get us so far, and often problems between contemporary wisdom and Christian wisdom are borne of the limited light of natural reason, in contrast to the harmonic symphony of interwoven truths revealed for us by divine truth. Even in our society’s “enlightened” discourse, since “religion” is denied in favor of “nature,” you can see the same “mistaking the part for the whole” in popular secular perceptions and statements of truth.
So I looked at the above image, aware of its Yoga/Hindu origin, and asked myself what fuller truth this might be representing partially. And I realized (with such astonishment that I felt compelled to write a post on the experience) that it was not only a very good statement of the truth, but is a profound statement of the Christian life.
In Christian anthropology (“the study of what it is to be human in light of Christian revelation”) we know by faith that even before we were made, God has a dream for us, and that God’s dream for us is that we ultimately end up in heaven with Him for an eternity of happiness, peace, and fulfillment. He knows all our days before the first one comes into existence (Ps 139:16). We are created in His image and likeness, and so we are created as good. However, it quickly goes wrong because of human sinfulness. We rebel against our parents, we fall to sins of pride and the other capital vices, we distort our character by patterns of sinful choices, and in short we become something much different (and much less) than what God created us to be.
However, because of God’s never-failing love for us, he continues to call to us in the depths of our hearts. Gaudium et Spes, 16:
In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged. Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man. There he is alone with God, Whose voice echoes in his depths. In a wonderful manner conscience reveals that law which is fulfilled by love of God and neighbor. In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality. Conscience frequently errs from invincible ignorance without losing its dignity. The same cannot be said for a man who cares but little for truth and goodness, or for a conscience which by degrees grows practically sightless as a result of habitual sin.
Our loving Father–our Good Shepherd–seeks us no matter how far we wander away from Him, as there is nowhere we might go that He cannot reach us. No matter what sins we might have committed, nothing we can do is beyond his forgiveness. The only thing He cannot forgive is the sin that prevents us for asking for his forgiveness–the pride that foolishly believes that we can commit a sin that is greater than his ability and eagerness to forgive us (Our Lord tells St. Faustina that our sins are like a drop falling into an ocean of mercy).
Yet we are prideful, and ambitious, and narcissistic, and lustful, and all the other vices and weaknesses of sinful humanity. With each sinful choice we make, we change our moral character. We become the choices we make. If we repeatedly make lustful choices, we develop a lustful habit, and a lustful character. We darken the acuity of our conscience, and surround ourselves with distracting noise. We dull the light that ought to shine in us and out from us. We weaken our Christian character, and more tragically, we injure our relationship with God, our source of life, light, and joy. We lose our freedom (from the captivity of sin) by throwing ourselves into sin (by thinking that freely choosing sin is actually the meaning of freedom).
And so, as our yoga friend so beautifully reminds us, our journey is un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.
You are unique in all of time and space. God will have made you only once. In the history and expanse of the universe, you are the only one with your combination of gifts, experiences, thoughts, desires, dreams, loved ones, and opportunities. You are the only one ever to have the opportunity to have the relationship with God that he desired to have with you when he joyfully imagined you then brought you into being, with the hope that you and He would have all eternity to spend falling more deeply in love with each other. No one can take your place. No one is insignificant, unimportant, expendable, or unwanted.
We spend a great deal of time mucking ourselves up. We seek wealth, independence, status, accomplishment, and most of all, pleasure. But if we pursue these more than we pursue our identity of who God made us to be, we’ve made ourselves our god, and things and pleasure our gods. We want to make the rules. But we don’t make the rules. We can make some rules, but not ones that conflict with His rules. He gave us His rules to help us to be the person He made us to be…in His love for us…for His dream for us.
We can turn from ourselves and our things to Him, and we can ask Him for forgiveness. We can ask Him to restore us in our relationship with Him, to direct us to Himself in all that we seek and in all that we do. We can ask God to help us purge ourselves of our silly distractions and the darkness we have invited into our characters, our personalities, and our lives, and teach us to replace them with His light, His love, His glory.
This is His dream for you. This is the meaning of your life: un-becoming everything that isn’t really you so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.