Last week, we talked about curiosity, and I can see why so many people stay at that threshold. Being curious is sometimes (often?) less work than being open.
Openness is the premier example of a decision point that can feel dramatically different for outsiders than for insiders.
It’s like you’re on a cliff, about to go over, diving into black…is it water? is it air? will anything cushion your fall? are you even falling?
I’m sort of living through these thresholds in my personal life right now. It’s…weird. Almost like the Holy Spirit put this book in my lap when I most needed it.
Did I mention I’m unqualified, terrified, and totally leaning back and trying to trust God?
Moving from curiosity to openness is one of the hardest transitions to make because it involves, as earlier thresholds do not, making the choice to lower such defences and cynicism and antagonism, and acknowledge to God (if he is really there and listening) and to oneself that you are open to change. It can feel dangerous, crazy, frightening, and out of control. There are many internal and external pressures, fears, and blocks that must be overcome to reach openness. Because of this, many who are curious never make the transition.
It’s easy to think of the people Out There, not in our pews or at Mass on Sunday. In fact, I’d have to say that looking in the mirror, I have to really ask myself just how open *I* am. I mean, really. Am I open to God at work in my life? Am I open to what God is asking me to do? Am I open to…well, anyway.
As people approach the threshold of openness, some “try on” what it would be like to change. They give God a trial run, so to speak. As they do so, we need to stifle the impulse to say, “You just have to believe.” We must resist the urge to pressure them beyond what they are prepared to do right then. If your friend doesn’t yet believe in a personal God or doesn’t think a relationship with God is possible, he won’t be able to cross into openness. The fundamental issues must be dealt with first. [emphasis mine]
No pressure. Leave it in God’s hands. Don’t push.
Easier said than done.
We live in a marketing society. We’re so used to being sold that we do it in our personal relationships. And yet, what’s working better and better is authenticity, actual word-of-mouth recommendations. (And don’t think the marketing professionals aren’t noting that.)
Evangelization isn’t about selling. It’s about living.
…our care for the person must be genuine. No matter what our friend decides, he or she needs to know that we truly are friends.
Are you just selling? Or are you sharing?
It’s a matter of unconditionality. We have to be unconditional. Our friendship, our love, our availability: these things can’t hinge on anything. They have to be as freely available as we can make them.
And we also have to be willing to stretch and grow.
We need to recognize the presence of a hidden hemorrhage fueled by spiritual growth in our parishes. Numerous Catholics are experiencing spiritual longings but may have little or no language for what they seek. They sense there has to be more to faith than what they have encountered so far. In terms of thresholds, these people range from the later stages of curiosity through openness and early seeking. Their spiritual antennae are up, and they are quietly looking for people who might know, for clues, for guidance. But they are often invisible to the rest of us. If they hesitantly come to talk to parish staff or leaders, the response is most often to try to connect them with some parish or diocesan activity.
Oh, this pains me, both to read it and to recognize its truth. I’m a parish employee. And I’m nodding.
However, get THIS:
One very simple and nonthreatening way to help foster trust, curiosity, and openness is Eucharistic Adoration. What if we stop thinking of Adoration as primarily a devotion for the already devout and consider it also as a form of evangelization particularly suited to the postmodern mind-set? It is, in fact, an ideal form of devotion for the nondevout.
Adoration appeals to postmoderns because it is experiential, mysterious, and accessible to everyone: the non-baptized, the non-Catholic, the unchurched, the lapsed, the badly catechized, the wounded, the skeptical, the seeking, the prodigal, and those who aren’t sure that a relationship with God is even possible. An acquaintance of mine aptly describes it as “Spiritual Radiation Therapy” because it places the soul in the direct presence of Jesus Christ in the trust that he will act if we leave the door open the merest crack. All it requires is the ability to sit down.
I can think of no better answer. And I’ve been thinking about these topics a lot since reading this book. I’ve been forcing myself to read only a chapter a week (and our parish staff is probably prettttttty sick of my trips into the office and my ravings and I think our pastor is going to read it just so I shut! up!). I’ve been making myself go slowly.
And hey, it’s not about me anyway.
Join the discussion over at CatholicMom.com! There’s a summary (you don’t have to read the book to participate!) and some great questions to get you started.