By Owen Coughlin
My life was one long, continuous cycle. It went like this:
I accepted that I knew close to nothing. That I was, essentially, a moron.
Then I learned something.
Then I used what I learned.
And it worked.
Then, I behaved like an idiot.
Eventually, bad things happened.
And I realized I was a donkey.
In response, I felt bad about everything.
Again I accepted that I knew nothing, aside from what I had experienced. Then it all repeated.
The whole time, like most people, I was seeking purpose. And whenever I thought I had found purpose, I either wanted more and could not seem to find or create it, or I blew it completely and tried to move on to the next thing.
There were times when I felt no purpose at all. Pointlessness.
In today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew (11:2-11), a man gives evidence of a profound sense of purpose in life. He was called John the Baptist. What John saw as the purpose of his life was so extraordinary, that if a man in today’s world felt the same call, he would inevitably find himself in a psych ward. This man, John, was hanging around the desert wearing camel skins, eating bugs, proclaiming what he felt was a message from God via intense metaphors, and insisting that another guy—a better guy— was on his way to set people on fire.
Naturally, he got himself locked up.
Imprisonment could not stifle John’s purpose, but even though he had heard the call of the Lord and had even baptized Jesus himself, he was still a man. And like any other man, he was susceptible to doubt. He heard the rumors of Jesus while imprisoned. Far from setting sinners ablaze, John heard it told that Jesus had been healing and even forgiving them. John, who had initially been so sure, may have gone so far as to wonder, “Is this actually the guy?” He sent his followers to find out.
They asked Jesus, “Are you the one who is coming, or should we look for someone else?”
Jesus responded, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” He then told the people hanging around that John was the single greatest guy ever borne of a woman. Incredible. John’s faith wavered, and Jesus hailed him anyway as one of the greatest.
John was in prison and even still God himself looked over and affirmed his goodness and his purpose. That, truly, was the love of God.
Now, let’s be clear here. In Catholic school, I was the kid that fell asleep in church and taught the other kids how to swear. In early adulthood, I think I was best known for being too drunk and making inappropriate remarks. I have told a thousand lies. At one point, I was basically an atheist. I used to joke that Jesus was a street magician, and that the Bible was the world’s greatest book of fictional short stories. Then, I lived in a van.
I was born with a disease I did not understand, and it took me losing my mind, becoming an addict, and intentionally going toe to toe with the grim reaper in order to discover the truth.
And the truth was God. The truth was Jesus, and the Holy Spirit.
The truth was that I was a moron, and I was an ant, and I was most lost when I stood tall and called myself a trailblazer. And even though I was all these awful things, the Lord revealed Himself to me, put me through fire and cleansed me of my sickness. He did that for me. He reached out to me even though I was unworthy.
He changed me. He reorganized me. He gave me purpose. Real purpose.
I used to want to make a name for myself. Now I just want to do anything I possibly can for His Name. That is not to say that I am cured. I still wrestle with my pride. I still sin and sometimes still say inappropriate things. I am still a donkey.
But now, I am a donkey with a purpose that will not fade, because I am His donkey. I am God's beloved ...and I have never been happier.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Owen is a guy from Olmsted Township, OH. e was not terribly interested in God until 2015, then some things happened, and now he would like to become a warrior monk but his girlfriend has forbidden it. His dog's name is Eevee (like the Pokemon).