To Be Fully Alive

fullyalive“The Glory of God is man fully alive.” –-St. Ireneaus

Have you ever felt fully alive?  I’m not talking about just having a pulse, but a time when you really felt alive.

For some it might me the moment they spoke their wedding vows.  For other it might be the sight of their new born baby a few seconds after birth. Or, the first time we see the Grand Canyon, the Swiss Alps, St. Peter’s square or other breathtaking sights.

It can be the first time we skydive, speed down a ski slope, score a touchdown, hit a home run, or make a hole in one.

Time stops, even if just for a moment.  Everything seems like it is happening in slow motion, and we are totally in the moment.  It feels great to be fully alive!

Being fully alive isn’t just about happy times.  Sometimes, the feeling of being fully alive comes from pain.  The death of a loved one, that cancer diagnosis, the job loss, divorce, or other life changing experience, temper us like steel and make us appreciate the life we have.  As we look back on these times, we realize that hard times help us to become stronger.  We become more understanding, and helpful people.  We learn gratitude, kindness, forgiveness, and we want serve others.

We learn about courage when we face danger, poverty when we are hungry, and we gain strength through pushing ourselves through our comfort zones. We learn about sorrow through loss, thriving through striving.

Our Lord, Jesus experienced these same feelings.  He knew hunger, danger, sorrow, despair, confusion, and pain.

As we prepare for Lent and Easter, I am reminded of Holy Week, where the pain and suffering of Good Friday, gives way to the joy of the resurrection at Easter.

“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown out of the nest. To live fully is to be always in no-man’s-land, to experience each moment as completely new and fresh. To live is to be willing to die over and over again. ”
― Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Many people sleepwalk through life, living just to survive, trying to be comfortable, continually searching for who they are, but unwilling to be the person they were truly meant to be by stepping out of their comfort zone.

We have got to be uncomfortable to be fully alive.  In our pain, we must depend on God to guide us, not to take away the pain, but to make us aware that in suffering through it, trusting completely in Him, we can experience the joy and beauty of life, fully alive.

That life comes through service to others.  We can build on the pain we have felt, and focus it on helping those who are experiencing the same problems.

The volunteer at the local hunger center was once hungry.

The man offering a blanket and boots to a homeless man on the street was once on the streets himself.

The woman who visits a cancer patient at the hospital is a cancer survivor.

As Jesus reminds us in Mark 8:35,“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”

“The one who has hope lives differently; the one who hopes has been granted the gift of a new life.” –Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi

If you are not serving you are simply existing.  Whenever I meet someone who is fixated on their problems, I tell them, “You need a ministry.”  You need to take the pain you have experienced and use it for the glory of God.  I promise you that if you do, you will experience the beauty and joy of someone who has hope, of someone granted the gift of a new life, a life that is fully alive!

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