A couple of weeks ago, Jennifer Fulwiler wrote this post where she asked:
What do you want the story of your life to be? What would a beautiful, God-glorifying ending look like? And now: What is your Antagonist?
I immediately copied and pasted that quote into a new draft because I want to explore this. If you have ever read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you have read and explored the idea of “beginning with the end in mind”. It’s an exercise a person can use to understand where to start with a project, a relationship, or yes, even life, by contemplating what the ultimate goal is.
Asking what I want the story of my life to be is beginning with the end in mind.
So, I’m going to get those questions out of order for a second and first ask,
WHAT WOULD A BEAUTIFUL, GOD-GLORIFYING ENDING to my life look like?
Well, the answer, in my book, is that I’ll be in Heaven, complete union with God. My human-ness tells me that I’ll be happier if all of my family and friends are there with me, but my well-formed catechetical brain reminds me that if I am in union with God, I will have complete whole-ness, complete happiness, regardless of who is there with me.
I’m not going to lie…I truly hope I am raising my children in such a way that they, too, will choose to be in Heaven with God, and I do believe that would contribute to a beautiful, God-glorifying ending to my life. One of the biggest and most overwhelming assignments of the vocation of wife and mother is to help guide my spouse and our children to Heaven. I hope to accomplish this. I would imagine that whether I truly end up in Heaven, in complete union with God, is reliant on my efforts in that respect.
So, by considering what a beautiful God-glorifying end looks like, I now want to consider…
WHAT DO I WANT THE STORY OF MY LIFE TO BE?
I think I should be happy if the legacy I leave is one filled with love, compassion, understanding, and devotion to God.
So, of course, now comes the part where I acknowledge that which stands in my way.
What is my Antagonist?
The first thing that stands in my way of living a life steeped in love for others is myself. Focusing on my own needs or focusing on that which would make my life easier are ways that I do not put God first and, consequently, do not put the needs of my family and neighbor in proper priority. Very simply, I want my life to be love. If my ultimate goal is to be in Heaven in complete union with God…who is love, himself…then I must strive to be love here in my earthly life. As a wife, I must love my husband unconditionally, support him spiritually and guide him toward that which is best for him. As a mother, I must love my children unconditionally, give them opportunities to grow in faith, hope and love, support them spiritually and do my best to guide them toward that which is best for them. As a citizen, I must love my neighbor as myself. I must look for ways (big and small) to make a positive difference for others and, if possible, point them toward goodness, whole-ness, holiness.
One of the biggest things I remember growing up was learning the order of priorities. God-First, Family-Second, Country/Neighbors-Third. No where in that list does “Self” appear. That’s not to mean that a person shouldn’t tend to their needs at some point, it’s just that a person should not always be seeking to fulfill her own needs and neglect God, family or fulfill her own needs to the detriment of society.
What parts of myself play a bigger part in this Antagonist role? My pride for sure. My impatience. My mouth (I’m a horrible gossip). My overall selfish nature.
I have had an inkling about these things in myself for a long time. One need only be a fly on the wall in the confessional to know how often I confess the sin of gossip, of my impatient attitude with my husband and children and the times I must confess that I have placed other things ahead of God in my life.
I am just now putting a different spin on understanding my flaws. Viewing these things as an Antagonist…an obstacle in my pursuit of a life of love…identifies “the enemy” so to speak. And identification is half the battle. Putting a name to it takes away it’s power over me.
So, in order to attain the beautiful God-glorifying ending to this life of mine, I must understand that my strength, my struggles, my wins — all of it is nothing without God. Without Him, I never exist in the first place. Without Him, my body is empty. I am dust…to dust I shall return…but my soul is alive! My soul thirsts to join God at the end of my earthly existence. Protecting my soul from my pride and eliminating the need to use my mouth as a weapon are my challenges. Loving my children’s souls with my own soul…loving with the Heart of God is how I accomplish this.
It’s no small task, I realize. It will take me my whole life…and maybe even longer (I’m pretty sure I’ve got a room set up in Purgatory).
I identify the goal.
I identify the Antagonist.
And now…I get to work.