April 24, 2015

Faith and Family / Sean Gallagher

Go all out to the finish in your life of faith

Sean GallagherOn a recent spring day, I had fun with my four oldest boys—ages 5 to 12—as they rode their bikes and scooters, and ran in a series of time trials in front of our home.

The route ran by the three older ones involved crossing the street in a loop that was the better part of a city block long. Little 5-year-old Philip’s course was shorter, just down to an alley a door down from our house and back.

I timed the boys on a digital stop watch and marked down their times.

I noted with interest how my sons were anxious as soon as they crossed the finish line to hear what their time was. Did they beat the time of their previous trial? They wanted to try again right away, but had to wait their turn as their brothers took part in their trial. The natural competitiveness in kids, especially boys, really came out.

We parents can see in this part of our children’s human nature a way of encouraging them to strive for more in their lives of faith and moral choices.

Consider that my boys were most interested in learning if they had set a personal best time. They didn’t compare themselves to their brothers. The younger ones seemed to understand naturally that they hadn’t matured physically enough to compete against their older brothers.

In our lives of faith and in our moral choices—which are so interrelated—we can, in a sense, look at our own personal stop watch each night in an examination of conscience.

There, we review the day with the help of the Holy Spirit to see where, with God’s help, we did his will and where we went our own way and sinned.

Like my boys—who were most interested in their own times and didn’t care if they didn’t measure up to their brothers—God calls us in our examinations of conscience to simply see if we did or did not do his will on a particular day. Judging our behavior based on what others have or have not done—which can nurture undue feelings of either shame or pride—should not be part of the equation.

As we make an examination of conscience more of a daily habit, we can begin to look and see areas of our lives where we have improved or where we need to do more work.

We can rejoice like my boys did when they established a new personal best when we start to see progress in bringing a deeply ingrained bad habit under control, or in establishing a good habit of daily prayer.

On the other hand, if we find in our daily examinations of conscience that we’re having a hard time in our relationship with God or in fighting a particular sin, we’ll know at the same time that there is no need to give up hope.

Part of an examination of conscience is recognizing the presence of God in our daily lives, and the many ways he helps us to do his will. If we also recognize that we sin—and there isn’t a day go by where that doesn’t happen—then we can find encouragement in expressing sorrow for failing to do God’s will and in knowing that he’ll help us do better the next day.

The ultimate finish line in our relationship with God and in our moral choices comes at the end of our lives or when the Lord chooses to return—whichever one comes first.

And since we know neither the day nor the hour when either of these will happen, treat each day like my boys did their time trials. Go all out to the finish line and try, with God’s help, to make this day the best of all. †

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