Friday, February 11, 2011

Stop Sleepwalking Through Life!

My son (9), Dominic, sleepwalks quite frequently. When he first started, my wife and I were a bit worried about him. He rambles on about his dreams, which make no sense, but are amusing at times, which makes it hard not to laugh at him. But, the most disconcerting thing we have seen are when he sleepwalks during a nightmare. He talks to us, while still remembering his dreams, but while still asleep. He gets very upset, esp. when he is sad or scared from something in his dream.

It is hard to comfort him, because he doesn't wake easily from his sleepwalking. I have learned that I have to have him look at me, with glassy eyes, and then tell him I am going to wake him up on the count of three. Once I hit three, I have to clap my hands to have him wake. This jars him from his sleep. Only then are we able to calm him down and comfort him.

Many people in our culture today are not much different from Dominic. The difference is they are sleepwalking through their entire lives, not just their sleep. What I mean is that many people don't know who they are or their purpose in life, and they don't act intentionally but rather they react to what happens to them.

God doesn't want us to sleepwalk, he wants us to live life wide awake!

What does it take to stop sleepwalking through life? It takes the following three things:

1 - Know Your Identity
You are a son or daughter of God, not a faceless cog in a machine or someone who doesn't matter. Each of us is unique and unrepeatable. Made out of love and for love. God has no need of us and yet he creates us because He loves us each individually.

God knows you. He knows what your desires and dreams are. He knows your pains and frustrations. All He asks of us is to let Him come into our lives deeply and truly. He understands us better than we can ever understand ourselves and His dreams and desires for our lives are much better, bolder, and bigger than our own could ever be.

To live as child of God, is to know your identity. We have an identity crisis in our modern culture, because we believe we are merely defined by our actions. If this were so, then all we could identify ourselves as is sinners. But, this is not the case, because we are made in God's image and likeness and by our baptism we are now adopted into His family.
"For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him." -Romans 8: 14-17
We are sons and daughters of the most high King. Knowing this is the first step to waking up from our sleepwalking lives.

2 - Know Your Purpose in Life
The purpose of life can be expressed in several different ways, I will list a few:
  • The old Baltimore Catechism says "God made me to know him, to love him, and to serve him in this world and to be happy with him forever in the next."
  • The first paragraph of the Catechism of the Catholic Church says " a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. For this reason, at every time and in every place, God draws close to man. He calls man to seek him, to know him, to love him with all his strength."
  • Scripture tells us that Jesus said "I came so that you might have life and have it more abundantly" -John 10:10
We are created to be great! But, great by God's standards and not the world's - which means you and I are created to grow into who we are created to be - holy saints - every day of our existence. This call to greatness is very challenging and one that is not easy to achieve. But it is worth everything else, because it is what we were created for.

The worlds tells us greatness is defined by how much we produce, who we know, how much power we have, the things we accumulate, and what people think of us. These are all lies!

Greatness is defined by the virtues. To be great is to be faithful, loving, hopeful, kind, patient, etc. To be great in the eyes of God is to be holy. This is why Jesus asks the rhetorical question -
"What profit is there for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?" -Mark 8:36
This call to greatness isn't just found by our own power. It is done by allowing God to work through us.

When we open our lives up to God's ultimate purpose, we can find who we were truly created to be. We can stop sleepwalking. To do this we must look to the one who teaches us what it means to be human - Jesus. Vatican II tells us what this plan is all about and how our purpose is found in the person of Jesus - "He worked with human hands, He thought with a human mind, acted by human choice and loved with a human heart." (GS 22)

It then goes on to say "He blazed a trail, and if we follow it, life and death are made holy and take on a new meaning." (GS 22)

This true meaning and purpose of life are only found in Christ. That is why "only in the mystery of the incarnate Word does the mystery of man take on light." (GS 22)

Do you want to stop sleepwalking through life? Then look to Christ who teaches us what living a human life is all about.

3 - Live Life Intentionally
Once we know who we are and why we exist, we must then choose to live in a way that conforms to this purpose. We must choose the narrow path

We go back to Vatican II documents to find - "man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself." (GS 24)

To live a life awake in the presence of God is to live as Christ did. Christ gave completely of Himself and found what a life of meaning and purpose meant - we have to die to ourselves to live for others.

Living our purpose and identity out intentionally means we apply our commitment to Christ in concrete ways. Daily. In other words, a life lived intentionally through the purpose God created us for is a life of discipleship.

Jesus give us a clear teaching about living intentionally when he describes discipleship in Luke 9: 23-26:
Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. What profit is there for one to gain the whole world yet lose or forfeit himself? Whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.
Notice first the teaching is directed to "all". There is no person left out of this teaching, it is not optional for a Christian. To take up a cross is a choice we must make every day, not just when we feel like it or when it is convenient. Christ isn't a fad. We must follow His commands to be a disciple of Him.

Jesus goes on to tell us that we must our lives are found when we lose them and that we must proclaim Him to others.

To carry your cross is a life lived with intention.
To follow after Jesus is a life of meaning.
To choose to give your life away to God and others is a life or purpose.

To do all of this means we no longer sleepwalk through life, but are awake in Christ.

Lord may it be so!
  • "what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake." - Luke 13:37
  • "Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming." - Matt 24:42
  • "Blessed are those servants whom the master finds awake on his arrival." - Luke 12:37
  • "Therefore it says, "Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you."" - Eph 5:14
  • "But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." - Luke 21:36

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