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Finding my dignity in self-giving love Print
Guest column
Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015 -- 12:00 AM
Morgan Smith

I am reflecting now about how I felt on a weekend when I was facilitating a retreat that I had crafted from scratch (if you could imagine the stress this might cause). I feel like what happened to me sounds a bit crazy, the opposite of what "should" have happened.

I left the weekend at a physical deficit after ­­I put in countless hours of work. What's crazy is that I am more spiritually fulfilled than ever before­­. I left the weekend a changed person.

Happy in serving others

During the weekend, I suffered no stress. I felt awakened -- fully alive and truly free. I felt so free in serving the people on the retreat and looking after and carefully attending to every detail.

I was happy. I was truly loving (with my whole body and heart) those people on the retreat. I was giving them a complete gift of myself. I was fulfilled in my dignity as a human person by giving myself in love to others.

I am thinking of this now, because my friend posed a question the other night. She asked: "Some people say they didn't know how to love deeply until they had a child. What does that mean for childless people? Will I always understand the fatherhood of God less, or will I always be more selfish and not even know it?"

The conclusion was: we need to pursue the desire for complete self-giving before we put conditions on what this "should" look like.

This got me thinking about my experiences of self-giving. I have felt this same freedom in many ways -- some big (like serving on Rachel's Vineyard retreats), and some small (like washing the dishes after a meal that I have prepared for friends).

I thought about how much I have changed through all of those experiences -- how much I have learned about love. I also thought about the times when I have felt frustrated -- like I was stuck and not free at all.

Searching for a vocation

Some people get very caught up in their search for vocation. Their "waiting" sometimes turns into a distraction. "When will I find my future husband?" "Why doesn't God give me a family now​?"

This waiting turns to frustration. It is our calling to give, ​now. ​And, when we are waiting for it to happen to us, we lose sight of Christ's urgent call to us now. We are reducing our experience to what we "think" vocation looks like.

Likewise, folks who are already in their vocation have a tendency to reduce the experience of the one without. I have heard this many times: "You don't understand what it's like! You don't have kids!" This totally disregards my suffering and my own experience of growth through the sacrifices I make in my life to follow Christ.

Living in the 'now'

Both of these reductions do not correspond to our call to freedom in self-giving --  ­and are limiting our experience of humanity and Christ. Expectations can sometimes cloud our eyes and make it difficult to see Christ as He is now.

Christ gives us everything we need to change and grow right now in this moment. This changes throughout our lives, but we can be assured that there is a teachable and growable moment now. ​I ​do ​have the ability to grow in love without children --  as evidenced by this weekend.

But, I had to respond to the call to do so! Christ comes to us in every moment -- mundane or dramatic! He comes to us and invites us to participate in His love by giving ourselves away.

Every moment has an opportunity to grow in love. Our human dignity exists within this opportunity. Our response is a "yes" to the One who wants to show us our true selves through selfless giving.

Whether that's by serving at the homeless shelter, teaching catechism, giving money to the missions, washing dishes, or providing for your children -- these are all teaching moments through Christ Himself.

What are you doing to grow in this way? Do you say "yes" in the moment? When was the last time you felt truly free? What is happening to you in this moment -- what is Christ asking you to do?

Morgan Smith is a member of the Cathedral Parish in Madison and active in the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation.