Is nothing sacred
And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
But he refused, and said unto his master’s wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?
Humans don’t like being told that there is something that we cannot have, that something is held back from us. We want it all! Or, at least, we want to be able to choose from everything what we want for ourselves. Knowing this about us humans, imagine, then, being told that you cannot have children… and that you cannot have a place of your own… and that you cannot enter a building that has stairs. Well, you would probably be very upset and overwhelmed. Your anger and frustration would become heartbreak and sorrow, and maybe even despair. I know because this is my life, my life of limitations. My list of “can’ts” is very long.
Unable to walk, unable to take care of myself, unable to enter into a physically intimate relationship, unable to bear children – unable to even sit upright for very long each day – there are some people who, in my position, would think that life isn’t worth living. I’ve never thought such a thing. When diagnosed with my motorneuron disease at the age of 2, the doctors told my parents that I wouldn’t live to be a teenager – well, I’ve tripled that, and counting…. The point is that, never in all that time, have I wanted to end it all. I understand that life is a precious gift, as frustrating as its earthly limits may be, it is terribly beautiful. And I gratefully accept the gift of life with all of its limits because, though painful and tedious, and often marred by horror, life is good, divinely created for goodness sake. So, I lovingly receive the gift of life.
In accepting the gift, we accept everything that the gift is – and everything that the gift is not. Not everyone who thinks that he or she would like to be a doctor has the actual ability to be a doctor. Not everyone who dreams of competing in the Olympics will actually have the skills to get there. I mean, hey, not everyone who runs for president becomes president. There are limitations in life. For everybody. Does that mean that life is not worth living?
A man is put in charge of an estate while his master is away. This master trusts this man with everything and gives him free license over everything in the estate – everything except the master’s wife. There is one limitation to this man’s power, one place where he is not allowed to go. Should he go there? I know that there are some people who will answer this question with, “Yes! If the wife is willing, why not?” It’s as though we have forgotten about the existence of honor. It’s as though we consider trust, like rules, as something to be broken. After all, we are supposed to look out for number one, right? Whenever we are presented with a situation in life we’re supposed to ask the question, What’s in it for me? But, I ask these people, Do you truly love anything? Is nothing sacred to you besides your own self-centered desire?
Someone who loves you gives you the key to his mansion for your use while he is gone. He only asks that you don’t open one box. Do you open it? Your curiosity is intense and it feels like it’s killing you. But it’s not really killing you. It’s just trying to kill you. If you give into that feeling, then a part of you will die. The part of you that is honorable, the part of you that is trustworthy, the part of you that is loving will die a little in that moment when you open the box because you couldn’t handle a simple limitation. You couldn’t take being told, No. You weren’t strong enough. You were selfish and feeble. And, yes, it is a big deal. If you abandon your honor and trustworthiness in favor of a momentary satisfaction of the flesh (in this case, curiosity) then you have sold your kingdom for a bitty chunk of fools gold. And your capacity to give and receive love will be filled up with dust.
It took me many years to be able to accept the fact that the men that I would desire to have would not have me. By “accept the fact” I don’t mean acknowledge it intellectually. I mean that I no longer tried to fill the void left by this unfulfilled desire with indulgence in an active fantasy life or consumption of fictional literature, TV shows and movies. And I didn’t even attempt to fill the void with some other pursuit or relationship, not even a spiritual one. (For a true relationship with God is not a substitute for anything – it’s the real thing itself.) Rather, I accepted my loneliness, my longing and my sorrow as essential components of my life. No need to distract myself away from what I can’t have or waste time with pretending. I am who I am. The things that I cannot change in my life cannot be changed because they are my life – they are my life just as much as all of the happy abilities and situations for which I am so grateful. Nobody is perfect. And we are all different in our own unique ways. What is it that Tolstoy said in Anna Karenina? “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Or, to quote the Facts of Life theme song: “You take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have the facts of life.”
There is such a thing as wanting too much than is good for us. Everybody can’t do everything. And, if we truly love one another, then we accept each other’s limitations. And, if I truly love God, then I also accept the limitations given to me with this great gift of life. And so I pray,
“God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things that I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.”
If you decided to open that box in your loved one’s mansion, you may think that you were being brave. But, you were only being stupid. You lacked serenity. I’m sure that Eve and Adam thought that they were being courageous and even wise when they ate that apple – that one fruit in all the great expanse of paradise that they were told not to eat. But, look where it got them: naked and afraid. So, let’s accept our real limitations as part of this real life that we have received as a terribly beautiful gift from the One who loves us most. By accepting our limitations (and the limitations of others) we are freed to explore and enjoy all of the great qualities and abilities that are part of our lives. We will not be blinded by distractions, denials, and make-believe substitutes as we pursue the true, the good, and the beautiful. We will not strip ourselves of honor and trustworthiness – and therefore we will be more readily able to embrace the gift of life and prove ourselves worthy of the sacred trust that is given to us in the sacrament of baptism, deepening our capacity to give and receive love – which is the fullness of life. By the grace of God, my limited life is a truly full life because I hold my whole life, and life itself, as sacred.