Saturday, October 3, 2009

Is "good" good enough?

Last night my husband the scientist and I were in a fairly serious mood, and I asked him what he really wanted to do before he died. Not in a bucket list "I want to travel to X and learn to do X and ..." type of way, but what would he really regret not having done if he died tomorrow. I could only think of one thing myself (having children). His response?

"Being a good person."

"You are a good person!" I protested in shock. After all, I wouldn't have married him if he wasn't. Heck, I don't know that I'd even have been attracted to him if he wasn't.

"I'm a relatively good person," he corrected. "I'm in the 95th percentile. But I don't just want to be relatively good. I want to be good in absolute good terms."

I wanted to make love to him right then and there, but (a) we were in a restaurant and (b) I was still fertile, darn it!

This brought me back to thinking something that's been on my mind a lot lately: Is it enough to be a good person? I mean, anyone can be a "good" person. You don't have to be a Christian or any religion at all to recognize and do the right thing. I guess that has to do with the whole natural law thing.

I think I've concluded that we should not just be striving to be good people - we should be striving for holiness. Being holy takes being good to a whole 'nother level. And as Christians, shouldn't we really be seeking that higher, holy level?

This is not to say that I am at all holy. I'm not. And I could never be, on my own. But it is definitely something to strive for. And it seems to me that's one of the big reasons we have saints - to have examples of people who were so committed to this goal that they were actually able to achieve holiness, by the grace of God, no matter how bad they were in the past. To show that it is obtainable and not just some pie in the sky ideal.

So how can I be holy in everyday life? I'm not sure yet - this is something I've just been musing on and haven't completely figured out. I know that frequent participation in the sacraments is important, but I think it has to be more than that. Maybe I need to read about St. Therese and her "little ways." What do you think? Do you have any suggestions?


  1. I have a hard time when family members or friends tell me how good I am because I volunteer or pray or go to church or whatever. I have a hard time with that because I know I only do those things with God's help and because anyone can do them. I will never do "enough" and I can always be doing more.

    I also agree that having children would be the only thing I'd regret when I'd die. Even though I have four now every cycle that goes by with me avoiding dh is one more cycle I chose not to bring a soul into the world that can know, love, and serve God. That's a responsibility and choice I take very seriously and with all due deference to the family I already have.

    My only suggestion is to be still and quiet and always try to understand the desires God puts on your heart. If you're not brave enough to follow them today, tomorrow, next month, or next year, at least pray for the strength to come.

  2. Another thought-provoking post! I'm curious to hear what you think of St. Therese's writings.

    As for me, I think I'm still just struggling to be 'good enough'. Holiness seems very far away. Still, I think carving out time for stillness and prayer in your daily life (along with a sincere effort toward practicing the virtues) is a good place to start.

    This is an issue I think about at times, too, so I'll be interested to hear how your thoughts progress.

  3. I love that both you and your husband have a desire to be really good people, and I completely agree that we are called to something that is greater than just being good, we are called to holiness. As you mention, we cannot attain holiness on our own. When we have a vocation to marriage, it is partially our responsibility to encourage our spouse to grow in holiness while we open ourselves to the ways God chooses to work in and through us to reach others with his love.
    Holiness is definitely something God wants for us, so you and your husband are doing His will whenever you seek such a goal.

  4. I would say that I want to "know Christ", as Philippians 3 says... and the more I know Him and His love and am conformed to His likeness, THEN I will be a good person... but without that process, all of my visions of what it means to be good will be flawedd...

    And.. this is what I wrote in reply to you on the Eastern Orthodox conversaion:
    Yes, it is interesting and sad all at once. It would be amazing to see the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church unite, but I can't imagine the Eastern Orthodox ever being willing to take on the same view of the authority of the papacy that the RCC church has. They also have a variant view on Original sin - you can read more on this interesting blog:

    I understand that the actual practices look very different in the Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Church, despite the theology being very similar. My neighbors in Chicago were Orthodox and I visited their church - it was beautiful and fascinating, but not in English. :) That's one of the down sides to the Orthodox church in the US - because it has come here pretty recently with Eastern European/Russian immigrants, it tends to be very nationalistic and there are very few English services that are meant for a general American population. That is growing, though, and several evangelicals I went to Bible School with converted due to a vibrant Orthodox church in Chicago.

    You wonder what it would be like if we had one universal church. I've often wondered and wrestled with that thought, especially because I believe in the sovereignty of God. That makes it quite mysterious to me - He has allowed the splintering of the Church. Is it possible that somehow He is glorified in the many different people that worship Him in different ways? Is it possible that more are reached because of the divisions, despite the fact that our divisions have undeniably awful effects as well?

    I don't know. I still wrestle with that.

  5. Good food for thought here!! I do think that as a wife and mother, part of our becoming more holy has to do with helping our husband and children get to heaven as well.


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