“God writes straight with crooked lines.” I hate that saying, especially when my friend Kyle – the “King of Clichés” – uses it to offer me comfort. Usually in a real hot mess. Over the years this cliché has come to mind often. Each time it makes more sense, because my own life has been a total series of crooked lines.
Which is why, last Friday night, I found myself watching The Lego Movie. Go ahead and judge, but it was totally worth it. Why would a grown-ass man recommend a movie about animatronic toy blocks?
Because it brought me into an Ignatian contemplation of my own life journey. Let me explain.
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Meet Emmett, our Lego protagonist. He’s living a simple existence as a construction worker, spending his days chugging Lego Starbucks, jamming to trashy pop on the Lego radio, playing Lego sports and drinking with his Lego buddies. Content with the status quo, he’s never wondered if there’s something more. His life is decent, except for the evil President Business (Will Ferrell), the uptight CEO set on conquering the Lego Universe. President Business was secretly Lord Business, set on gluing down all the Lego people to create an eternal stasis.
Emmett’s life is turned upside down when he meets Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), a wizard that prophesies that a “Special” will defeat Lord Business to become the greatest Master Builder of all time. Vitruvius teaches Emmett that the key to true building is to believe in yourself, to follow your the instructions inside your head.
Use your own instructions? Don’t blindly follow the pack? All this triggered memories of my childhood: thousands of Lego pieces all over the floor and my imagination running wild. Anything was possible. I was the master builder, and could make seemingly anything: castles, pirate ships, you name it.
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Emmett’s story made me wonder: don’t we glue ourselves down, looking for security? And doesn’t stasis comes at a great cost, even that of freely living as our truest selves? So many of us seem to be trapped just like Emmett, walking through life as conformists hoping to avoid discomfort and controversy. I know this story, because it’s mine.
A corporate job, a cubicle in a skyscraper, a comfortable loft and car. These were mine – with my family and friends to boot. But as days turned into years I could not ignore the nagging feeling that I was meant for something different. Simple unrest gave way to the realization that my truest self emerged when I was down the street at the Jesuit parish, running a soup kitchen and a young adult group. In this community, serving the poor, I tapped into my deepest desires.
Encountering a world in need of healing and peace, I gradually felt called to discern what I could contribute – how I could live open to every moment of my life. And just as gradually, I stepped away from all the “stuff” that seemed to define me, even from my family and friends, to do something that felt unpredictable, sometimes scary, and always counter cultural. Meeting the world’s deep need, I gained insight into where my true gifts were. It soon became impossible to deny my attraction to the Jesuits, and my apparent call to enter.
The point is more than “be careful living out your deepest desire, because who knows where it will lead.” What if we are each called, like Emmett, to become a master builder? What if each day we awoke and lived out our deepest desires? What would our lives look like if we had nothing holding us back, utterly free to become who we wanted?
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Each fall has the potential to create us anew – just not all alone. A Master Builder has knit each of us so carefully in the womb, and God uses our journey – straight and crooked paths alike – to mold us into master builders. It’s not about getting it all right, it’s about letting go, trusting, and getting back up when necessary. My own journey reveals that those most crooked parts have taught me the greatest lessons about my truest self and my deepest desires.
Day to day, our lives can lack clarity and a straightforward storyline. But as the Cliché King would remind us: hindsight is 20/20.
Uncovering places of falsehood and inauthenticity in our lives, we are graced with greater ability to reflect on interior movements and feelings. After much time and practice, I know these are where we hear God’s voice. Learning how God relates to us equips us to follow our true path, to embark on our true mission in life. In a way that guiding voice is our internal instruction manual. Sometimes we do not want to follow it, especially when it means going against the grain, when it means looking like a moron more often than we’d like to admit. But it also means a deep seated sense of peace and joy of being alive!
To follow our deep desires, to risk listening to what is in our hearts, means being available to the call of God. It means being open to reviewing the life narrative we’ve written for ourselves, including when we have made poor choices. It’s about asking for the grace to hear – and then write – a new, beautiful story.