“That’s so fierce.” –Christian Siriano. Project Runway Season 4 Contestant and Winner
“I never saw such a woman. She would certainly be a fearsome thing to behold.” –Elizabeth Bennet. Pride and Prejudice (the film 2005)
I know there’s times when we’ve all felt fierce.
In that moment you feel as if you have a power –over yourself or the universe or whatever. You feel like it radiates off your limbs, and your eyes could shoot laser beams.
You know what I’m talking about. You just feel awesome. Like you could take on the world.
Unfortunately, those moments don’t last –even if you are a secret ninja. (Even secret ninjas are human and have feelings. In secret, of course.) The next day, or even the next ten minutes, might find you insecure and unsure –overwhelmingly so or in just some small way.
And usually the fall down from such heights leaves you feeling much worse about yourself than you did before.
I think it’s funny that whenever we picture ourselves in the future as happy and confident and successful, it’s usually happy and confident and successful because other people think we are (we picture ourselves how we want other people to see us) and not because anything inside of us has changed, not because we’ve become strong within.
But that’s really what we want, isn’t it? To be more whole than we are now. To love ourselves more than we do now. Yeah, happiness and confidence and success are great, but deep down, what we’re really looking for in the future is fullness. Fullness in our hearts, fullness in our lives. That’s fierce.
There’re those people, you’ve met them, who are ‘fearsome to behold’ all the time. They seem almost super human in their inner strength. They glow from the inside out. They hold their own inner calm, they have a self-possession, they exude confidence but not in an overbearing way, they just are authentically themselves, –and they’re powerful (fierce) because of it.
But it’s a different kind of power –one based in security rather than control.
They don’t worry if life will deal them something they can’t handle, or if they’re good enough for such-and-such or so-and-so, or if they’ll make it to the top and be known as somebody. That’s because their self-assurance is based on a certainty in who they are, in the knowledge that nothing in heaven or on earth will change that, will make them lesser than they are now. They have a fullness in their hearts, all the time.
So, what’s their secret?
I think it’s one and the same with Paul’s secret in Philippians 4:11-13: “For I have learned, in whatever situation I find myself, to be self-sufficient. I know indeed how to live in humble circumstances; I know also how to live with abundance. In every circumstance and in all things I have learned the secret of being well fed and of going hungry, of living in abundance and of being in need. I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.”
Wow, that’d be nice. To know how to be content when times are tough and money’s tight, when you’re single and all your friends are getting married and having kids, when friends are scarce, when you’re stuck in a job or life situation that you hate, or, well, you fill in the blank. How can you be content… and even have a fullness in your heart throughout these circumstances?
Paul says his secret is this: I have the strength for everything through him who empowers me.
Yeah, strength to keep going through these difficulties sounds pretty good. But usually we only ask for strength or hope from God when things are at their worst, when we feel like we absolutely cannot go on anymore by ourselves. Usually it’s in our place of despair that we reach for God. Right?
And then of course, we find we do have the strength to go on, and our hearts are renewed in the knowledge and security of God’s love and promise to be with us always.
But getting by in hard times and feeling a fullness in our lives every day are vastly different things.
Maybe finding this fullness has something more to do with the gospel reading we heard today (Nov. 1st All Saints’ Feast Day).
“Blessed are you who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for you will be satisfied.” Mt 5:6
Righteousness is a word thrown around a lot that unfortunately has taken on a negative connotation in secular society that associates the righteous with the self-righteous (those who would cut down others in their religious fervor, or are unbending in their moral supremacy).
Righteousness actually means living in right relationship with God, honoring and loving him in every thought, word, and action.
Hungering after a fullness in our hearts, a fullness in our lives then, is hungering for righteousness, because God is the only one that can fill our hearts. So, working towards making our relationship with God right is working towards making our lives full. We were created with an emptiness in our hearts on purpose, to make us hunger after God, to make us search for Him.
And seeking, we will find.
But it’s not a one time find. There’s no huge moment of revelation where suddenly we have found all we can of God, know all there is to know of God, experience all of His love that can be experienced. Even if you’re St. Paul. There’s always more of God. There’s more of Him than could fill a lifetime, even a perfect one.
Yes, the search for fullness [in God] starts out slow, but that’s because the first part is emptying our hearts and lives of those things that have harmed us, have created deeper craters in us than what was originally there. We have to first get rid of and stop believing the lies that have worked their way into our subconscious, the ones that say life will always be the way it is now, that our [bad] habits are too ingrained in us to overcome, that we could never really change what we don’t like about ourselves, and even that life is fine without changing anything.
The key is to not give up on yourself or on God –for when you give up on yourself, you’re giving in to the lie that God is not big enough to handle and heal all your dysfunctions. Trust in the slow work of God. It may take longer than we’d like, but God is a lot more thorough at fixing things than we are. He sees the bigger picture; He comprehends us more deeply than we do.
And He doesn’t want us to be just ‘fine.’ He wants us to be fierce. He wants us to be ‘fearsome to behold’ so that people will see us and wonder what our secret is. He wants to show us off. (He’s proud of what He’s made.)
So trust. And keep seeking after God every day of your life. Every day. By finding God more and more, you find yourself more and more. The more you know of God, the more you know of yourself. The more you love God, the more you come to love what He has made in you.
And soon (soon being a relative term in Godspeak) you can say along with Mary and Hannah (the mother of Samuel –checkout the beginning of 1 Samuel): “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord. He has looked with favor on his lowly servant. He has lifted up the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things.” i.e. “My God has made me a beautiful and fearsome thing to behold. And I cannot keep it in anymore the good things He has done for me, the amazing changes He has made in my life.”
You will not wonder any more what people really think of you, or if you’ll ever make anything of your life, or whatever. You won’t need to compare yourself to anything. Like Paul, you’ll be empowered by God. Your spirit will be so infused with and built up by God’s love through your continual search for Him that there will be no doubt in your mind that you are good, and that nothing you do and nothing anyone else does to you, will make you less loved by God.
This is the secret: That no matter your life circumstances, your heart and life can be filled by God, can be transformed into a heart strong in the knowledge that it is fiercely loved.
Do not seek to fill it with anyone or anything else. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” When your heart is first made full by God’s love, you will find that everything else in life [now in its proper order] is just an add-on, a bonus that you didn’t need and weren’t really expecting but will definitely accept and give thanks for.
Trust someone who knows from experience. 🙂