‘Tis the season when I can listen to my favorite iTunes playlist. Christmas! Over and over again––it’s never enough, especially with random play tantalizing me by keeping me in suspense regarding my favorite song. Could it be next? You see, there is this baffling fact that Little Drummer Boy is my favored child. Pa rum pum pum pum? You bet. Some have attributed this weird allegiance to the fact that I may have a neuron imbalance. And my response is––which neuron?
Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.
I know what some of you are thinking. This guy was a Marine? But God is smiling! At me!
One last factoid on my Christmas music addiction. I loved O Holy Night, What Child Is This? and Hark! The Herald Angels Sing even when I ignored or denied God. It seems my subconscious––actually, the Holy Spirit––was not about to let God be a passing whim of my childhood. I was hooked, I just didn’t know it.
Which brings me to now, the beginning of Advent.
Most of my time on earth, I’ve walked as a blind man. But so much good has happened of late––canes are, thankfully, an artifact of the past.
I’ve previously written about St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430) but it bears repeating. He is my patron saint. He was also a remarkable scholar, unprecedented thinker and is a dominant linchpin of western theology.
I don’t think it was a coincidence I selected St. Augustine, a tradition of conversion, when I entered the Catholic Church although the significance of such becomes clearer every day. For a notable time, my life in so many ways mirrored his lascivious and immodest early life.
His Confessions, eerily similar to many of my experiences, at some mysterious level may have inspired my reformation. Like Augustine, I wholeheartedly succumbed to the sins of the world and rejected God; He was barely an afterthought. I lived as the creator, the manipulator, the hedonist. God? Does anybody believe I cared one scintilla about God?
“Too late have I loved you.” This famous utterance by Augustine encompasses the classic truth about his life and relationship with God. I would like to appropriate it. Its succinctness captures my situation as well. Though challenges remain and affluence is a thing of the past, I now understand. God is my treasure, He loves me and hope beckons.
As a perfect storm of events compelled me to once again begin my search for God in 2009 (my 2001 conversion was superficial at best––shallow soil!), I’ve struggled, at times, with inertia. It sounds foolish, but I guess I wanted a sign. An affirmation that I was on the right path. It’s as though I was sitting waist deep along the shoreline to a great body of water. Passive, observing the tempestuous horizon, I was patiently waiting for the frothing, white-capped waters to still, hoping a quieted surface would reflect the will of God. Then, with an understanding of my purpose, I would simply rise and begin my life afresh.
Truth be told, the signs were everywhere and continue to be omnipresent if my eyes remain open in faith. And my life has been renewed.
Parallel to my faith journey, the practical me speculated a great deal about my here-on-earth future. God, of course, was preeminent in my thinking but I mistakenly assumed and subconsciously hoped for an earthly outcome/reward that would have materialism at its root. Wherein tangible possessions and physical comforts, the fruits of a high-powered job, would march lockstep with me through the remainder of my life.
“Look everyone! I am again a success!” I could announce to the world. From a practical outlook, any sort of spiritual transformation or revival, although important, was secondary to the business of getting back to work.
Could I have been more wrong?
Prosperity, power and status are not the sole ingredients to a fulfilling life. Like money, they’re not bad in and of themselves. However, they’re trappings, incidental to my inner man. I have a soul, desire love and have elevated God to His rightful place as the light of my life. Without this reprioritization, the mistakes of the past will only bide their time, in queue, devilishly waiting to reenter my life.
Unquestionably, my journey has been nothing less than a life-saving process of healing, perspective, and a restoration of faith. I was propelled toward what I have hungered for all along. Every atom of my being yearned for spiritual connection and growth. I profoundly desired to find God once again. And I have. With my hand in His, I’ve learned to trust. Thank you Lord. You have reawakened me. I am reborn.
When my 2009 evolution commenced, I began to write a book and asked God to participate. The marquee question was whether I would recognize His fingerprints, His contribution, whether His involvement could be measured and evidenced. In time, my answer was no. I had set up an untenable proposition. God’s mysterious ways are unfathomable to our human intellect, so I said; definitively pointing to His active embrace of any book pages was foolhardy.
I was mistaken. God has inhabited my life completely. I know it in the part of my soul that has been touched by Him, where doubts don’t exist. I know it as a function of faith and spiritual apprehension. I know it because although God is everywhere, my heart’s compass is pointing to heaven. Too much of my conversion has been inspiration from above and not from within.
With the Almighty shepherding me along, I visited subjects, emotions, teachings and dynamics I only divined because of His assistance. Moreover, as He’s guided me by grace, I believe I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I have rediscovered Truth, and can now and forever cherish my relationship with my Creator. Thankfully and finally I am tethered to God, who loves me beyond words. I would wish this for everyone.
The late Blessed John Paul II sagaciously said, “Do not be afraid.” There are many rich layers to the former Vicar of Christ’s succinct statement, but one preeminent thought comes to mind. Especially in this season of Advent.
For the questions of man, and there are many, there is only one answer. God.