Victor had a job that called on him to travel overseas a lot. On one particular flight to Paris, Victor became overwhelmed with a feeling of claustrophobia during take off. He felt trapped in his seat but knew he had to stay put. For some odd reason in that moment he thought of his Mom who had taught him when he was a child to ask God for help when you were in trouble, and to always remember that your actions have consequences.
Then he thought, “Here I am 50 years old and in a panic on a flight during take off—something I’ve experienced hundreds of times before!”
Eventually he did calm down. During the rest of the flight Tim had some time to do some thinking. And he looked back over his life and realized that his mother was right, at least about actions having consequences. When he was younger his main purpose in life was to be successful. His dream had been to make a lot of money, to have comfort and security, and also pleasure. But he found out the hard way that the pursuit of pleasure nearly destroyed his path to success. He started to develop addictions, had adulterous relationships, and overall, began to feel trapped—as if he were his own worst enemy and a prisoner of his own desires. From those near disasters he learned that discipline is needed and that actions have consequences—as his Mother had said so many years ago. Without discipline your life can go up in smoke!
When Victor got home he was greeted by his wife, Susan. She said she was happy to see him, but then said that she was off to a meeting to help a Catholic Nun who was doing some work with the homeless. Susan thought that she could do a fundraiser for Sister Barbara. Victor said he thought it was a great idea, but he also knew that she would also be asking him for a big donation to this fundraiser.
A week later, Susan asked Victor to go with her to the homeless shelter that Sister Barbara was running. She and Sister had really become good friends. When Victor entered the building he saw the faces of those who had been beaten up by life—hard looking people and those who were mentally ill. There were also several single Moms with young ones. And Victor thought that he was grateful he wasn’t in a situation like some of these people were!
The next week Susan invited Sister Barbara to their house for dinner. During the conversation Victor soon realized that this Sister Barbara was not a character out of a Bing Crosby movie. She was a wise and intelligent person who knew what she was about and took very seriously her responsibility to care for the wounded. Victor said, “Sister, you are to be commended for the good work you do. It must be difficult, but to tell you the truth, I couldn’t do what you do for a million dollars.” And with a wry smile she replied, “Neither could I.” Then Victor said, “But you must really get great satisfaction by helping those people who are down and out.” And Sister Barbara replied, “Yes, I really love my work, but I have to tell you, if my work was the center of my life—the only thing I lived for—I would have been gone a long time ago. I know a lot of people who make their work everything and end up using it as an escape so that they can avoid the pain that is in their lives. From what I’ve seen, though, they end up in denial, telling themselves they’re really lucky, but deep down they also realize that something important is missing from their life. They settled for the nice things which brought comfort, but they’re also feeling a sense of boredom and restlessness. I see it a different way. I am convinced that God created me. That he gave me this precious gift of life and any of us who have received life from God now owe God. He didn’t give us this life so that we could have money, pleasure, comfort and security. All that comes down to is a life that is solely about you and your desires. Much better to live your life for God—to make God the center and follow his commandments and value what God values. Then one has peace of mind because you know your moving in the right direction. What I found was that after I chose to live this way and actually did it, I was transformed. Yes, much better to be spiritually awakened to the presence of God than to think life is all about you. It can get pretty claustrophobic when you’re lost in yourself and your own ego. You can end up feeling trapped while you hang on to a life that’s really missing the mark.”
St. James writes: “You ask and you do not receive because you ask wrongly, with a view to squandering what you received on your pleasure.” People in life can begin to realize that they are chasing after the wrong things. Don’t look at God as merely an obligation to be gotten out of the way. We are asked to live our lives, not for ourselves, but for God. We’re asked to let go of the empty things in our life and to live our life for God’s glory. Sometimes to do this we have to take a look at our priorities and step back and look at the big picture and see what it is that God is asking us to do.