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Measuring up

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Every one of us has been trained to measure value, beauty, success, life, ourselves, and other people by the yardstick we've internalized, or an external societal "standard" we've allowed to bully us. That is what can make it so hard for us to look at things the way God does.

Jaymie Stuart
Wolfe

I rolled out of bed a bit late last Saturday and got into the car to take an equally exhasuted teenager to work. Driving along, I wasn't surprised to see the preparations going up for yet another fundraising walk in our town.

Numerous charity walks and runs are held in Wakefield, and there are good reasons why. First, the town's lake is easy to get to, safe and pleasant to walk, and it's not utterly impossible to find a parking place. Second, the walk is a favorite among people who make a habit of walking or running. Someone is always walking the lake. Heat, ice, rain, insects: these don't seem to stop anyone. Third, the walk around Quannapowitt is approximately three miles -- or, if you prefer, five kilometers. That's an ideal length for charities hoping to coordinate a manageable event that appeals to a wide audience. Five kilometers is push for people like me, but sufficiently respectable for those who consider themselves athletes.

I couldn't help but laugh, though, when I saw one of the signs that had been put up for last Saturday's participants. It read "5K Mile 1." Maybe the irony of the sign hit me harder than it would have if I had either gotten enough sleep or gotten up on time. Regardless, I roared at the idea that someone who was running five kilometers would want to know where they were in miles.

I guess the big push toward the metric system in the 1970s still hasn't succeeded. People still think in miles. They can run a 5K, but they don't really measure the distance in kilometers. They haven't internalized what "kilometer" (or liter, or kilogram), means.

We measure things by the units we know, those we have be taught. Kilometers isn't one of them.

That problem doesn't just apply to distance or volume or weight; it's one we face in living our faith. Every one of us has been trained to measure value, beauty, success, life, ourselves, and other people by the yardstick we've internalized, or an external societal "standard" we've allowed to bully us. That is what can make it so hard for us to look at things the way God does.

"My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8). That isn't any less true today than it was in Isaiah's time. More often than not, it takes a lifetime to assimilate and internalize God's way of measuring things. I know I still need signs like the one I saw last Saturday, markers that translate divine units into something more familiar to me. It's easier to hold on to the security of my own ruler, and tell myself that my calibrations aren't so far off from God's. But I have also been tempted to drop measuring altogether, to give up wise discernment in order to refrain from judgment. Of course, God never intended us to live without ideals; he intended us to live by his ideals because they embody the purpose for which he created us.

The more years I log in the adventure of Christian faith and discipleship, the more I understand the obstacles I face to living it well. "God does not see as a mortal, who sees the appearance. The Lord looks into the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7). God sees things differently, in part, because he is seeing different things. The struggle I encounter most in measuring things rightly, is that I'm often not measuring the right things. That has a lot to do with why it seems like few things -- including me -- measure up.

The end of summer means a return to routine. Earlier to bed and definitely earlier to rise, the demands of our responsibilities are about to return full force. This year, I'm going to try to lay down my own yardstick and stop allowing other people to measure me by theirs. I'm going to ask God to help me look at the things he looks at and measure them the way he measures them.

JAYMIE STUART WOLFE IS A WIFE AND MOTHER OF EIGHT CHILDREN, AND A DISCIPLE OF THE SPIRITUALITY OF ST. FRANCIS DE SALES. SHE IS THE AUTHOR OF "ADOPTION: ROOM FOR ONE MORE?", A SPEAKER, MUSICIAN AND SERVES AS A CHILDREN'S EDITOR AT PAULINE BOOKS AND MEDIA. FOLLOW HER ON TWITTER @YOUFEEDTHEM.

Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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