One of the most comforting things about reading lives of the saints is realizing just how different all these men and women were. Some lived their lives in cloisters and dedicated their lives to prayer. Others worked in the missionary fields or died as martyrs for the faith. Some were priests or religious sisters while others were married or single. Some lived their whole lives in holiness. Others were great sinners and had a profound moment of conversion. There is no one-size-fits-all path to sanctity. While the basics are the same – love God and neighbor, there are as many different ways of fulfilling those commandments as there are people in the world.
It is so easy as we go through life to look at others and think that their lives are much more “perfect” than our own. “Perfect” is not used here in secular terms, as in “She has the perfect house, car, husband, etc.” No, here, “perfect” refers to a much less-tangible quality: the inner peace and holiness and spiritual wisdom that we seek. We look at others and think that they have found the “right” path. If we just imitate them then we, too, will be on the road to perfection.
Certainly, much can be learned from studying the lives of the saints. We could do far worse than to imitate some of their behaviors and attitudes. The same can be said for those we meet in our daily lives who inspire us. Yet, imitation will only get us so far. We can’t walk the same path as our favorite saint or our best friend because God gave us different gifts and different circumstances. Our task is to pray and discern where our gifts can best be put to use to help build the kingdom.
What is God asking of me today? How can I best show love? These are the simple questions with the not-so-simple answers that each one of us must consider on a daily basis if only because the answers change as our lives change. What God is asking today is different from what God asked five years ago or what God will ask five years from now. All we can do is humbly offer our lives to God and attempt to do His will wherever we find ourselves today.
I find this thought very consoling. Lately, I have been feeling very inadequate, comparing my own life to others and seemingly coming up short. This isn’t hard to do when surrounded by amazing people. I’m blessed to have such wonderful people in my life and I struggle to keep up. It always seems like there is more that I could be doing. I know I am far from perfect and that I have far to go on my own road to sanctity, but I’m trying. In reflecting on this desire I have to be like others, I have come to realize that God is not calling me to be them. He is calling me to be the best me that I can be in the circumstances I find myself, no more and no less. I wasn’t called to serve in the Peace Corps, or to travel the country giving lectures, or to be the mother of ten children. At least for the moment, I have been called to serve my local parish community, write articles, be the best wife I can be to my husband and the best mother I can be to my two boys.
I was reminded of St. Therese’s image of the different flowers in the garden. What good does it do for a daisy to want to be a rose or vice versa? We each have our own beauty to bring to the world. God calls each of us to our own path to perfection. It is our job to walk the path, one step and one day at a time.