I completely relate. I'm pulled in so many directions, as I try to balance the weight of responsibility with my desires for family, friendship and leisure, as well as with my deep longing for prayer and study; each of these areas place a legitimate demand upon my life. If I ignore any one of them, I'm out of balance, and my entire life suffers. But this isn't the half of it. How do I enjoy the
goodness and pleasures of life without succumbing to the insidious temptations of indulgence that lurk around every corner of genuine satisfaction? The more I desire to live in this tension, the more insurmountable the demands of reality become. My limitations and brokenness make my ability to "ride the horse" a constant struggle, a deplorable frustration. And so I fall.
Truth is always too demanding; it's too intense, too painful. So I'm tempted to create my own realities. I want to be this kind of person, so I must see reality to be this as well (at least for the moment of gratification). Interestingly enough, God creates reality. So, as you might imagine, I've only ever found sadness and ultimate isolation in my attempts to create my own (though, the temporary illusion of satisfaction is not without enjoyment).
It's all about living in the tension of moral goodness -- in reality. The repressive, puritanical rejection of earthly goods and pleasures represents one side of the horse, while the indulgent, hedonistic lust for all forms of sensual delight represents the other. I don't, of course, fall into one or the other of these abuses entirely; but I've embraced certain attitudes and justified certain
tendencies that allow the seductive poison of these two extremes to affect my life. How do I remain on the horse?
I've discovered the answer in Catholicism. Staying on the horse requires my ability to remain in the tension of truth -- and the mission of the Church is to enable me to do it.
The Church puts me in contact with the real. I've struggled with so many questions. How can God be one substance, but three persons, for example? Or, how in the world can God become a man? It's in giving that I receive; what does that even mean? And, my all-time favorite, we're both
free and predestined? The Church articulates these counterintuitive truths in such a way that everything is reconciled. My objections are removed. There's no contradiction, after all.
The Church teaches me right action. I know I should have learned it long ago through the philosophers, but Catholicism has taught me that virtue -- the tension between indulgence and repression -- is the secret to happiness. It also points out to me why certain actions can't be moderately performed. That's why drinking alcohol, for example, can be enjoyed in moderation, but fornication, on the other hand, is always wrong. Alcohol infringes upon human dignity only when abused; fornication, however, is an intrinsic assault on my person, no matter how small "the dose", or how powerful my feelings.
When I struggle with the why behind certain prohibitions, I'm being called to trust that Christ and the Church are one, and that the Bride has been entrusted to speak with the Bridegroom's authority. I'm being called to obedience even when I don't understand. And I'm being called to pray for the Holy Spirit, that he might lead me in these areas of confusion.
supernatural life. Through it, Jesus penetrates my understanding and
experience. It's the source of strength by which I come to subject my opinions, feelings, and appetites to the truth of God's design for human life. It's often a painful process, and much of it is an ongoing
transformation, but the sacraments re-create me in Christ.
"Behold, I make all things new" (Revelation 21:5).
Catholicism understands the great drama of my existence. My battle to live in this tension is humanly impossible without the life of grace (i.e. the Holy Spirit). In mercy, God's love flows unconditionally through the sacraments of the Church. In truth, God's love calls me never to settle for brokenness. There's a way I ought to live, a way that empowers me to live in the tension, a way to true freedom and fulfillment. God has designed his Church to provide not just the road map (moral truth) but also the fuel (divine love). Catholicism is "the way" (Acts 9:2). This is my faith; and, because I trust in Jesus Christ, my conscience is continually calling me to listen to the Church. It's the only way to stay on the horse.