I wish I was one of those super-holy people who go around saying they only do things for God. Although the cynic in me wonders whether at the point you say something like that you aren’t in fact doing it because people are watching. “Their minds are occupied with earthly things.” (Philippians 3:19)
It’s a fine line between striving to live a godly life with God at the centre and living a “godly life” with the “godly life” at the centre. Sometimes it becomes unclear whose expectations is the weight we feel on our shoulders.
When I’ve first started building a business, I had this great ambition. No fixed office times would mean I could go to daily Mass, or at least build my schedule around quiet time rather than try to fit it in, and then eventually collapse in front of Netflix at night because it doesn’t require any mental input on your behalf, and the days go by and you’ll realise you’ve drifted away when you’re much further than you thought you would be. It was meant to be my own form of monasticism.
It doesn’t take long for responsibilities to over-burden you even though you don’t have a boss demanding you are there at a specific time, especially if you are still accountable to others in some ways.
At first you tell yourself not to stress about getting things done because God will provide, and soon you’ll be grasping for air taking it upon yourself to sort things out as the demands come from all sides and the answers seem to come in the wrong timing if at all. And then it becomes like Linus’ blanket, you carry on so you can hide from the hard truth you should face, and being busy becomes the acceptable answer because you are on a mission, right?
Two months ago, Mother Theresa was canonised. People remember her mostly for her service to the unwanted of Calcutta, and some for standing up to Hillary Clinton on the issue of abortion, but few know that she is a saint despite the “dark night of the soul”, to use the words of St John of the Cross who went there before her. We’re a culture that is obsessed with positivity, and it infiltrated the Church. You either have unwavering faith or you have none, and this is the most insidious of judgements. It transpires crystal clear from the well-meaning advice of people who are trying to support you.
You persevere in calling out to what feels like emptiness because that’s what you’re supposed to do, but the creeping doubt that surely you’re now on your own never really leaves you. Eventually, you just reach the point you’re not even calling out anymore.
There is a theory that we all have a circle of influence. We may not be internationally famous missionaries, but we all have something we can have an impact on. Mother Theresa once said: “All of us are but his instruments, who do our little bit and pass by.” It may not be the whole world, but people are looking at us. The example you give is a bigger testimony than knowing all the theology and arguments of apologetics. We’re in constant tension between a culture of mission and being told to hide in our room where the Father in Heaven alone can see (Matthew 6). There’s an endless stream of pictures of large and hip families smiling, or attractive single people with perfect white teeth on mission trips, inviting you to share in their joy of knowing Jesus. Who is going to embrace God because they’ve met someone wandering in a spiritual desert, completely lost? And so you keep up the appearances, but it slowly eats away your integrity.
Busyness is an acceptable neologism nowadays, but it’s interesting how the English language had not an actual distinction between the word for trade activities and the word for simply being occupied. It’s like there is no space for the vita contemplativa of the Latin tradition once you have a commercial activity.
As I reach 3 months of actively building a business (6 in total with the research and drafting the business plan), and Advent is on our doorsteps, it is a question that requires a pressing answer. What kind of business do I want this to be? A business that is just a limited commercial concern built on a strong foundation or a busyness that seems to be the foundation of everything else?
As today, 4th of November, is the feast day of a great reformer of the Church and distant family connection, Saint Charles Borromeo, I think something somewhere inside me has been ignited while going through the daily Blessed Is She devotion, 25 or so of which lay still unopened in my inbox. It’s not the all-encompassing fire of faith that we seem to expect from people. That’s hardly ever the case with me. It’s more like a quiet realisation that I’ve started to do all this with a purpose, and I don’t want to do this without that purpose, just going through the motions because this is what’s expected, and what the culture of Christian entrepreneurship is pushing on me. Maybe this is the whole issue, it should be perfectly okay to be quiet, at least for a time. It’s neither lack of faith, or hiding it in shame. Sometimes things aren’t what they look like from the outside.