Billy Vazquez (’15)
Thursday, March 26, 2015
2 Timothy 3:1-5, 10-17 (CEB) • Understand that the last days will be dangerous times. People will be selfish and love money. They will be the kind of people who brag and who are proud. They will slander others, and they will be disobedient to their parents. They will be ungrateful, unholy, unloving, contrary, and critical. They will be without self-control and brutal, and they won’t love what is good. They will be people who are disloyal, reckless, and conceited. They will love pleasure instead of loving God. will look like they are religious but deny God’s power. Avoid people like this. … But you have paid attention to my teaching, conduct, purpose, faithfulness, patience, love, and endurance. You have seen me experience physical abuse and ordeals in places such as Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra. I put up with all sorts of abuse, and the Lord rescued me from it all! In fact, anyone who wants to live a holy life in Christ Jesus will be harassed. But evil people and swindlers will grow even worse, as they deceive others while being deceived themselves. But you must continue with the things you have learned and found convincing. You know who taught you. Since childhood you have known the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith that is in Christ Jesus. Every scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character, so that the person who belongs to God can be equipped to do everything that is good.
Good and evil. Right and wrong. Two opposite forces, constantly struggling to eliminate the other. But one cannot exist without the other. Thus, they balance each other out.
Of course, we know that the world is not so cut and dry. We know that there are confounding factors for every situation, for every conflict. Yet somehow the idea of balance is still applicable.
If there’s one thing that I think we all struggle with on a daily basis, it’s finding balance. You can take that as you will, it’s so versatile. Am I maintaining a balanced diet? What’s most important right now: having fun, exercising, doing homework, or job hunting? Do I live for the day or do I constantly think and worry about my future? What should I do: go home and get some rest, or go out to this awesome healing service I keep hearing about? (I’m glad to see what people chose with that last one).
Finding balance is a struggle that permeates every aspect of our lives because we are constantly facing choices, both miniscule and massive. And as you can see from some of those examples, it’s never quite just a choice between one thing and another – there are countless options, and each has its own merits and its disadvantages.
For those of us standing on the edge of the gaping abyss of the unknown (a.k.a. post-graduation life), balance is nearly impossible to find because the choices are so numerous and the stakes are so high. Do I find work in DC so I can stay close to the home I’ve made and the friends I love? Do I return back to my family home and figure things out from there? Do I embark on a journey across the country or even across the world? Do I choose the job I would love, the job I would like, or the job that I might hate (but it will pay better than the former two)? These are just a few of the choices bouncing around each of our heads. It’s a lot to think about, a lot to prioritize, and pretty much impossible to balance.
Side note: If you didn’t know, I’ve got some weird issues with balance. For example, since I’m a leftie, I feel bad for my neglected right side, and so I constantly do everything evenly to make up for that (is that a bit OCD? Huh). My drive to find balance often puts me in awkward spots. Like I love to think idealistically, but I’m also very cynical and realistic. I set out each day with a to-do list and a can-do attitude, but then I remember that I haven’t quite caught up on all my shows, and the to-do list is quickly forgotten. And, the kicker: I’m a Catholic who doesn’t evangelize, who loves interfaith dialogue, who doesn’t follow a lot of the rules I “should,” and who’s currently doing a sermon at a Methodist service.
I struggled with that last one throughout my years here at AU. Freshman year, I walked into a Methodist service and was baffled by how different it was from Catholic Mass. For a while, I didn’t return. Instead, from then and through sophomore year, I got super involved with the Catholic community in order to grow in my faith. Yet I found a clear lack of interest in the CSA to get involved in interfaith and the other faith communities. It was shocking, and being the idealistic person I am, I set out to change that, to try and establish some balance (and also to redeem that initial blunder with the UMSA). I joined the tiny group of individuals working to build connections between the communities and, and in a few years, I’ve seen this tiny group grow and thrive into a larger, diverse, and active community. I’ve seen the capability that we all have to find balance and understanding among peoples with different backgrounds and different faiths. I’ve especially enjoyed the bridge-building. Without it, we might be divided by our different faiths. With it, well, just look: I’m not only back at a Methodist service, I’m leading a sermon at one. I’ve got a bunch of great friends just in this room, and I couldn’t be more thankful.
