A meaningless blog post

“I have to write my blog.”

“What are you going to write about?”

“I don’t know. I don’t feel I have the spiritual clarity to write anything right now.”

This usually comes fairly easily to me. I just take some happening in my life and turn it into an extended metaphor for something having to do with faith and Ireland. I learned something new and you should too! Right now, writing a blog feels like the last thing in the world I’m ready to do. Sure, things have happened since I last wrote one of these blogs and I’m sure they are filled with meaningful lessons. But I don’t know what any of it means yet and I’m not about to pretend that I do. I could simply tell stories about all the fun things I’ve been up to, but wouldn’t that be unfair to the movements of faith that are in fact happening? Things are going on in my understanding of God and myself that I can feel to my core. I can’t explain them but I can’t ignore them either.

Let us settle on this then: the experience of human life is a terrible mystery to us all. We strive to pull meaning out of as much as we can so that we can get through the day without having to admit to ourselves and others that we’re not really sure about those things we are most sure about. We lose our minds worrying because none of it appears to be as meaningful as everyone says life is supposed to be. Well I say, let it be meaningless. Let it be mundane. Let time decide why things happen the way that they do. Not every moment is meant to be analyzed. Not every word of the preacher is for you. Maybe the words at mass aren’t sticking with you right now. It is possible that it isn’t because you aren’t trying hard enough. Maybe God doesn’t feel the need to say anything to you right now. Not every beam of sunlight is beautiful. Not every kind gesture is done out of love. Pray for a whole day and feel nothing. Good news! You’re human. But keep praying because it was never about you anyway. Keep listening to the priest and letting sunshine hit your face and appreciating kind gestures. Not because they will necessarily reveal your true self or make you feel closer to God but because the priest may have something interesting to say. Sunlight can warm your face. A kind gesture can warm your heart.

I’m not saying life is meaningless and there’s no point so do whatever you want. I believe there is an awesome point: to praise God with our whole being and serve his Son so that in dying at his side we may live forever in heaven. That isn’t meaningless; it is the exact opposite. But I didn’t arrive at that meaning because a leaf struck me as beautiful or a Bible verse struck me as wise. I arrived here because the great combination of all that I am and all that I have experienced gives me only this conclusion. Life is filled with so many moments of beauty that are pure gifts freely given by God because he loves us or perhaps simply because he can. But these are not what make life meaningful. If you expect your daily life to give you meaning, then when all seems meaningless you will be left resenting life. The greatest comfort is that even if nothing were beautiful; even if music never brought us to tears or we never lost our breath laughing with friends we would still have the same purpose. Praise and serve God.

No words of mine can show you exactly how to achieve this purpose. In the end you have to make the choice to experience God yourself. God is out there and he is calling to you and waiting for you. Go find him and don’t stop until you do. What I can say is: don’t be fooled by any leaf, homily, or well-written blog into thinking for a moment that you have it all figured out. None of us has it all figured out because God is not a riddle to be solved. He is a person to be loved, and love is difficult and painful. It looks like crucifixion and it can hurt just as much. And sometimes in the midst of it all we are forced to acknowledge that we are lost and afraid because we don’t understand what is going on inside and out. It is in these moments that we are given the opportunity to pray the most honest words we can utter, “Jesus, I need you.” This is faith, to find yourself so completely without consolation on a sea of doubt and to reach out in the dark in the incredible hope that you will find something to hold on to. What you will find is the cross.

When we assign a meaning to everything in our lives because we cannot bear the feeling of being lost, we are simply treading water. We hold on to metaphors, aphorisms, and fleeting feelings instead of giving ourselves the chance to truly be held by Christ. It won’t make life easier or even make sense, but we simply won’t care as much because the meaninglessness of now will be embraced by the meaning of eternity. I don’t know what my current lack of spiritual clarity means, but I know that in the end it doesn’t really matter.

  • Steven Warner

    If it’s any consolation, both Thomas Merton and John Cardinal Newman – neither of them strangers to the spiritual discipline – had periods of profound challenge as they walked this earth. Both of them wrote prayers about these moments when the compass points weren’t working.

    I take comfort in the labyrinth – as crazy as that might sound. A labyrinth is not a maze (you can’t get lost in it). All that needs be done is to put one step in front of the other. “Solvitur ambulando” – “it is solved by walking.” Both of the aforementioned men would, I think, give assent to this. They both struggled mightily. But they kept walking.

    Prayers to you, Ben, as you make your way back to Notre Dame and your continued discernment. You are a blessing to us here in Dublin!

  • Kelli K

    Thank you for writing your “meaningless” post, it was a joy to read and relate to. Mysteries are wonderful sources of reflection, and when learning it is surprising to admit how much one doesn’t know.

    ¡Siempre Adelante! – Saint Junipero Serra