Monday, February 11, 2008

A Living Sacrifice

I don’t like bugs. At my old place I had a fairly steady battle with roaches and spiders. One week after having a giant roach fly around and land on my foot in the laundry room and after finding mama spider giving birth to her hundreds of tiny baby spiders on the kitchen floor, I declared war.

I went to Home Depot and armed myself with a variety of products. I spent one whole morning spraying inside and out (it is a wonder I didn’t pass out from all the fumes) to rid my home of all the pesky bugs. And it worked. Well, for a little while.

I wish that pest control was a one time deal. You did it. You dealt with them. And then you could live in peace without all the creepy crawlies. Forever.

Sometimes I find myself wishing our faith were the same. One day you’d have this big epiphany, surrender your life, change all your ways and then live in peace without all the struggle, conversion, temptation and cross-carrying that follows.

Perhaps it is normal to long for this kind of “once and for all” finality. And yet following Christ requires a daily dying, a weekly Sunday commitment, a constant battle against sin, and a continuous building of virtue. And there are layers. Oh how there are layers! You conquer one pesky vice today and there is another (sometimes bigger and more daunting) lurking around the corner.

This morning I found myself praying “Lord, you ask me to give my life and I don’t know how.” I think that I was hoping I could make one big heave-ho effort while sitting on my couch in prayer, and my will would be totally surrendered with no residual fears or submissions needed.

And then it hit me.

The daily struggle to love God, to seek Him in prayer, to change my ways, to really love others as he has loved me . . . all this is giving my life.

It isn’t a nice neat once for all package I offer as I proclaim, “Here is my life, Lord!” It is a daily rising, a daily striving, a daily dying. We are to make ourselves a “living sacrifice” as St. Paul says in Romans 12. A living sacrifice. Ouch.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I do believe in epiphanies, life changing encounters and radical conversions. They happen. Praise the Lord! And I do believe that Christ has conquered sin and death. It happened. Praise the Lord!

I’m simply reminded that so long as we draw breath on this earth we are never “done” with the struggle, never “done” with the surrender.

This Lent as we recall that “we are dust and to dust we shall return” may we make the most of our time here on earth. May we stop looking for a quick fix or a finished product, but rejoice in the daily grace God offers. And use that grace to remain on the altar – to be a living sacrifice.

Through grace we can make our lives a sacrifice to the One who sacrificed all for us. Beautiful.

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