“Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”
-St. Francis of Assisi
This morning I woke up with one thought: “Lord, give me the wisdom and words to defend my beliefs.”
Last night I was engaged in a spiritual debate with a friend of mine who is an atheist. We were discussing the doctrine of original sin. My friend remained calm and rational while I felt my blood pressure rising. As I defended God and my beliefs, I remember thinking, “Why are you putting on me on my trial?”
This morning I realized I was putting myself on trial.
I picked up my Living Faith and turned to the page with today’s meditation, and I read: “God does not need to be defended, he needs to be embraced.”
It’s essential for me to understand theology and to back it up with reasoning – but only to a point. Even as a mom, I sometimes find myself teaching my children about God with words instead of showing them about him. Do they see me on my knees praying enough? Do they see me make him a priority, not just on Sundays during Mass but all day, every day? Do they see me doing little things, making small sacrifices all with great love? Do they see me embracing God by living a life of goodness?
Does everyone see me doing that?
A tired toddler saw quite the opposite this morning, I’m afraid. I was still considering my argument from last night and was trying to frame my logic and to tap into the limited store of wisdom I have these days operating on little sleep when she came to me. She was fussing about her lost lovey. I asked her to just wait a minute. She threw a fit. She cried. I put her in another room, shut her out, and closed myself away. (There’s my first stumble with my “use love” parenting resolution. Thank goodness for second and fourth and 392nd chances.) My husband knocked. Exasperated, I said, “I just want a moment to myself.”
Ironic, isn’t it?
What will mean more to my children: the fact that I was able to defend the faith with my written words or the fact that wherever they needed me, whenever they needed me, I was there?
God was never won over with an argument. Dying on the cross – the ultimate sign of sacrificial love – was much more powerful than any parable or impassioned oratory. We don’t bring others to God with our long-winded speeches, our flushed faces, pumping fists, and certainly not with our raised voices. A dying to self, loving beyond what is considered fair or logical, and embracing God in all that we do and say – these are the marks of the most persuasive evangelists.