Christ is the Reality You Should Be Living In
This post first appeared on Taming the Wilds: Holy Living in a Wild World.
I considered myself a Christian my entire life. There was never a point, even in my most Bohemian phase, where I either didn’t believe in God or seriously doubted any of the major tenets of Christianity. Yet for a significant portion of my adulthood, there was also nothing that distinguished me as a Christian. I went to Church once in a blue moon (namely, Christmas and Easter), but other than that, my lifestyle looked much the same as anyone else’s.
Even after I had my first child and began experiencing a deeper conversion, not much changed exteriorly other than I finally started making the effort to attend church every Sunday. My now-husband, then-fiancé and I moved in together before our wedding, the music I listened to in the car glorified drugs and sex, I binge watched sex and violence-filled shows like Game of Thrones, and I used the f-word in just about every other sentence. And yet, I still called myself a Christian.
Growing up, my father, a Southern Baptist minister, ended every worship service with the exhortation: “Let what we do here on Sunday make a difference in the way we live on Monday and throughout the remainder of the week.” As I continued along my conversion path, my mind harkened back to those words. I realized there was not much about my life as I lived it during the week that would give anyone a clue as to how I spent my Sunday mornings.
I don’t think I’m alone in this. According to a 2017 Gallup poll, about 70% of Americans identify as either Catholic or some form of Protestant. Yet the conduct of our elected officials, our public policies, the entertainment industry, the fashion trends, and the exponential growth of the porn industry would beg to differ.
Perhaps you’re thinking I’m being too uptight, maybe even a little Pharisaical right now. “Of course I can watch Game of Thrones and listen to Cardi B and still be a Christian!” you object. And that certainly may be so – I truly am not here to judge the state of anyone’s soul. But I must ask you as I asked myself a few years ago: are you living in reality?
St. Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote, “I believe we must live on the supernatural level, that is, we must never act ‘naturally.’ We must become aware that God dwells within us and do everything with Him, then we are never commonplace, even when performing the most ordinary tasks, for we do not live in those things, we go beyond them!”
But when was the last time you thought of cleaning the kitchen as an act of worship? Or considered whether your morning commute glorifies God? Or wondered how the music you listen to and shows you watch bring you into ever deeper union with Christ?
Our supernatural lives and our natural lives are not separate things. As Jean-Pierre Caussade writes in Abandonment to Divine Providence, “Faith sees that Jesus Christ lives in everything and works through all history to the end of time, that every fraction of a second, every atom of matter, contains a fragment of his hidden life and secret activity.” This is the faith that we, as Catholics, profess.
Living in reality means recognizing God in every detail of life. It means not just the big things but also the little things matter enormously. It matters what music you listen to, what shows you watch, and how you speak. God created each of us as embodied souls, and what we do to and with our bodies affects us and those around us (for we truly never act in a vacuum) on an even more profound level spiritually. And while sin may leave no visible scar, the spiritual death it causes is certainly real.
Yet most of us live as if this reality isn’t so. In Gaudium et Spes the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council warned, “This split between the faith which many profess, and their daily lives deserves to be counted among the more serious errors of our age” (43). This dichotomy in our personal lives, if we aren’t careful, will literally be the spiritual death of us.
Now I am not suggesting that to live an authentic Christian life you must only listen to Gregorian Chants and watch reruns of Mother Angelica Live (although I highly recommend both). What I am suggesting, however, is that you stop thinking of your daily life in terms of spiritual versus secular. In the Christian life, there simply is no secular.
St. Paul writes, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:1-4) (emphasis added).
This is authentic Christianity. Christ must appear in every aspect of our lives. Until He does, we live not in reality, but in the shadows.