I finally figured out what matters.
This is it.
(1) I do not need a happy ending in life.
The Meaning: Life isn't meant to be a fairy tale. Whether or not we become rich, famous or even comfortable is completely inconsequential. We are Christians. We follow the example of Christ, who died a brutal death. The majority of saints (and people in general) also died in unpleasant ways.
The Freedom: No matter how my life ends, I can die a "happy death," knowing that I am at peace with God. I will know my life has been worth living and my soul belongs to Jesus Christ forever, despite all of my human failings and any regrets.
(2) How I feel about my life doesn't matter.
The Meaning: Whether I think my life is going well or not is completely inconsequential. How does God view it? And how can I improve my efforts to be of service to God?
Is God heartless? Does he just not care what I am going through? No. He is compassionate. But when my feelings become more important than following His will, I don't need to pay attention to them and no one who really cares about me should pay attention to them either.
The Freedom: Less time wasted with pointlessly evaluating my life in terms of chemical and hormonal reactions to my environment. So, when I am able to accomplish detaching from my feelings, I have more time to actually live. And when I am able to accomplish actually living, all that time spent living is spent more at peace.
(3) How other people feel about my life doesn't matter either.
The Meaning: Whether people agree with what I believe and do is irrelevant because what God wants is important and not what they want.
The Freedom: I know what God wants is what's best for me. Unless someone is there to guide me towards discovering God's will, I do not need their opinion. So, if people want to insist that I accept moral relativism or reincarnation or abortion, they are not able to influence me at all. I am secure in my convictions because I have strong roots in my desire to please Him.
The Meaning: Having "personal power," or realizing the greatness in my soul in order to "manifest" whatever "abundance" I believe I deserve is not going to contribute one iota to my happiness or well being. I once believed that detaching myself from judgment, to achieve my desires, was freedom. Now, I see that the desires were the prison, not the judgment.
The Freedom: Who cares who I am? I belong to the infinite Creator of the universe, to all the power there is. To want what He wants is to want the perfect good. As much as I often think I am special or that I need to be special, the truth is that I don't have to be anybody, not anybody at all. Just His!
"Lord, when we ask you for honors, income, money or worldly things, do not hear us."
-St. Teresa of Avila
(5) If I never have sex again, it will not matter.
The Meaning: Sex is not necessary for psychological health. Saints (those who were Religious or single) lived in deep fulfillment and peace without sex. A confidential survey of priests who have chosen celibacy showed that 90% are "very happy" with their decision. Having sex may be good for relieving stress, reducing blood pressure and it may have other health benefits, but not not having sex is not a proven physical or psychological health deterrent.
The Freedom: One less thing to focus on, feel driven by or worry about. One less empty thing to turn to as a potential "fix" for a lack of fulfillment in life. Less drama. Freedom from the hormones and intense drives and attachments of sex-based relationships. More complex and interesting aspects of myself and others to focus on. Far greater peace of mind. Me= Four years chaste. Loving it.
(6) One thing DOES matter:
Absolute truth is the only truth there is.
The Meaning: If everything is equally true, then nothing is true. Truth has no meaning then.
The Freedom: I don't need to seek anymore. I have the True Faith. Yes, other religions contain some truth, but I have the full truth. I don't need to justify it, explain it, or convince anyone else. Remember, after all, I don't care how anyone else feels about it. I only need to live it, with deep gratitude.
(7) Never stop asking- "How Could I Do Better?"
The Meaning: It doesn't matter what horrible challenges life throws at me- Those are not excuses to wallow in self-pity or to justify selfishness. Nothing but doing my best is relevant.
The Freedom: This is the annoying part, the part that often does not feel freeing. Fortunately for me, (whenever I am able to remember it), I know that it does not matter how I feel. Yet, if I do not push forward, I am doomed to slide backward. And truthfully, learning to live a Christian life is hard work. Yet, each time I free myself more from an over-attachment to a person, place or thing, it is worth it. Each moment I am not robotically controlled by my emotions and desires, I am freer.
Before my conversion, near the beginning of the RCIA program, our class discussed the goal of the Catholic Church. We were told that the goal is to help each Christian develop a more mature relationship with Jesus Christ.
So, I said, "Wow. What would that look like?" The answer, from our teacher, Marybeth, was "saints." I was a little jarred, since I'd imagined that people who just believed and did what they were told could not be very mature.. but it's not WHAT you learn as much as HOW you learn that changes you, forms and matures you. Like everything else in the Church, it is paradox.
Now that I understand what matters, I will spend the rest of my life working toward actually doing what counts.
Every day, it seems I see how much worse I am at doing that. But, that's just how I feel, and that...