Three weeks from the day we were planning to visit nursing homes with our youth, one of my amazing volunteers mentioned that nursing homes did not allow people who were sick to visit their residents. That presented a problem. It was winter, and many of the youth had been sick over the past few months.
Suddenly, that tug on my heart that had said, “This is going to be such an amazing experience for our youth,” was drowned out by the slippery little voice that whispered coaxingly, “They’re all going to be sick. No one will be able to go, and you’ll have done all that work for nothing. Don’t waste your time. Plan something else. Something safe. This is a legitimate reason not to even try…”
Where did that come from? In a split second, what had looked like a beautiful opportunity for service and evangelization felt like a whole lot of work that maybe wasn’t so worth it after all.
But this happens to us all the time, doesn’t it?
Each and every day, we are faced with two choices: the “easy way” or the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
All too often I think that I can take the easy way and end up with the same results as if I had taken The Way. After all, God is God, and He can bring good out of anything, right? Right. But God wants more for us than that. He wants to be so much more than our Divine Maid who comes in to clean up all our messes.
God wants us to be Co-Heirs of His Kingdom (Rom 8:17). He wants us to participate in His divine plan of salvation for the world.
What? Yup. It’s the truth. Remember that choice we have every day? It’s the choice between participation in a divine mission, and rejecting the greatness that we’re made for. In the words of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, “The world offers you comfort, but you were not made for comfort, you were made for greatness.”
We are made for greatness.
It doesn’t usually look that epic, though.
The choice between greatness and mediocrity usually comes disguised in simple clothes and average, everyday circumstances. Will I get up when my alarm goes off, or hit the snooze? Will I make that snippy remark to the person who has been making my life difficult, or respond with kindness and a smile? Will I participate when people around me are gossiping, or do something about it?
Will I do the work it takes to give someone else the opportunity to encounter Christ, or let it be?
Often times, the effort and sacrifice that it takes to be great can deter us from this higher calling. Mediocrity may not sound appealing, but it’s certainly less painful. The virtue that allows us to rise to the challenge is called “magnanimity” (noble-spiritedness). God can do amazing things with the magnanimous heart – even when these things seem small or insignificant.
I couldn’t know what the end result would be when I was trying to decide whether to take the youth to the nursing homes or choose something “safe”. Would it be worth the effort? Should I risk it? What if it wasn't what I had hoped? I didn’t know if I wanted to be magnanimous.
Thankfully, God blessed me with a coworker who makes a lot of sense. When I shared the situation with her, she suggested that I call the nursing homes first, and let them tell me whether or not they wanted the youth to come. Smart woman. So, I made the calls. Every phone call was met with enthusiasm from the nursing homes. I couldn't back out then.
We held the event as planned, but the results were more than I had hoped for.
Parents I had never met stepped out of the woodwork to donate their time and leadership as volunteer drivers. Activity directors from the nursing homes gushed over the youth, and invited us back anytime we wanted to come. Residents beamed and asked if the youth would visit again. And most excitingly, youth who had been nervous and afraid of what the experience would hold returned that night asking if they could go back.
Could God have done something good if I’d chosen the easy way out? Yes. But He had more than “good” waiting – He had something great. All He asked me to do was provide the opportunity.
I’m so thankful that God has placed people in my life to call me on to more than mediocrity. It’s a constant battle, and I usually fail, but the same God who calls us to greatness promises that His grace “will be sufficient” for us (2 Cor 12:19), and is constantly working toward our salvation. May you feel today the presence of God's grace when you are faced with the choice between the easy way and The Way, and “May the God of peace himself make you perfectly holy....The one who calls you is faithful, and he will accomplish it” (1 Thes 5:23-24).