Better Late Than Never?

In every part of our country’s social history, the people who have played some part in it have been looking for ways to self improvement. Whether it be the founders who sought freedom to conduct themselves apart from self proclaimed authority, or our fore-bearers who sought freedom from old world poverty, the people of America have always known there is something more. For many in our modern age these goals are similar, if only ramified by modern consumerism. In my own experience I went from a listless high schooler to a person obsessed, often excessively, with becoming a better man. In my best times my faith is at the center of such goal making. However, sin does have a way of creeping in.

Ever since barely scratching my way out of high school, I thought that scholastic excellence and discipline would assure me a seamless road toward success and happiness. I’m one of the few who went to college assured of what I wanted out of it. However, during college I was more A fool than I ever allowed myself to believe. I cast off all desires for social ties. Its not a surprise I left with so few. As I got into grad school, I was finally getting tired of my asceticism. By God’s grace I met great people who showed me it is alright to live. As my career path was beginning to hone in on what I had long hoped for it to be, I began to try and regain some what I had ignored for so long. Before long, my biggest personal goal was to gain some semblance of a social life. Something that should be so basic. But to my shame, spiritual growth was being eclipsed by my desire for social growth.

I’ve made progress, but I still have much to learn. I still feel inexorably awkward around people, not trusting my own words. I wind up in states of analysis paralysis, and wind up doing things that in hindsight are stupid or even disrespectful. Lets not even get into relational pursuits. Sometimes I look back upon where I was in undergrad, fully aware of how much I had missed in my solitude, and wish I could have the old me back.

And it is in this that I must give thanks to God for where he has taken me, and in prayer find the resolve to press forward knowing that this is only a foretaste of what lay ahead. For all of my verbal fumbles and situational errors can really only have one of two purposes. The first, which I can often fall into amidst the prideful doldrums of self pity, is too chalk it up to weakness. This leaves me to doubt my self further as I grow in resentment of my situation. But, in faith I trust that God will me lessons in my failures. And even more importantly humility. It is in this I pray that I will have strength to see my weakness for what it is and move forward with a sense of what “self improvement” really means .

A reflection. One of many.

Looking back on the prevalent themes of classic & modern literature, mankind’s struggles with angst flow like water through some of our most beloved tales. The archetype of almost all adventure fiction, the hero’s journey, is so widely celebrated in no small part because it reveals to us threads of hope through self transforming triumphs over the entrapment of angst. Yet most of us live our lives relegating such hopes of victory to fantasy. It makes sense of course, seeing as the most fervent ambitions in our hearts are the ones that are the most absurd.

I have known this to be all too true in my own life. I know that at times I pursue my own goals like an addict, scheming and planning, hoping that if I do everything right I’ll get what I want in the end. But then my absurd designs fall through, & my desires go unrequited. I get down on myself and I wind up looking with a sense of “whats the point” on more and more aspects of my life. I ultimately resign to a secluded state in which I deny all ambitions – or even worse, lash out in sin. I convince myself that I’m not good enough and make peace with not growing. This is me at my worst.

As I reflect on the events of this day ten years ago, I can’t help but wonder if such a behavioral model may hold true when looking at the perpetrators of the most senseless act of violence in mankind’s recent memory. These 19 “men” (for lack of a better pronoun; no respect is given here in the slightest) carried out a plan many years in the making with horrific results. No one knows for certain what compelled each of them to do this, though the theories are myriad. Living in a world that has in many respects rejected change since the european renaissance, one could surely assume that these 19 had encountered many daunted dreams in their day. Maybe they were lashing out over lives filled with pent up angst and aggression at what they thought to be the source of their problems. Is this man at his worst? Deep down inside are we all in someway capable of crossing over into such a depraved state?

In reality such possibilities never leave the realm of theory for most of us, and that is something we should all be grateful for. While this prideful self-destruction exists as a possibility for all of us, so too does grace. And in grace, purpose. 9/11 brought people together who would have never otherwise had any reason to do so. It focused all of our attention. It shifted our perspective. And while the trajectory that was followed by the leadership of this country may have once again fallen victim to prideful, arrogant scheming, the people gained a new dialectic. One wherein this country is seen not as a given, but a blessing.

In truth we need to continually adopt this paradigm for both our lives and our country. I know that my life is short, and if I spend it trying to grab for whatever I can as fast as I can, I will ultimately come away with nothing. The same can be said for our country. If we keep striving to retain control of everything that transpires outside our own borders we may one day look back and ask where has our country gone. If 9/11 can teach us anything on this it’s tenth anniversary, it may be that humility is the cure to many of our ills. Because it is in humility that we can begin to focus on the aspects of life that are truly important, and why we are on this earth in the first place.

 

On this, the tenth anniversary of September the 11th, 2001 I offer my prayers for God’s saving grace in the lives of all it has touched.