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A young Catholic’s insights on a deeper, more virtuous life.

“The only people who are never bored are lovers.” 

Dear friends,

What you do now matters in the long run.  The decisions you make have power to them.

I would love to know how many people suffer from the same condition I suffer with… I call it; super-sizing. Everything I do is never enough. If I eat it has to be Thanksgiving and has to end with dessert, if I sit it has to be on an exercise ball. If I work out it has to be for an hour with many sets and reps. If I eat a snack I have to eat three more. If I read a book it has to be the whole thing.  If I play music in the car it has to be on full blast. If I drink a “juice box” (y’all know what juice box really means) I’ll end up grabbing 30 more.

Stimulation. Stimulation. Stimulation.

Seriously, anyone else? If not, I’ll just write the letter for myself.

Stimulation is the evil twin to our lovable friend temperance (his homies call him moderation).  The benefits of fasting from food, socials, even working-out just to reset myself back to normalcy, are super helpful to sort of cleanse me out of this behavior. Moderation reminds me that my attraction and pleasure in morally GOOD things have to have a moderate balance. I should never over-stimulate my genuinely good and awesome desires to a point that leads me towards unhealthy lifestyle choices.  Sure we can fast from something and not touch it at all…but moderation is really where the change happens.  To touch, enjoy, and take in or act upon an attraction in it’s purest form is so simplistically beautiful it’s no wonder the Devil wants us to think what we have is never enough.

Since I keep making these crazy decisions to super-size my life and my routines, the super-sizing BECOMES my routine.  And really, to super-size anything should be a celebratory feast – not an everyday occasion.

So, I decided to simplify my life and turns out, moderation makes me extremely uncomfortable. And anything that requires change should make you want to crawl out of your skin into your own irritability.

It is not easy for man, says the Catechism of the Catholic Church, because being wounded by sin stops us from naturally maintaining a moral balance…. “everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, stay in the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.” (1811)

Moderation is good.

(That’s really where I should stop this article because it’s THAT simple… except I’m going to super-size the article with more details and words).

It’s good for body, soul, and health. Too much of a good thing makes us unhappy. We think, for a moment, increasing crazy amounts of anything will leave us and our senses so completely satisfied… to find us actually unsatisfied. (Sure, let me keep eating these M&M’s like it’s nothing, but the more I eat, the more I am so unhappy, and full and in a sugar-coma.)

I speak to you in the name of strength when I say: grab a hold of your passions before they grab a hold of you. Of course we are inclined to over stimulate our choices, that’s why we have the choice to either stand strong in decisions, or to give into them. If it were easy to withdrawal from any addictive behavior we wouldn’t have any reason to talk about it.

Desires, pleasures, and things we’re attracted to are good and meant to be experienced. The Good Lord wants you to enjoy this beauty and life and have fun, but there is something so deeply unfulfilling about filling our appetites with too much of anything — and He knew that about us.

There is a wide, open, never-going-to-go-away hunger in the depths of our being. I’d go so far as to argue that most people don’t necessarily “love” their addictions but keep the behavior around for the “high” it keeps giving them in their pain. The emotional high that masks the greater invitation to embrace and wait in the testing, the loneliness, hurt, longing, or purging. God works best in our lives in the places that are barren. The places in our lives that can’t produce anything are where His creative touch comes into play. The places we don’t know which road to take, since either outcome involves discernment, maybe a pro/con list, and some serious consideration (aka prayer). When we make time to open ourselves up to challenge, change, and re-ordering our thoughts, we have to starve a little bit. Then we notice how much control we do have over them — even if it is just a little bit.

In my own life, food is the stimulant I turn to to mask everything. Long day at work: grab a snack. Annoyed with someone: grab a snack. Even if it’s little drinks or juices. It’s amazing what openness I have towards God, towards my own state of happiness, towards my own issues and struggles when I stop distracting it with my literal appetite.

Of course it is easier to keep super-sizing my appetites than it is to practice them in moderation.  Of course it’s easier to just keep doing what I am used to than switch or decrease the amount of goods that I take in.  Something in your mind, in your perception, in your appetites has to be re-educated and renewed.  In my past, when I let my misinformed body believe that I could eat whatever I want, when I want, in however much quality I want, I ended up unhappy (and overweight).  I had to reteach myself the truths about nutrition, the medicine of what food is FOR my body (not how it can make me feel) and allow myself to take pleasure in it with moderate enjoyment — which really ends up being sufficient enjoyment.

