“Go, sell what you have…”

Getting compliments on your personal belongings takes on a whole new meaning when you’re about to get rid of everything you own. In recent months I’ve made more than one loose acquaintance — including my doctor — very uncomfortable when I eagerly asked, “Do you want it?” after they told me they liked something I was wearing.

A good friend who is also hoping to enter religious life this summer put it so well: getting rid of your belongings in preparation for religious life is like standing on a precipice looking into eternity with everything that has always distracted us suddenly behind us. There’s nothing left: just me and the Great Unknown. In fact, as he pointed out, everyone will end up at this moment at some point in their lives, we’re just getting there a little earlier.

I keep running back to that scene in the Gospel, when the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. He has kept all the commandments, but he knows there’s something more. And Jesus looks at him, loves him, and says, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Mk. 10:21). The young man’s reaction — going away sad because he had many possessions — has always broken my heart. In the past few years especially I’ve found myself wanting to shake him. You’ve just been offered the world, I want to shout at him. How can you walk away?

But here I am, faced with a similar invitation, and every day there’s a little twinge. That little porcelain boat from the Dollar Store my sister gave to me for Christmas back in 1991 — it’s a silly trinket, but I’ve carried it around for years, and I admit to a tremor at the thought of letting go. The baby blanket my five-year-old self used to use as a royal robe when playing dress-up … my books and my piano … so many of things we take for granted, right down to the use of that comfortable word, “mine.”

Yes, even letting go of “my” friends is proving to be a lot harder than I ever expected (and I never fooled myself that it would be easy).

God doesn’t ask any of us for halves. That’s what I’m facing in so many concrete ways right now. When he asks us for everything, he means everything. (And by the way, he asks all of us for everything.) He pushes us past the point of comfort, even past discomfort, to that place where the tears start and we cry, “But I can’t!”

This isn’t relegated to those of us discerning religious vocations. We’re all called to this. It’s part and parcel of the Christian life, dare I say, of being human. When you feel you’ve done enough, you’re wrong. There’s no such thing as “enough” for the soul that’s marching towards heaven. The question should always be, “All right, Lord. What now?” Because we can’t give him everything in one action, once. We’re temporal creatures, constantly moving from one minute to another, so giving our all must also be a temporal thing, an act repeated at every moment until we finally reach eternity.

And when you get right down to the nitty-gritty doing of it? It’s epic.

 

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GUEST POST: Take the plunge

This guest post hit me like a ton of bricks. As I’ve written multiple times, dear readers, I (Mabel) am a pretty big coward. I’m afraid of so many things — barking dogs, sudden noises, hospitals, theme parks, confrontation of any sort, saying something stupid, broken bones, and many, many other things I won’t go into here. I’m grateful for Andrea’s candid look at her own fear, and her encouragement for all of us to stop letting fear get the better of us. Life requires courage. It isn’t by any measure “safe,” and it’s not really supposed to be. That’s part of the adventure. 

 Andrea Scott

I never have been one to be fearful.

If you would have told me, or many of my friends for that matter, that I was living in fear I would have laughed. “I’ve held babies with active tuberculosis in Haiti,” I’d say. “I’ve worked with the underground Church in China. I nearly got attacked by a man with chopsticks while sleeping in the Vienna train station.” Fearful? Not me.

A recent move from Chicago to Washington D.C. showed me how fearful I had become, however. I had settled into a comfort zone—and quite honestly an awful rut—at home, needed to shake complacency, and wanted to try something new. But I knew I had to face every fear and insecurity I had in order to make a change, and I had no desire to do that.

In June, right before I decided to move, I went to Hawaii with my soon-to-be-leaving-for-pilot-training brother. We spent five glorious days on Maui and then six days on Oahu. While on Oahu’s North Shore one day, we visited the famed jump rock at Waimea Bay. Ascending 30 feet in the air at the highest point, the gargantuan rock was a playground for locals and visitors alike—crowded with intrepid daredevils diving, flipping, and belly flopping into the ocean waves below.

The thought of jumping seemed exhilarating, but also intimidating. I’m not scared of heights, but I had never plunged off a cliff. After much coaxing, I nervously climbed the jagged rocks and crawled to the top. I peered down to the waves below, overwhelmed by the enormity of the gap. The more I hesitated, my legs teetering on the edge, the more scared I was to jump.

After a few minutes, I knew I couldn’t stand there anymore—the anxiety was too much. I needed to face my fear or leave the rock. Somehow, I mustered a deep breath and convinced my toes to leave the safety of a solid foothold. I breathlessly glided through the summer air and surged into the invigorating sea.

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That’s how my life was. The more I waited to take the plunge—to make a change I knew I could and should make, even if it was uncomfortable—the greater fear and anxiety grew. The longer I waited, the higher the jump looked and the more content I was to descend off the rock and not take any risk.

When I chose to jump, however, I chose to experience one of the most fully-alive, extraordinary moments of my life.  

I cannot lie—I miss the Midwest and the most beautiful city in the world (objectively Chicago, obviously). But every day I start to fall more in the love with what I have been given in D.C. And every day I realize another reason why I am here; I’m so grateful I will not have to live with a “what if.” A wise former colleague of mine reminded me of the familiar notion that I seemed to have forgotten: often we regret the things we don’t do, not the things we chose to do.

Matthew Kelly wrote in his book, The Rhythm of Life:  

“The measure of your life will be the measure of your courage. Courage animates us, brings us to life, and makes everything else possible. Fear stops more people from doing something with their lives than lack of ability, contacts, resources, or any other single variable. Fear paralyzes the human spirit. Life takes courage.”

No matter if you are at a turning point or merely the daily juncture of everyday life—it’s time to step out into the deep, whether that means moving halfway across the country or simply saying hello to the homeless man you pass each morning. There are moments in each and every day offering you the opportunity to take heart and choose to be courageous. There are opportunities to step outside of a settled-in comfort zone and live consciously, with passion and purpose. Retreating simply out of fear does not give us the opportunity to live an abundant life.

Choose courage. The measure of your life depends on it.

Andrea Scott is a writer and editor who works in DC. Follow her on Twitter at @andreajeanscott