The Journey Forward

So much has changed in my life since the last time I used this blog. Here I am, at the cusp of another great adventure, staring into the maw of doctoral program applications, GRE preparation, and the tingling anticipation that comes with knowing that the future is entirely out of my hands.

A year ago, I was engaged to be married. I was intending to settle into a quiet life, to fade from the front lines. I thought that I had found the road God wanted me on, and that this time, the doors in front of me would stay open.

I was wrong.

And I have never been happier to be wrong.

It turns out that the old adage about telling God your plans is true. And sometimes, I think I must amuse God more than anyone else does, because I dearly love to plan, to worry, to plot, to scheme. I don’t know how to relinquish control. I fight Him every single step of the way like a nap-deprived toddler in the candy aisle. I want it. I don’t know what it is, but I want it, and I want it NOW!

But God has never let me settle for less than He desires for me. He has dragged me, kicking and screaming, through all the wrong turns I have made. God doesn’t just close doors in my life. He slams them, nails boards across them, and sticks a chair under the knob. He sends angels to lurk on the other side with tranquilizers just in case I get uppity. And He puts a big piece of spiritual cake under a neon sign in front of the door He actually wants me to go though.

I’ve never stood a chance.

And yes, I have been hurt in the process. But it was the hand that touched the hot stove that caused the burn, not the hand that pulled it away. Every ounce of suffering in my life has been because I was impatient with God, stubborn, and frankly, just plain rebellious.

I have learned something these past few months of Grad School. And I know that it’s a lesson I’m going to keep having to re-learn, but all the same, I have learned it for now: God’s Will will be done. No matter what. And this isn’t fatalism. I have the ability to choose, if only to choose the easy way or the hard way. But the Hound of Heaven is one heck of a sheepdog, and it’s probably a lot better for me if I just try to do things right the first time.

So, moving forward, I’m going to try even harder to let God lead me, and not to fight Him on every little thing just because I can.

I truly believe that He has amazing things in store, not just for me, but for every single one of you.

Let Him do His thing.

Or, you know, you could actually HELP Him do it. That’s probably a better option.

That was a nice vacation. Let’s get back on the road.

-E.G. Norton

On Evil

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on the nature of evil. It’s only, well, natural that I should do so, I suppose. This time of year tends to bring out the brooding, morose side of my introspection for several reasons. While the days are slowly getting longer here in my cold Northern home, winter seems to rage on with no end in sight. And as any Michigan driver can tell you, winter is the epitome of all that is evil: cold, unforgiving, brutal, and oppressive.

Just one of the many hazards of my daily commute. (via Game of Thrones Wiki)

Just one of the many hazards of my daily commute. (via Game of Thrones Wiki)

Yeah. I thought you wouldn’t buy that. There’s a deeper, more personal reason why this time of year makes me go just a little bit wonky. Shadows of bad memories tend to play through my mind in the quiet stillness of winter. It is easy to put these things aside in the hustle of summer, but when all is stillness and pure white, it is harder for me to ignore.

A year ago, I would not be writing this. A year ago, I would have been listening to those whispers in my head and letting them tell me their lies, because I did not understand their nature or how to combat them. I let them win, because I thought I was powerless, broken, and probably deserved what I got.

Those whispers in the back of my head were me. But they were also my enemy trying to pull me back into his service. Evil is sly and subtle in this way, and it is fantastic at exploiting our weaknesses. But here’s the deal: evil exploits our weaknesses because we allow it to. Because we make the decision to wallow, to listen, to believe. I have suffered in confusion and self-hatred for years because I made the choice to let evil tell me who I was rather than listening to the merciful love of the Lord of All who made me and died for me. For me!

I told you way back at the start of this blog that Free Will is mankind’s greatest power. God built us with the ability to choose which path we would follow. Satan knows this power better than we do, and loves to toy with us by telling us a critical lie: once you’ve made the choice to serve evil, there is no turning back.

He’s just bitter because that was true for him. As an angel without Grace, he only had one chance, and he chose to rebel. And in his rage and anger and infinite patheticness, he tries to surround himself with as many embittered, desperate, miserable persons as possible, so he does not have to deal with the consequences of his mistake like a grown up. He is a powerful spoiled brat throwing a perpetual temper tantrum, and he is not to be listened to because everything he says is a lie.

So why do we ever listen to him? Well, because once upon a time, our mother and father did. When they partook of the Most Expensive Fruit Salad, Adam and Eve cursed us with Original Sin. On a personal level, they cursed us with the guilt that goes along with knowing that we are a broken people… and that lovely thing we call concupiscence. We have within us a twisted dark piece that predisposes us to temptation and deliberately acts against our best interest. It is our weak point, and Satan’s ally. And it is part of every one of us.

Thanks, mom and dad.

So how do we fight this enemy, when the enemy is already within our gates, defiling our temple, and ransacking the treasure house of our soul? How can we possibly prevail against such reckless hate?

All the best lines have already been taken. (image: New Line Cinema)

All the best lines have already been taken. (image: New Line Cinema)

Good news! Great joy! We don’t have to do it alone!

God gave us allies, the angels and saints, to help us along the way. He gave us a desire to love him which is stronger than the darkness if we let it be. And most importantly, he gave us his Son, who was made flesh of our flesh, who bled and died horribly for us to free us from the eternal Death which was the final kiss of this curse. He gave us this same living flesh and blood to consume not out of a desire for us to practice ritual cannibalism, but because through this Blessed Sacrament, we are made anew. Every time you fall on your knees before God and cry “Mercy!” He is there and grants you more than you ask for. Every time you eat the flesh of the Lamb Who Was Slain But Lives and bathe in His blood, you are purified. His is not dead viscera that passes through our digestive system. It is living flesh that bonds with our flesh and makes us more Him every single time. Jesus lives within us, growing in power every time we allow him to.

And that weakness of our concupiscence? It is no longer a curse. It is an opportunity. That weakness within that Satan so loves to manipulate is strength to those who surrender it to God’s mercy. For when we look at our brokenness and place it before God, allowing the tide of mercy from the wounds of Jesus to flow over it and into our very essence, when we truly surrender to Him, knowing that alone we are like a rabbit in an alligator pit. . . it is then that we are made strong. It is then that we are made Saints. And in this way, the forces of hell truly will not overpower us.

Hey, demons. Guess what?

My Dad can beat up your dad. And my big Brother’s gonna get you.

In fact, He already has. You’ve lost. You’re beaten.

Go away.

-E.G. Norton