It can be easy to develop a kind of “savior complex” while in the seminary; as if we are the heroes of grace; the one’s come to save the world. One would hope that a man would enter feeling some kind of call to be of service to God and his people, some kind of call to lay aside one’s own desire and even some of one’s hopes for a life of comfort. One would also hope that a man would not enter the seminary to run away from hardships, to seek to be served, rather than to serve. But, as I have been formed over that last five years, sometimes dragged, sometimes pushed, sometimes cautiously guided closer to the priesthood, I must admit at least one of many things: I’ve focused way more on being the minister than on being ministered to.
But I can no longer deny that to be able to love, we all first need to know how to be loved.
My spiritual director has been questioning me about this for a couple years now. Do I know how to let others love me? But being formed for the priesthood, sometimes it paradoxically feels safer to say, well I’d much rather focus on loving others. Forget about me. It’s not about me. But then it’s easy to forget that love works both ways.
God has been stripping me of a lot of pride over these last few weeks, and it goes further back than that. He’s certainly been doing this since I first entered the Sem, but I’m think back as recently as June, in Arizona, at the Lifeteen Catholic Youth Ministry Training Conference. I’m used to learning how to be a minister, that when I found myself in a place where someone else wanted to minister to me, it’s like, I don’t know what to do! Give me something to do. Give me something to be in charge of. I’m not used to just sitting back and letting others take charge.
Well, God’s been having a little chuckle at that attitude of mine. Especially now that I’m here in Mexico, back to learning the basics of a new language. There’s been a huge stripping of pride since I’ve come down here (but don’t worry, there’s plenty more pride in me where that came from; uh-oh!). Not being able to express myself the way I want to, because there is so little English around me, was really freaking me out. Needing people to talk to me a like a little child, slowly and repeating often, certainly has taken the wind out of my supposed pride in being at least somewhat eloquent. Barely being able to order a meal at a restaurant was embarrassing enough, let alone the fear that even that simple task would allude me my whole time here. And then there’s the humility I’m being gifted with in simply accepting the love and care of my host family, who don’t love and care for me because I’ve accomplished anything, or even because of my oft celebrated “yes” to discerning God’s call in my life to the priesthood. I have to learn how to accept their love and care because they love and care for me because I’m in need of it.
So the point is, none of us is the Savior. None of us has enough pride to get us through our lives all by ourselves, whether we may like I think we do or not. The utterly helpless Christ child needed the care of Mary and Joseph. As a man emboldened by that love and care and by the Holy Spirit and his Father, he let others minister to him. He let others show their love for him. Our pride will kill us and kill our relationships if we do not accept the love of others. It very well may be that the way we let others love us is the way that God will be moving among us. Because we cannot forget, the only reason we can love others, be of service to others, is because he loved us first. We have to accept it. We get to accept it.