It’s not easy living a public life. Sometimes I’d rather be anonymous or just completely unnoticed. It’s a lot of pressure because those who know that I am a Franciscan sister, a Christian and a modern follower of Jesus are paying attention to my moves. What type of picture am I painting about what radical Christian living looks like?
When I was a teen in the 90’s I listened to a lot of DC Talk. On some recorded versions of their song “What if I Stumble?” there is a really profound and challenging statement for all Christians to heed:
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, and walk out the door and deny Him with their lifestyle. That is what a unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.”
It’s lent now. I am going to be honest with you, because lent helps me feel like I can be.
I stumble as I try to follow Jesus. I am concerned about what my lifestyle says about Christians. I am totally aware that I am a sinner. When I am really honest about who I am I can quickly see that I am just as messed up as everyone else, in my own Julia sort of way. I can be mean, selfish, lazy, rude, and prideful. I have bad moods and don’t always show up to serve with a joyful spring in my step. Just because I am a sister doesn’t mean I am better at living a Christian life than any other Christian. Maybe God called me to be a sister because this lifestyle personally helps me do a little better job at being a Christian that other life options would.
One of the criticisms I receive about this blog is that it is too much about me. If I were really dedicated to the poor and the suffering maybe I’d tell more stories about them. Do I think that I am so great that I need to show off what I am up to? I am not a journalist and it is not appropriate for me to tell the stories of other people. My job is to be true to who I am.
No, this blog isn’t all about me. It’s about Jesus and how Jesus is living today. This blog is supposed to be about how young Christians follow Jesus in today’s world. I suppose my life is an example. I hope that it’s a good one. I am really not that great and my message isn’t original. I am one voice in a big, beautiful, diverse community of disciples. I am one woman who is trying to be faithful and is struggling on my walk with God just like everyone else.
The thing is, I feel called to witness. For as long as I can remember, I have been in love with God and I am eager to share my Love. I believe Christians are supposed to act and live differently than the rest of the world. I feel called to live a more public life of faith that shows others an alternative Gospel lifestyle. I feel like I need to give a testimony about the greatness of God with my life. St. Francis directed his earliest brothers to “preach the gospel at all times but only use words when necessary.” I’ve been taught that the boldness of testimony is part of Christian living.
It’s a big job to be bold and put myself out there all the time. I can’t say I love it. God and I get into little arguments about it sometimes. I complain that I want to be a “normal” woman and I am sick of the standards that attention gives me. Sometimes I cry about it and sometimes I get really crabby. (See?! I told you I am not that great! A holy woman would serve her Love with pure joy!)
God keeps inviting me and encouraging me. God shows me that the world is hungry for people who are being alternative and radical with their faith and devotion. Jesus is like a coach who brushes the dust of my sin off my uniform and shoves me back in the game. He seems to believe in me and totally fills me with the graces I need to keep going. I gotta try to keep loving.
I am so grateful that I am not in this alone. I couldn’t be and that’s the whole point. Christians are community people. We have to be. If we weren’t community we wouldn’t be anything. We need to acknowledge our weaknesses and cry out to God and one another for help. Even when the worst of us comes out, we’re still one body. It’s the life of community that helps shine us up- like jewels- so we can be more beautiful. Rough edges get worn down and we help each other be holy.
So, if I do stumble and mess up, I am sorry. I pray that this season of Lent helps convert me- and all of us- a little closer to Christ. I pray that my time in the desert helps me become more enlightened about what my growing edges are. Once I am enlightened, I trust God that I will grow. I pray that I can be a good sister to others who are struggling in their discipleship. I pray that how I live helps Christians look good in this world and inspires belief. And, I am so thankful that we’re all in this together. Let’s pray for each other. With God’s grace, we’ll move the right way.