After about two hours on the hiking trail the other day (after a separate shorter morning hike of about an hour and a half to see the Kaaterskill Falls, the highest falls in New York State) we had to decide whether to take a trail that would add several miles to the hike, or take a shorter loop back to where the car was parked. Although Dave had some reservations, we opted for the longer route.
I hit a point somewhere during the last mile or so when I could hear a voice saying, you can’t do this anymore…you are not going to be able to make it to the end…you should have taken the shorter trail. Although I hadn’t had any soreness at any point during the day (Dave had started with some soreness from our hike the prior day) I was starting to feel very fatigued and was having greater difficulty navigating the tree roots and rocks on the trail. I was also very hungry, as we had forgotten to pack any food with us.
Although the voice periodically arose, I kept putting one foot in front of the other and at some point saw the sign that we were a half mile from the trailhead where we had parked our car. And a second voice responded to the first, saying, how silly: of course I can finish this hike.
As I was thinking later about the experience, I thought to myself, I know that voice. The voice that says you can’t do something. Sometimes it can be about something as minor as completing a hike. Sometimes it is about something of great consequence. But whatever it is, we at times hear a voice that tries to drag us down. A voice that says – you can’t do x….you’re not going to accomplish y…you should never have tried z…just give it up.
It is always our choice whether to listen to that voice. Our choice whether to toss in the towel and do less than we might have.
Our choice. We can listen to the voice that tries to drag us down, or we can keep putting one foot in front of the other, listening for the small, still voice that says, yes I can. I am doing it.
From the standpoint of Catholic thought, the term stewardship refers to our recognition that everything we have is a gift from God and that we are intended to share those gifts with each other. Unfortunately, for too many people, stewardship is viewed as simply giving money: they think their stewardship obligation is satisfied by weekly offerings at Mass.
However, if we take stewardship seriously, we need to consider more than simply how much we contribute to our parish each week. Instead, we need to consider the choices we make in our every day lives and their implications for the world and our brothers and sisters. In the words of my parish’s stewardship brochure this year,
As Christians and as responsible world citizens, we must also make everyday choices based on more than self-interest. We must recognize that, as individuals, families and communities, we will either contribute to the problems of the world or pledge our efforts to the solutions.
Thus, we need to think carefully about things like what products we buy and what kinds of businesses we buy them from. Every decision we make has implications. Are we making thoughtful, positive choices are only thinking about ourselves?
The fall semester, at least for us and many other law schools, is here. The first year students arrived for orientation and have begin their first class. It is always exciting to see the new students, with their mixture of trepidation and excitement as they begin this new chapter in their lives.
The beginning of law school is a fresh start for these first year students. Whatever their achievements as undergraduates or otherwise, everyone starts off their first semester of law school with a clean slate, so to speak. They all go into that first class with the same opportunity to make the most of the experience. And it is up to them what they will make of the opportunities presented to them.
As I reflect on the fresh start of the law students, it occurs to me that their situation describes our experience every day with God. No matter what yesterday was, no matter what we did or didn’t do, each day is fresh start. A new opportunity to grow in our faith and our relationship with God. A new chance to say yes to God and to discipleship, to say yes to life and to love. And just like the law students, it is up to us to decide what to do with the opportunity each day brings.