This past Lent, while I was working at a parish, I was able to help make a few videos about prayer and why it is essential to the Christian life. Exciting, right? This is one thing I have always loved to do: teach others about Christ and help them encounter him in prayer. The videos were made and posted, and Lent went on with some of the parishioners taking advantage of the prayer opportunities into which those videos invited them.
After they were posted, however, I felt a weight within my own heart. I was there on a screen telling people about how important it was to know God and come to him in prayer, while at the same time, I had been lacking a daily prayer life for the past few months. I knew prayer was important. Deep down, I wanted to pray. I just didn’t do it. For years working as a missionary I spent at least an hour a day in prayer and went to daily Mass every day; and now, about two years later, I was struggling to give God even a couple of minutes of prayer a day, growing less patient and more easily prone to anger, jealousy and attachment to materialism.
I felt like a hypocrite. I felt like I was only being a Christian on the outside, leading others to look up to me, praise my faith in God and come to me for advice. Most of the time, I had no problem preaching the greatness of my experiences with God and encouraging others to love him more. I just wasn’t living it personally or letting God love me in the midst of my daily life, transitions and needs.
Something needed to change, and that weight in my chest stayed to keep reminding me. That Lent, I made a promise to Jesus to not just look like a Christian but to be a Christian in my words and actions. I faltered, felt defeated many times and was afraid to see what Jesus would do if I really let prayer back into my life again. But that is the Christian life — to be brought to death and resurrection again and again until we can reside in the Heart of Christ for the rest of eternity.
What is Christianity About?
Christianity isn’t just about saying the right words, having inspirational Instagram posts and getting on board with the current Christian trends. There are too many Christians walking throughout the world with fake smiles, “Jesus, I trust in you” necklaces or t-shirts and beautiful-looking relationships with God but with souls that are dried up and surrounded by walls.
Too many of us pick and choose what we believe and how we go about following God. But that does nothing except push God off the throne and make ourselves our own gods. We can be tempted to project an image of Christianity to the world and what it looks like to follow Christ, while not letting ourselves be impacted and changed into Christ’s very image every day.
The world doesn’t just need aesthetically pleasing versions of Christian life; the world needs the power of the Cross and the Resurrection in the life of every Christian. Jesus didn’t just look like a Christian. He was exactly who he said he was.
He wasn’t saying he was in tune with the Father’s loving voice and then in the background refusing or reluctantly going to pray. He wasn’t preaching hard truths about removing ourselves from worldly things and then spending his downtime getting drunk, gossiping, making an idol of his phone or getting all of the newest “things” money can buy to be liked for what he owned. Jesus never compromised the truth of the Gospel and his teachings about relationship, sexuality or human dignity to be well-liked by others or to avoid rejection. Jesus was who he said he was: the beloved Son of God. Everything he did and said came from this foundational truth.
When you look at your own life, does each thing you do and say come from the foundational truth of who you are as a beloved son or daughter of God? Do you recognize that nothing in this world will last forever, especially not the images of “perfection” or “popular Christianity” that are seen at the epitome of sanctity?
If I am not in union with my Heavenly Father, aware of the great dignity of myself and others as human persons, and making real and uncomfortable changes to become a virtuous child of God in the image of Christ Himself, then all of the Christian images I project are actually leading me away from God and are an obstacle to living the way I am made to live.
What in Your Life Needs to Change?
It comes down to this: Does how you show yourself to others actually convey who you are? If the answer to that question is no or not always, then what in your life needs to change? Doing an inventory of how you are living can be a powerful tool in the spiritual life. Examine your daily habits, attachments and motivations, then bring them to confession and the Mass to begin again in a way that you can proudly and honestly live out the title of being a Christian man or woman.
If your life with Christ is a struggle right now, don’t be discouraged by these words; but also, don’t be tempted to settle for where you are in the journey toward heaven. To become a saint is to constantly be striving and growing, rooting out sin and apathy with each choice we make, and being unafraid to get outside of our comfortable habits to share Christ with others.
Every day you have the choice to look like a Christian or be a Christian. Which will you choose?