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SPIRITUALITY

Lessons From Life: Loving the Journey

By Katrina J. Zeno
Holiness isn’t just about where we’re going—it’s about how we get there.


Catholic Way -

Everyone has goals they want to reach, and for Christians holiness is their most important goal. But what kind of a goal is holiness? Katrina Zeno shows us that holiness isn’t an end out there in the future for us to reach, but a process of becoming to be lived here and now in every twist and turn of our road through life.

I don’t remember what my 8-year-old son did—probably spilled some milk—but it certainly wasn’t worthy of the eruption of Mt. St. Helen that followed. I laid into him like a jackhammer into a sidewalk, using every "you" message in the book: "I can’t believe you spilled the milk. I told you not to do it. If only you had listened to me. You wasted all that milk and made a big mess," etc.

Tears filled his blue eyes and spilled onto his angelic cheeks. "Go! Just go to your room!" I demanded. He didn’t have to be told twice. He ran and threw himself on his bed as I slunk back to the kitchen filled with guilt and remorse.

Why did I explode over such an insignificant incident? And more importantly, what effect would my rash behavior have on my son? Condemnation preyed delectably on my human weakness.

Fortunately, the Holy Spirit came to my rescue with words of instruction rather than condemnation. In my spirit I heard: "The process is just as important as the end product."

What a novel idea! The process—how we get somewhere—is just as important as getting there. As I reflected on this revelation, I realized I could get my son to conform to the behavior I wanted (the end product), but at a great cost to his dignity and my integrity.  The process of discipline was just as important as preventing future catastrophes, because it was in the process that values were conveyed and behavior modeled. Certainly I could get my son to conform to the behavior I wanted out of fear, but then he wouldn’t internalize the values I cherish. Rather, through the process of disciplining, I needed to convey patience, understanding, and respect. Every discipline situation was an opportunity to instruct him, just as the Holy Spirit had instructed me.

This incident became the launching pad for a whole new view of life and holiness. I had to dethrone my goals and tasks from their tyrannical reign and embrace the process of getting to those goals. I began to discover the rewards of loving the journey, of valuing people and relationships, of living in process.

It’s not easy for me to live in process. Everything within me is wired toward the goal. Reaching the goal brings me gratification and a sense of accomplishment. However, by learning to live in process and to love the journey, I am learning to embrace the unexpected twists and turns of life. I am learning (slowly …) to welcome interruptions instead of resenting them.

Pope John Paul II has such a sense of journey, a sense of pilgrimage. He’s not in a hurry. He doesn’t bulldoze over people to get to his goal. He reminds us that life is, in fact, like a great pilgrimage to the house of the Father. We are all on the journey; we are all in process.

And after we’re firmly convinced that the process is just as important as the end product, the Holy Spirit has one final goal: to show us that the process is the end product! He wants to impress upon our being that holiness is not a future goal but the present process—the process of dealing with spilled milk, an unfaithful spouse, an unjust work situation, or our fifth red light.

Holiness, then, can be defined in one word: Becoming. The virtuous woman or man is becoming holy, becoming patient, becoming humble, becoming faith-filled. We never arrive because there is always more. We value the lessons we’re learning from life and try to share those lessons with others. But most of all, we’re learning to love the journey—even if that means a little spilled milk along the way.

Copyright © 2000 Katrina J. Zeno


Katrina welcomes your comments. Email her at tangohio@aol.com.





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