Yet despite the wonderful outcome, there’s always a nagging thought – am I bad for the “non-Catholic” things I do? For participating in other services, for accepting others who worship a different way? If I stop to think, there are plenty of things that the Catholic Church professes that I don’t believe in, and if that’s the case, do I belong in that community? If not, where do I belong? Thus I personally still struggle to find some form of perfect balance. More often than not, I don’t.
What I have come to realize, and what we all need to realize, is this: it’s okay to not have perfect balance. We want to live our lives to the fullest and we also want to live them in the best way God would like, but, and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, there’s no perfect way to do so.
But THAT IS OKAY. God didn’t make us perfect. We’ve been messing up ever since we had the means with which to do so, and that’s fine. God still loves us, sinners and screw-ups though we may be. Sometimes what one person sees as a sin is not a sin, and sometimes a screw-up isn’t all that bad. No matter the case, God loves us.
The author of this letter tells us the kind of people to avoid: the “selfish,” the “ungrateful,” “unloving,” “contrary,” and “critical,” those who “love pleasure instead of loving God,” and those who “look like they are religious but deny God’s power.” With all the things that we are trying to balance, it seems impossible to not fall into one of the categories here. I know I have from time to time. Does that make me an evil person? If that’s the case, I guess I didn’t pay attention to author’s ways. Feel free to avoid me. The author said so.
He also refers to our childhood knowledge of the holy scriptures that help you to be wise in a way that leads to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ, and that “every scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching, for showing mistakes, for correcting, and for training character” so that we may be equipped to do good. Yet I can think of a few I find questionable (i.e. Elisha summoning bears to maul children, don’t get me started on some of Leviticus’s ideas), and even after attending plenty of Bible studies, I’m still left confused on which scriptures to follow most closely.
If you’re a little confused like me, you might think yourself a bad person, maybe even evil – someone unworthy of love, especially God’s love.
Yet think of all the sinners and screw-ups that have gone before us. They had to make choices each day, to try and balance their spiritual life with their regular life. More often than not, they made mistakes, they screwed up. But they kept on going.
We screw up and we sin. It happens everyday. Sometimes we do it consciously, and often we don’t realize until after that we did. And, much as we would like, we don’t always learn from it. We don’t always find a way toward a better balance. But that’s okay. You keep working at it – perhaps one day you’ll get it right. More than likely, you won’t. Even if that’s the case, you know what will always be there? Your support, your rock – God.
God’s love is the unbreakable foundation that supports you no matter what. It appears in different forms, and sometimes you won’t recognize it. Sometimes you won’t even feel it. But like the foundation of a house (that always needs work), it’s there, ever present, no matter what choices you make. It rests inside you, it emanates from your friends and loved ones, and sometimes you’ll catch glimpses of it in the face or act of a kindly stranger. I feel it when I’m at home, at interfaith, any time I step into this building, and every time I spend time with each of you.
Perfect balance is almost impossible to achieve. We wobble, we fall, we screw up. We don’t know exactly what’s right to do for now, tomorrow, or in the future. We make plans and choices that sometimes work out and sometimes don’t.
I don’t know what tomorrow holds for me, let alone the next couple of months or the next year. It’s terrifying, especially when I’ve almost found my perfect balance here at AU. I don’t want to leave, but I know that no matter what happens next, no matter where I go and what I do, the foundation of God’s love will support me.
As you make your choices and plunge into the unfamiliar fog of the future, you’ll feel the balance tipping and wobbling. Yet no matter what, it will not fall. You may screw up and struggle. You may get overwhelmed with work and lose touch with friends. You may try to find the perfect balance and never succeed. No matter what happens though, there is still ground beneath your feet. There is still a foundation that withstands it all. It’s God’s love, and it’s unbreakable.