I was early for a meeting with my spiritual director so, being a Friday during Lent, I stopped for a bean burrito at a nearby Taco Bell. Ringing up my order, the cashier smiled and said, “you don’t look old, but I will give you the senior discount.” A defense mechanism kicked in – I laughed. I then said, “if I looked 25 would I have still been offered the discount?” I didn’t wait for the answer. I am now at the age where the discount matters more than the vanity. After years of saying I would never join AARP, I recently gave in and filed for membership. The discounts are too good to pass up. Yes, I sold out. Actually, I’ve “souled” out.
Billy Joel was right – it is all about “soul.”
Lately, I’ve been walking around with a strange feeling of peace. I still fall back on my “south-side” demeanor at times, but for the most part I feel less stressed. I joke to my friends, I “got my soul back” after recently making peace with choosing God’s Kingdom over mine in a recent conflict. I mentioned this to my spiritual director and, as he has been trained to do, he asked me, “so what does it feel like to have your soul back?”
I hate it when he gets me reflecting. Aren’t the White Sox on?
Later, I did reflect on the notion. The first thing I noticed was that conflict in many areas of my life had diminished. At work, I was able to walk away and focus on tasks I wanted to take on and not worry about the next title. I was able to see my former self in others still lost in the chase. I felt a bit sorry for them knowing that, like me at their age, they won’t listen to my advice on refocusing. I reflected on what it took to get me to this point – college tuitions, not wanting to move again, getting jacked around and simply getting older and experiencing that glass-ceiling limitation of not being “in the club.” Of course, it is not the leveling off that such a ceiling provides, it is the realization of the personal cost that one pays breaking through it. For me, that personal cost was realizing I didn’t want to be that person anymore. It was finding value outside of my work identity. It was losing the part of my ego that Satan toys with.
In Illinois, we are currently inundated with the notion of how we need to raise taxes so people “pay their fair share.” Each April, as I give to Caesar what Caesar thinks should be his, I wonder why the large amount I pay isn’t more than enough to cover my “fair share.” I don’t use that many services from the state. My wife wondered aloud why I was not my usual excitable self at the prospect. This year, I was happy to be in the black. Don’t get me wrong – I still hate the notion that I am not paying “my fair share,” especially in a state that is terribly corrupt and wastes so much of its income. This year, I enjoyed my moment of being at a point with Maslow’s triangle where money doesn’t drive me like it used to. What a blessing!
It is so important to do two things when such moments arrive: (1) take the time to enjoy the calm and (2) be aware that the storms will return. This is not to be melodramatic or negative but, a realization that in life, the “dishes still need to get done.” Life will drag us down into the trenches. Our goal is not to stay there. Our faith shows us that believing in Jesus does not put an end to our suffering. Our faith shows us how to meet the challenge. Death comes before resurrection. In getting my soul back, I had to let part of myself die. However, how often do our impulses stay dead?
We lose weight and it comes back on, alcoholics want that drink, addicts want their addictions. We live in a society that now tells us to give in to our addictions. It is only limiting our personal joy and, who has the right to take that from us? We treat drug addictions with less potent drugs. We fight AIDS with condoms instead of lifestyle changes. We address abortion by taking control away from parents. We treat taking responsibility as an infringement on personal freedom. Is there any wonder Pope Francis called us to “wake up?”
The Pope is right. Getting one’s soul back is an awakening, or better yet it is a reawakening. It is sharpening the edges dulled by society. It is the realization that our faith offers true freedom, not restrictions. Such cleansing washes away the grime in our lives that we allowed to cover our dignity.
The other day I got up early for an appointment. I got on the interstate, set the cruise control to a little past the speed limit and moved to the outside “slow” lane. I then watched all the “Greg’s” passing me by. I saw them weave between cars while rushing to their next destination. It was a Saturday morning and I wondered, “did they even know they were in such a hurry or has that pace simply become normalized in their lives?” My family tends to run late in getting ready, so I am accustomed to rushing. Where am I rushing too? I seldom ponder that. As I sort my life by my Outlook calendar, perhaps I need to schedule better and eliminate the rush. I can’t know which Kingdom I am going to if I am too busy rushing there to worry about it.
Think about the moments we miss in this rush. I don’t stop and smell the roses. I am too busy driving over them. Consider that we rush to turn 21, rush to retire and then want it all to slow down while we fight to stave off death. We wake up and “our babies” are in college. We wake up and a cherished moment is over.
Don’t let the moment be over. Let us learn to see more from our hears than our intellect. Laugh, cry and be there with someone who needs a friend. Pray for those who drive you crazy. Slow down and enjoy today. Let them call you old at Taco Bell. Cherish the moment God has given us right now.
It’s all about soul.