Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington

From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

Everyday Grace:
Does our true identity shine through?

by Mary Cronk Farrell

(From the Aug. 18, 2005 edition of the Inland Register)

Mary Cronk Farrell A young Arab woman, Reem al-Reyashi, aged 22, blew herself up with bomb as a way of furthering her religious and political cause. She left two young children motherless. This sounds appalling to us. This woman couldn’t see her first responsibility was to her children, not to her religious and political cause. We’d never do such a thing. But are we susceptible to the desire to be important and necessary? This allure, even in less extreme forms, can cause us to lose sight of who we are and what is most important.

Take the case of Lisa, whose job demands such long hours she has little time for her family, and no time for her own spiritual development. Though she’s looking for a more family-friendly job, she struggles to leave her current position because she feels responsible for the employees there she has hired and trained. The company is going through a tough time, and she believes her skills can help it pull through.

I remember when I left a job in TV news a co-worker said, “Mary, I hope you don’t leave the news business for good. We really need people of integrity like you in the business.”

Wow, did I eat that up. It felt good to hear that I was valued and appreciated. She’s right, I thought. I can help make a difference in the world. I was tempted to ignore the small still voice telling me that my ultimate responsibility is not to the TV news business. The state of my own life must be my first priority. The demands of the job had become so great that I was often sacrificing the needs of myself and my family. But I didn’t want to see that.

Parents need to work to provide for their families, but if we identify our self-worth with our career, we lose sight of who we really are. We forget our true value, which comes simply from being created and loved by God. Knowledge of our true identity is the basis for all we do. It enables us to make good decisions about how we spend our time and energy.

Career is but one of many false identities we may come to rely upon. Maybe for some of us, it’s volunteer work. Like the woman who helps with everything at the parish and school, always doing good for others, but not paying enough attention to problems close at home. Or the father who coaches every sports team his son is on, but doesn’t realize his son’s passion is the violin. Perhaps it’s being a helicopter parent, constantly hovering over our children, depriving them of the opportunity to make decisions on their own and learn from their mistakes.

Here’s one way to check in on this issue. Ask yourself: In what areas of my life do I feel I’m indispensable? Is there some activity I feel I couldn’t live without? Perhaps this feeling is a result of being too invested in some project at the expense of the wholeness of life.

Jesus asks a related question in Chapter 16 of Matthew’s Gospel. Peter and the other disciples are thinking things have been going pretty well, with Jesus drawing crowds, curing the sick and feeding the five thousand. Then Jesus begins to talk about going to Jerusalem, where the elders, chief priests and scribes want to silence him. Peter protests, but Jesus answers, “What good is it to gain the world and lose your soul?”

This question, first posed by Jesus 20 centuries ago, is as current and vital today as ever. As parents we must continue to strive to know our true identity in Christ. We must continue to discern what is of the world, and what is of the soul. For our children soak this knowledge up within the daily routine of their life with us. The activities which take up our time and energy show them loud and clear who we are and what is most important to us.

© 2005, Mary Cronk Farrell

(Mary Cronk Farrell is a Spokane free-lance and children’s writer. Her latest book, Celebrating Faith: Year-Round Activities for Catholic Families, will be published in September by St. Anthony Messenger Press.)

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