I’m late to the game this week, but the topic is a big one: “Expect Conversion”.
Throughout the book, Sherry Weddell keeps mentioning the one thing so easily overlooked: God isn’t just a Person . . . He’s a Person Who Does Stuff. With Humans. He shows up and does His part.
One of the offshoots of faithy-ism is a tendency to act as if God is off in a distant bleacher somewhere, wanting us to put on this or that great ministry program, so He can wave and cheer and go grab Himself another beer at halftime. Which is why when the SuperHusband and I hosted a local book club for Forming Intentional Disciples, we were pretty alarmed when people kept coming back to our house for another round. And we kinda cheated — we started with people who were already gung-ho Catholic types. Still, it surprised.
Turns out God’s interested in this whole “evangelization” thing. Like it was His idea or something.
When people complain about asking the saints for help, or complain that Catholics take this free will thing a little too far, I pull out the analogy — not strictly speaking an analogy — of the four year old helping Mom in the kitchen. It’s not that God couldn’t bake the brownies without us, it’s that it pleases Him to let us measure the cocoa and mix the batter. And that it’s important enough for our own good that we turn out and do our part, however messy and incompetent and desperate for His watchful attention — that He’ll wait until we’re ready to put down the Barbies and get to work.
Working with God is part of our education as adopted children — recall we are not angels-in-training (as if that weren’t a big enough destiny) — but in fact co-heirs with Christ. Thus it’s important we learn the family business.
What’s weird is that God will let us play with our fake food in the play kitchen for a mighty long time. Allow me to be very blunt: Mandatory “volunteering”, signed bulletins as proof of Mass attendance . . . all these managerial fixes to the glitches in our sacrament mill system . . . they are symptoms of a very serious problem. They are symptoms that we’ve turned our parish religious education programs into a cotillion.
Well, cotillion is a popular thing, and Catholic cotillion is a bargain compared to the Junior League. And plus of course there’s the part about how people really do desperately want to know, love, and serve God, so your program is going to draw comers, even if those comers have no idea what they are really asking for.
But if you’ve got piles of students churning through the program, and they’ll even come to Mass if you threaten them with missing their debut . . . you’re playing with fake food.
Fake food is easier than real food. It doesn’t smush. Doesn’t sour. Doesn’t fall apart because you overbeat it. It’s plastic and you can’t live on it, but it looks good.
Real food is not as impressive-looking as fake food. It takes longer to prepare, and it never looks as good as that shellacked foam burger-style sculpture thing in the picture on the menu.
Real discipleship is more work. The results are not so predictable, because it’s humans using their free will to build a relationship worked out over time, and with all kinds of back story complicating that relationship. But it’s Mom in the kitchen making real brownies, even if they do end up with 4-year-old finger prints and all the pink sprinkles in one corner of the batch.
Because God never brings fake food to the party. And He is a party God, no two ways about it. Kingdom of Heaven = Party, the parables remind us. So you say, “Lord, I wanna work in your kitchen with You.” And He’s gonna show up. And start baking. So plan for that.