A State of Grace With Him

By Carolyn Shields

Well. I'm still in love!

And I'm loved back.

That's never happened before. And one of the most beautiful things about it all is that he lets me in, and I get to learn him. Not just his history, his little quirks, his handwriting or facial expressions. I love to learn the way he loves, the way he fits, the way he brings out the best of me. It's like God wrote this whole other complimentary part of me that I didn't know existed until six months ago, and sweet Holy does it feel right. Even the way he softly leads me closer to His heart is particularly profound in its own little way.

And that's what I want to write about. How we are led to Holy.

I was never about having people calling me out or calling me on. I never really wanted a group of friends who held me accountable. If I ever had someone tell me "Do this," I would have been like, "Uh, no thanks. I'm gonna do this." And as a campus minister at an ivy league school, I had to figure out how I'm going to do ministry. Am I going to point out flaws in my students, offer advice I've tried and failed at, and tell them how to do good? Am I going to help them avoid the fall or the crash when God you learn so much down there? It's not just a question that I have to ask. Mothers must ask themselves this regarding their children. Girlfriends must ask themselves this regarding their boyfriends. Sisters, friends, and spouses all must ask how they are drawn and how they draw others closer to our Lord.

There's no clear answer here simply because each soul is attracted to grace in her own way. (I think). I'm not gonna pretend to know it all, and I'm sure I've gotten it wrong in the past. But like most of my faith, it's largely experience and emotion that provokes a desire to do and be good. Ivy leagues and religious orders like the one I work with do things a little differently. That's cool. But me? I've always craved holiness a different way.

It started in college.

It was the first time I experienced that hunger for Christ, and it was through adoration. Then I began to find Him in others. I would sit in the back of the chapel at our daily 10pm Masses and look at the upperclassmen. Why did they seem different? Why could Teddy just lean against the chapel wall, arms crossed, and look at peace? What did they have that I didn't?

It was by being surrounded by people who were earnestly seeking the Good, and trying to be good too, that led me toward Holy. I wanted to be like them. I wanted what they had. I came to learn that they seemed comfortable with who they were, flaws included, and they found consolation in who they were in Him. So naturally, they sought Him out. And it was through their example that I felt that hunger stir. So I was like an invisible disciple, doing as they did. And those steps brought me closer to Holy.

And with him? My sweet man? Thank God I am in love with someone who inspires me in this way. One of the many reasons I love him is precisely because he is good, because he is holy, but especially because he just tries. No, that's not his end goal, to just try and be good. That's not ours. To never fall, to put all our worth in not breaking the rules or whatever. We're gonna fall. Have fallen. Together and separate. We're not banking just on moralism.

But because he doesn't say, "Carolyn, you need to do this. Carolyn, how has your prayer life changed? Carolyn, how are you growing?" hits right at what I need to grow, which is someone who inspires me. Namely, him.

So praise God my sweet man indirectly challenges me in ways that speak right to my heart. I want to be good at work because at the end of the day when we talk on the phone, I want to tell him the fruits of my labor. I want to be holy in order to draw him closer to Holy. I want to strengthen my prayer life, not because he pushes me to do so, but so that I can help carry him when he feels weak. When he talks about waking up at 4a.m to pray despite a long day ahead, I want to make it to daily Mass. When he tells me how he called his sister and talked for two hours, I want to touch base with my lil bro. When he sacrifices for my sake, I want to mirror that Love.

It's by his commitment to Holy that I seek and want the same. It's by his earnest will that I want to follow him.

He elevates me to desiring this state of grace by striving for holiness himself with me in his heart. Get it? It's mutual. It's reciprocal.

Not everyone is inspired this way or grows in this way. Some people simply need someone to whack them on the head and ask what the heck they are doing. To shake their shoulders and tell them how it is in order to be put back on the path toward Christ. And if that's you, look for those qualities in a man. Look for a man who will challenge you, who will call you out and call you on. Who will hold you accountable in your prayer life.

If you're like me, look for a man who is bushwhacking the trail before you, who is working on his heart and always checking in on yours. Who will work hard in order to break bread for you and with you. Whose knees are a little bit more worn than your own.

We need to understand how God speaks to our hearts, and what our hearts need in order to hear Him. Once we understand that, we can start identifying those qualities in a man who will continue to help you do so for the rest of your life.

1) Are you struggling to find someone who inspires you? Does no one comes to mind? Well, it's hard to find anyone more inspirational than someone who has earned the title of Saint. Check out our latest booklet, SAINTS, which lists over 400 holies and the one thing you should know about them, available here.

2) Well! What's your thoughts? What do you know about moralism? How are you inspired to grow in holiness? What does your heart need to find Christ? Or who? Share your comments below!