Employing Reason to Be Happy: Peace in the Present Moment

pray, prayer, praying

The closing movement of the Morning Prayer for Sunday, February 10th, 2019, in Magnificat magazine read:

Father, you have called us to serve you in love. Grant us the grace to be faithful to our vocations, so that we may be reasonably happy with you in this life and dwell with you in eternal joy in the next. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

This struck me funny. Reasonably happy? It sounds like a compromise with depression, or somehow giving up on true joy. But is there extremely great wisdom here? Instead of “reasonably” meaning “acceptably,” what if the author is instructing us to engage our reason in order to find our contentment?

The Gospel for that same day included Jesus’ command to “put out into the deep” (Luke 5:4). As I prayed about both of these “words,” Jesus replied in my heart:

Be a deep thinker. Did I not create you for this? Do you not see this? Yes, be “reasonably happy”: train your mind by ordered reason to see, to find contentment in whatever circumstances you find yourself. You will not find it on the surface. You will not find it in the shallow waters. You must put out into the deep to find My reasonable happiness. Drop your single line and let your heart follow it down deep, past all of your world’s storms and tumults. Let it catch your Mother’s anchor of hope. Let the warmth of her love travel back up the line to calm your heart and enlighten your fretful mind. Having done all, stand.

In order to stand I have to trust God and maintain peace in each moment and engage my God-given reason. As a Catholic, I have always worked hard to get out of my own head and into God’s will. Now I find, at Jesus’ bidding, that I have to go back in there! For the past 20 years I have been a practicing Catholic, a revert. Practicing and failing, practicing, practicing… Through these years, which I wouldn’t trade for anything, I have grown closer to God and God has removed a whole mess of junk from my heart and mind. But apparently there is still a whole other mess in there.

Mary, Help!

Our Lady, Undoer of Knots has been my go-to prayer for about a year. I handed her the big ball of knots which is my life and asked her to take it on. Of course, she said yes, so I just keep praying the novena over and over, not asking for anything specific, because she knows. At “intention” time I simply say, “Mary I give you the next knot.” As it turns out the biggest knot Mary has to work on is my thought life. How I think and consequently how I act are almost as big a mess as 20 years ago, minus the mortal and many of the venial sins. What I hear Jesus saying to me is it’s time to go deeper, to completely let go of my way of thinking and acting and replace it with His reason, truth and love.

The Logic of Appropriateness

Unfortunately, I often think and act in this way: according to the Logic of Consequences. Dan Lawson, LMHC, is a Catholic counselor whose sense of humor, common sense and uncommon insight, combined with his training and faith, make for a virtual housekeeping team for one’s thought life. I have been blessed to hear him speak on several occasions. One amazing nugget of knowledge he passed on is the “Logic of Consequences” versus the “Logic of Appropriateness.” Which do you live under? When the mind makes a decision using the Logic of Consequences it says things like, “If I don’t volunteer to take on that task at work, my boss is going to think I’m not pulling my weight. He’s going to think I’m not a ‘team player.’ Then he’s going to fire me. Taking the task on is going to hurt me and my family, but I have to do it.”

Conversely, the Logic of Appropriateness reasons, “I think they are hoping I will take on that task at work. But I know I’m already working at maximum capacity. I won’t do that.” The Logic of Consequences is always simpler without all of the “if-thens.” Where the Logic of Consequences originates in fear, the Logic of Appropriateness originates in trust. Trust in God. Trust that God knows I am doing my best, working in a reasonable manner and trusting Him for all of my needs, my family’s needs and yes, even my employer’s needs.

Hello Everyone, My name Is Suellen, and I’m a People-Pleaser

Living the Logic of Appropriateness when the Logic of Consequences comes naturally to me requires a complete retraining of my thought processes. It’s hard. Everything I think and say seems to be tainted with my own machinations of false control. But I believe Jesus is giving me the grace to make these changes now, so I am trying. If I have a decision to make, I back up and talk it through with myself—sometimes out loud. I think about my motivations and my reasoning. Is it based on fear and control or freedom and truth? If I can’t even figure myself out, I allow myself to postpone the decision until my own motives are clear to me. I don’t hurry. I try to think with the mind of Christ, to pray and to seek Mary’s help.

As I ask for Our Lady’s help undoing the knots in my overcomplicated mind and life, I assist her by practicing trust and confidence in God. I attend to what I am able to, and leave the mess to Mary and Jesus. Slowly, this allows my spaghetti-knot brain to unwind and start working like it’s supposed to: appropriately and in the present moment. As I let go of all of the “what-ifs,” I notice that most of them never come to pass anyway. Choosing the Logic of Appropriateness allows Mary and Jesus to take care of what I cannot, and allows me to enjoy my life in a reasoned manner, or in other words, to be reasonably happy. It is an ongoing struggle, and if you see me, you may hear me talking to myself, or rather, having a reasoned argument with myself! But with Jesus’ grace and Mary’s help I will be free to think and act appropriately. And whom the Son sets free is free indeed.

Blessed Mother, please keep me close, no longer than a fishing line apart, so that I don’t wander into false reasoning and people-pleasing at the expense of truth and peace. Help me to slow down, stay in the moment and do what I can as you and Jesus do what I can’t. Our Lady, Undoer of Knots, pray for us!

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