I think there is an overall consensus in knowing high school and college kids let their moderation fly out the window at the expense of drugs, alcohol, weed, and sex.  (But, honestly, this could be said for anything that we “super-size”).   I really have to ask what the deepest desires of the heart really is?  I have continuously asked many friends, peers, young people, and older people (who look back on their young lives) and ask, “what was it that you wanted in those things?” Besides the fact that they are addictive in themselves, their answers are not the actual drugs, alcohol, sex, and weed, rather; the sense of fullness, love, affinity, distraction, and fill it gave their restless hunger for life. An ecstasy,, an experience of something greater than the actual thing itself. Something that was felt in the senses, the body…. the soul.

#deep.

You see, the human heart can make an idol out of anything. Someone once said, “idols are made in the human heart faster than the breaths we take” (or something like that?)

Our brains are hard-wired to addictions, dependency, and most of all, love. Not just the feeling, but the fulfillment. Love is always the inexpressible desire that needs a sense of fulfillment. We keep searching for it and trying to satisfy it because on Earth we haven’t finished desiring and longing for more. We are a humanity that thrives and survives off of worshiping something…. (sooo why not let it be God… but more on that later). Worship of anything motivates, opens, and breathes desire back into us. It’s what gets us up in the morning.

We are so sneaky sometimes. We are so sneaky to just keep stimulating ourselves to distract from the core of our lives —- which is love. At times we are not even sneaky, we are just in a world where there ARE desirable things to get caught up in. We are more subjected to ignorance and prone to being weak than we are to be strong enough to do things right, and in moderation.  Training our head, heart, and actions can shift the weakness and turn it into strength. Who we hang out with can, too. Because none of that can be done alone, only with the help and grace of God.

The kind of love that is true and beautiful. True because it not affected by feelings of shame and guilt. Beautiful because it is pleasing to the sense.

Our reality is like the song Hunger by Florence Welch.

I thought that love was in the drugs
But the more I took, the more it took away
And I could never get enough
I thought that love was on the stage
You give yourself to strangers
You don’t have to be afraid
And then it tries to find a home with people, oh, and I’m alone
Picking it apart and staring at your phone

But the dream opposite to all of this is, and only is, the grandeur of Christ who was the Word of truth from the beginning of time whose hidden glory lies in creation, in nature, in rain, sun, wind, breath, people, silence.. and much more.  Whose love required the most strength, embraced the greatest hurt (physically and mentally), who was so powerful that death could not even hold Him down.   Christ whose sweetness converted prostitutes, and cleansed corrupted hearts.  Christ who silenced the temptations of sin and grave evil by a single glance.  Christ who was raised to life again and proved there is no rival or equal. And THAT Love exists in us, if we want.

To live in a world created by a God who placed in us a desire for Himself and to seek and find that desire in completely destructive things is so simple that it’s so hard.

Throughout all of history humans have been on a quest for God in prayer, meditation, “vibes” and even in the drugs, alcohol, food, and sex. These forms of expression and pleasure and hunger, despite the ambiguities they often come with, are so universal that it is right to say man is a religious being capable of depth and eternal realizations, and most of all a relationship with God Himself. “But this intimate and vital bond of man and God can be forgotten, overlooked, or even explicitly rejected by man himself (GS 19).” 

What happens is the decisions we make (that take us farther or closer to the heart of God, a God who IS love and happiness and fulfillment) HAVE immediate consequences and results. Enough years of hiding from God is the simple reason that explains why you “don’t get it” or you are indifferent to religion, God, as a whole. Sin makes us flee our call to be in a relationship with God because building the small attachments to other things takes seniority over moderate and temperate decisions — keeping in mind who God really is and experiencing person love from and with Him.

But, if one day, after 10-30 years of never exercising, you decide to start exercising, you won’t be shunned or taken away from the opportunity. You just need to pick up the routine and incorporate it into your decisions throughout the days to come.

God works the same way.

And there really is infinite amounts of truth you can discover about Him which makes the adventure so fun, truly. Not to mention the insane realness you start to embrace by being so ridiculously in love with who you have always longed to be.

Every decision you make can lead to forgetting, rejecting, or loving God. That’s why we are so weak and have crazy ideas on how we should fill our appetites. But God, God Himself never ceases to call every man to seek Him, to find life and happiness, and it demands effort of the intellect, and a sound and good conscience and will. “An upright heart” single-heartedly fixed on what is true, good, and beautiful.

“It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

We are far too easily pleased.”

― C.S. Lewis

With all the love I have,
Shannon

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