“Always and never are two words you should always remember never to use.”
~ Wendell Johnson
Tongue in cheek and pen in hand, Wendell Johnson gave us a thought that is worth considering. So many of us live in an “absolute” world. Our rules for life are very stringent: always do this, never do that. However, we all know that the absolutes are often the exception to the rule in our daily lives. We always do this, except for that. We never say this, except when. The exceptions add up until we wonder why we say always and never. Yet, we still attempt to live our lives in an always and never mentality.
As we live our earthly lives, so, too, we live our spiritual lives. We make all sorts of always and never rules for ourselves but, on closer examination, find that exceptions abound there as well. Rigidity in life — temporal or spiritual — does not get us anywhere. Well, I should not say that. It does get us frustrated. It does help develop ulcers and high blood pressure. However, those are not the kinds of end products we desire.
We need to live our lives with much more fluidity, weaving through the subtleties that come our way. When we make definitive statements, we immediately pave the road to failure. Let us try an example on for size: we must always attend Mass on Sundays. That is the rule. We all know it. We all realize we are expected to live by it. However — and, as we know by now in our lives there is always an “however” — what about those who cannot go to Mass on Sundays or Saturday evenings because their work schedules do not allow for it? Many times, I have met people distraught over the fact that they are “horrible Catholics” because they cannot go to Mass on the weekend.
They had become caught up in the all-or-nothing mentality and their lives were spinning out of control. My typical response is to remind them that the rule exists so that we give praise and thanks to God and so that we both witness the practice of our faith to others as well as derive strength from others who worship with us. So, I ask the simple question: “What’s your day off?” When I am told, for example, “Wednesday”, I look at the person and say, “So, can you make Wednesday your Sunday?” They look perplexed, at first, and then the light bulb goes on. Just because they cannot get to Mass on Sunday does not mean that they cannot worship some other day.
Knowing that trying to hold to anything definitive in life can lead to frustration, we need to school ourselves on option as well. There is a way to live the spirit of the law when we cannot live the letter of the law. The letter of the law may tell us always or never; but, the spirit of the law tells us, “there are ways to live authentically if not deeper and more authentically.”
Never let never disturb you and always consider all ways to live your faith as deeply as possible.
FAITH ACTION: Ask God to reveal Himself to you in the subtleties of the day.