One day last week I had one of those unpleasant 24-hour bugs. All I wanted to do was lay very still and sip on 7-Up. I turned on the TV and the movie “Chariots of Fire” was just starting. I hadn’t seen it in many years and honestly didn’t remember much of the plot. I kind of hoped it would put me to sleep for a couple of hours and when I woke up I’d feel better. But I didn’t sleep. I was drawn into the movie and the characters, especially the story of the Scottish minister and runner, Eric Liddell. He’s most known for his refusal to compete on Sundays, throwing his, and his country’s 1924 Olympic dreams into doubt. I won’t spoil the story for you if you’ve never seen the movie. It’s a great film and during these Olympic weeks would make for wonderful family viewing.
There’s a moment when Eric Liddell is talking with his sister about why he runs. She feels that her brother lets his running distract him from his more important missionary work. He tells her, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but He also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” How incredible to imagine that we can feel God’s joy! Maybe you’ve experienced a moment like that yourself. I think it’s pretty easy to think of God’s pleasure when we hear a great piece of music like the “Ode To Joy” or the “Hallelujah Chorus.” Or to imagine God smiling as He gazes on a beautiful sculpture or a painting masterpiece. The gifts of of art and music and even world-class running seem to easily showcase the exuberance of God’s joy when He created these gifts in us. We stand, we cheer, we shed a tear—because that same joy overflows within us during those moments and we recognize it. In a way, those transcendent moments let us glimpse the pleasure of God that Mr. Liddell describes.
But, as I lay there on the couch last week, trying not to throw up, I seemed light years away from any kind of transcendent moment of creative joy. I wonder how many of us might have a hard time imagining how we can please God in our own “ordinary” lives. And yet, that’s exactly what we’re each called to do. When we please God, we are most fully ourselves—most fully the person He created us to be. And vice versa. When we’re the best version of ourselves, it pleases the Lord. Even if you’re not an artist or a poet or an Olympic runner. Even when I’m sick on the couch, I can please God.
Many saints have written about how to do this. My favorite, perhaps because she speaks in ordinary, everyday language, is St. Therese of Lisieux. She lived in the latter part of the 1800’s in France and died of tuberculosis when she was just 24. She was convinced that all of us can be saints by living every moment of our lives as a little child in the lap of God the Father. She teaches us that every small act of love and sacrifice that we offer to God can be immeasurably valuable. She said, “To pick up a pin for love can convert a soul.” Hey, even I can do that. If something so small and ordinary can be offered to God as a sacrifice for others, then everything we do in our lives can be an act of love. It’s how we can “pray without ceasing” as St. Paul tells us (I Thessalonians 5:16-18). And mostly, it’s a way of holiness that even a sinner like me can follow. St. Therese’s “Little Way” offers us sainthood in whatever our role in life. Mothers, fathers, teachers, clerks, bus drivers—whenever we act out of love and sacrifice, we can feel God’s pleasure. That’s a good thing to remember as we begin each day. In a prayer written by St. Therese, she says in part:
I desire to sanctify every beat of my heart, my every thought, my simplest works, by uniting them to Its infinite merits; and I wish to make reparation for my sins by casting them into the furnace of Its Merciful Love.