Column: When’s the last time you did something new?

by Father Mark Goldasich

It’s almost March 20, time for spring to spring! Until it gets here officially, ponder this little story by Howard Hendricks, a professor at Dallas Theological Seminary and a Promise Keepers speaker:

There was once a student who worked in the college dining hall. On his way to work early each morning, he walked past the home of one of his professors. Through a window, he could see the light on and the professor at his desk. At night, the student stayed at the library until closing. On his return trip home, he would again see the professor at his desk, poring over his books and notes.

After class one day, the professor was walking through the courtyard when this student approached him with several lecture questions to clarify. Finally, the student asked, “Would you mind if I asked you a more personal question?”

“Of course not,” said the professor.

The student asked, “Well, every day I walk by your house and you are so intent at work. What keeps you studying? You never seem to stop.”

The professor answered, “Well, you see, it’s all for you students. I would rather have you drink from a running stream than from a stagnant pool.” (Adapted from a story found in “Sower’s Seeds of Encouragement: Fifth Planting” by Brian Cavanaugh, TOR.)

Which are you: a stagnant pool or a running stream? I would suspect that there are a lot of “stagnant pools” out there, especially after the long and rough winter that we’ve just experienced. You’re probably stagnant if you find yourself merely enduring life rather than savoring it. If each day seems a drudgery — you do the same things in the same way at the same time over and over again you might catch yourself wondering: Is this all there is? If so, then you’re ready for some spring cleaning.

Start with your physical world. The simple act of opening up windows
and doors to let in some fresh air and sunlight can send the dark staleness of winter packing. Then toss out some old stuff. Hunt down items that are unused, dusty, broken, or simply not liked. Get them out the door and into the hands of someone who can use them . . . or into the dumpster.

Next, look inward. Although there is certainly comfort in routine, there’s also the danger that it can make us dull.

Here’s a silly example from my life: A new exit to Tonganoxie and Eudora was recently opened off of I-70. For months, I’d promised myself I’d try it out, but every time I intended to, I talked myself out of it: I’m not sure how paying the toll works (since there is no live attendant in the booth and I might be stuck at the gate for all eternity); there might be a “veteran exiter” behind me who will think I’m an idiot when I try the exit for the first time, am stumped, and he has to wait for me; it really is out of the way for me. In short, I just didn’t want to do something different and unfamiliar; it scared me.

Well, the other day on my way back from Kansas City, I simply went ahead and tried it out. My fears were baseless; my excuses, lame. It was actually refreshing to see new scenery and to come into town from a different direction.

Doing something new, no matter how small, makes us aware of things; it wakes us up from our winter doldrums. As nature is renewed around us at this time of year, we’re to be renewed as well. Our Lenten disciplines should have prepared us well for this. Our prayer, fasting and almsgiving should have made us more aware of our habitual patterns, especially those that are sinful and destructive, and given us a head start on embracing a new and better life.

Soon we’ll be entering into the holiest time of the church’s year. The best way to celebrate it is by participating in the special liturgies of the Triduum. If you’ve never been to Mass on Holy Thursday night, to the Good Friday service or to the Easter Vigil, make this the year to treat yourself to these celebrations.

In fact, all through the Easter season — through May 23 this year — commit yourself to doing something new each day. Start with some spiritual things: Try a new form of prayer, read a spiritual book, meditate on an unfamiliar book of the Bible, attend a talk on a spiritual topic, or go on a retreat. These new experiences can reenergize our faith and help us to know our God a little better, the One who “makes all things new.”

As our catechumens are plunged into the waters of baptism, let’s recommit ourselves anew to that running stream of Life. Last one in’s a rotten egg!

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