It struck me the other day that the internet acts like a camera with a telephoto lens. Zoom in on virtually any part of the world and you’ll see what’s afoot. What a powerful tool for countries in conflict and for humanitarian issues worldwide. I take full advantage, and whenever I read about the Ukraine, or Venezuela, or Syria, I get the itch to get up and GO. To get out there and DO something: feed the poor, care for the injured, or stand with those brave priests that are, quite literally, preventing violence with their presence. Intellectually I know that my place is here with my family, caring for my children, but reality rarely stymies the activism of my imagination.
At our fingertips, we have news from all over the world and yet technology still hasn’t given us the ability to travel great distances in a single second. Our hands can’t reach through the lens to minister to those on the other side. It’s frustrating that so much is out of our reach, and beyond our control. As I was ruminating on the futility of it all last week, I got some much-needed clarity from some unlikely sources.
Generally the cartoon My Little Pony annoys me. I avoid it like the plague, and since my children only watch an episode or two a week, I’m generally successful. Last week I was so intrigued by the plot, however, that I actually sat down to watch with them.
The pony protagonists (whom I won’t name because either you already know them, or you don’t care to) faced the challenge of retrieving the “elements of harmony” from the middle of a labyrinth. A villain named “Discord” impeded their task by a) relieving them of their magic, and b) (predictably) sowing discord among them. This pony offended that one, that pony was hurt by the other one, so on and so forth. Eventually the ponies conquered Discord after discovering that the “elements of harmony” resided, not in the middle of the labyrinth, but within their own home.
It got me thinking about the peace in my own family. Discord is a regular visitor at our house, relieving everyone of the “magical” ability to “get over it” and causing all sorts of arguments and frustrations. Yes, it’s a silly cartoon, but God speaks in all sorts of ways, and I thought He was speaking pretty clearly then. I realized that it was time to trade the telephoto lens for something smaller, a lens which would allow me to focus on the people in my own home.
The readings at Mass affirmed the directions of my thoughts, and I struggled to go even deeper to understand what Christ was saying to me.
But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have? -Matthew 5: 44-45
But God wasn’t done with me yet.
Later that night I was reading a young adult fantasy book, ostensibly to preview it for my daughters, but in reality because I enjoy the series. When I came across this quote, I felt as if God had planned for me to see it then, that very day when He was peeling the scales from my eyes.
“For there are two kinds of forgiveness in the world: the one you practice because everything is really all right, and what went before is mended. The other kind of forgiveness you practice because someone needs desperately to be forgiven, or because you need just as badly to forgive them, for a heart can grab hold of old wounds and go sour as milk over them.”
-Catherynne Valente, The Girl Who Fell Beneath Fairyland and Led the Revels There
God changed my camera lens again. Even my smaller lens wasn’t appropriate anymore. I needed something with a more intense focus on an even smaller area. I needed a macro lens, and the subject of my focus was to be my own heart.
The world, and the devil, will try to fool us in all manner of ways. For me, it was thinking that someone else needed me more than my own family did, or that my own family needed attention more than my own heart and conscience. Lies are lies, however, and will reveal themselves if you look long enough with a clear lens.
This Lent, I encourage you to focus your lens inward. Release your anger, resentment, bitterness and frustration. Cast away thoughts of the unworthiness and the selfishness of others. Forgive someone this Lent. Allow peace to settle in your heart.
Easier said than done, I know. But if we want peace in the world, we first need peace in our own hearts. That peace will overflow into your home and then into the world around you. There is no stopping it, and no way for you to know how far it will flow. No matter how strong your telephoto lens is, it’s still only a picture of the world. The real struggle for peace is within.
People are often unreasonable and self-centered. Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of ulterior motives. Be kind anyway. If you are honest, people may cheat you. Be honest anyway. If you find happiness, people may be jealous. Be happy anyway. The good you do today may be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have and it may never be enough. Give your best anyway. For you see, in the end, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.”