Why has difficulty become an excuse? Within the past week, I read three different articles about the difficulty of the Catholic Church and following the faith. Three articles expressed the challenges of living a faith that teaches obedience, love and mercy, while also teaching suffering, sacrifice and redemption.
And yes, it is hard. But why has this become an excuse?
I’ve seen the same situation in my college classes. I structure my classes so that they are challenging. I emphasize at the beginning of each semester that students will need to put in effort. In my literature courses, close reading and contextual analysis is a given. If you’re not prepared to read daily, try a different course.
In my composition courses, I incorporate service learning – a requirement outside of the scheduled hours of my class. In my upper-division professional writing courses, students work with local businesses to create assignments that the business can use as advertising or marketing materials. In other words, students must turn in documents meeting professional standards since they get delivered not only to me but also to a client.
And yet, now, around midterm, students begin showing up in my office. After receiving two graded assignments, I suppose the realization sets in.
I don’t create so-called difficult assignments to be a nuisance. I create them to be a challenge to the students. The assignments I remember throughout my career in school have been the ones that challenged me to step outside of my comfort zone. They taught me something: that coursework should go beyond what the book teaches. Those are the courses that shaped how I approach life today and how I’ve come to value attributes that I didn’t even know that I had.
That’s the purpose of difficulty. It’s a concept that is meant to be a teaching moment. Often, as students sit across from me in my office repeating a rehearsed speech about how they didn’t anticipate doing so much work in my course when they have 18 credit hours, I think about the purpose of challenges. And, of course, I sympathize with my students because 18 credit hours is a lot.
Some college students aren’t prepared to take six courses each semester. But, at the same time, I’m not prepared to lower my standards for the students who do take my course because they’re ready to not only meet my challenges, but also exceed them.
The same is true for our faith. The Scriptures do not tell us that going to Mass and practicing the lessons learned in the Gospel will be easy.
When I look at our role model – Jesus – ease doesn’t spring immediately to mind. Instead, I see challenges. I see love, fellowship and forgiveness, but I also see immense suffering and sacrifice.
The teachings of the Catholic Church will be difficult. The disciples, too, complained; they also used difficulty as an excuse.
When Jesus teaches that “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God,” the disciples complain. They gave everything up to follow Jesus, and they make that clear to Jesus.
In this way, we see that our faith has always been a struggle, even for the disciples. This is why we have God – “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 24-30).
“A Christian,” wrote C.S. Lewis in his poem “Mere Christianity,” “is not someone / who never goes wrong,/ but one who/ is enabled to repent/ and pick himself up/ and begin again,/ because the Christ-life/ is inside him.”
When do we need to pick ourselves up again and try again to live the life Christ modeled for us?
Heather Bozant Witcher can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.