My friend Mike is an Ironman – he just completed his umpteenth Ironman race in July. Me, I’m more like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. The closest I've come to doing an Ironman was reading about Mike’s races here on his blog. After his last race in Lake Placid, we exchanged the following messages:
Stay Puft Marshmallow Man: Congratulations! I hope you’re happy with your time.
Ironman: Happy, but not entirely satisfied. But then again, never am.
SPMM: There’s a theological explanation for that.
Ironman: Oh God.
OK, I made up the last two lines, but I’m sure that’s what Mike was thinking, and I certainly would have come back with such a witty retort. In any event, I owe Mike an explanation. Here it is.
We all have goals. It’s in our nature. Some may want to travel to exotic locations, learn to tango or climb Mount Everest; others may want to lose some weight, clean out a closet, or just get out of bed in the morning. And for the certifiably insane, it’s doing Ironman races. It doesn't matter what the goal is. Big or small, we all have goals. We’re hard-wired to strive for new and better things. Why? Well, it’s because we’re constantly and persistently called to greater things by “that which nothing greater can be thought” – God. Just think about it. Most would agree that we've never seen perfection in this world, but for some reason, we have a concept of what it is, and we strive for it. That reason is God. God lives in and around us, incessantly calling us to his perfection. In fact, the Holy Spirit that dwells within us never stops reaching out of us to be in perfect union with God, and he drags us right along with him. When we strive to better ourselves and our lives and the lives of others, we’re really reaching out to God, whether we realize it or not.
Our natural inclination to strive for perfection is also the reason we’re never entirely satisfied. We can’t be completely satisfied in this world because perfection transcends it. Perfection resides in God alone. So until we’re completely united with God, we’ll never be fully satisfied. As St. Augustine confessed to God, “My heart is restless until it rests in you.” That’s why God keeps calling us to him; he knows that we’ll never be fully satisfied until we rest in him.
If that’s the case, why keep trying? Well, achieving our goals is very satisfying – it may not be completely satisfying, but it’s satisfying nonetheless. With each goal achieved, we get a taste of what perfection is like; we get a little glimpse of heaven. That’s what this journey on earth is all about – doing everything we can to live the Kingdom of Heaven as best we can here on earth until the time comes when we experience it, in all of its perfection, eternally.
While I might me puffier than Mike, and I’m certainly more sedentary, we do have a few things in common – we both have goals, and we’re both at stages in our lives when we’re reassessing our goals. As for me, I’m discerning between two pretty ambitious goals right now (doing an Ironman is not one of them). I don’t know if I’ll pursue either one. If I don’t, I’m sure another goal will soon take their place. It’s just the way I am. I’ll be setting goals for myself, big and small, for the rest of my days on this earth. While I know I’ll never be entirely satisfied in this life, I’m happy for each little victory along the way as I strive for the ultimate goal we all share – perfect union with perfect love.