Reality Check

High school me was super into the trilogy The Hunger Games. They were all the rage in the first part of this decade (am I aging myself?), and while I honestly do not remember a single one of the books’ plotlines, I’ve never forgotten one particular scene at the end of the trilogy. The male protagonist, Peeta, fresh out of intense mental, physical, and emotional trauma, is reunited with the female protagonist, Katniss. As the story’s villains have hijacked his memory, Peeta must ask Katniss “Real or not real?” questions about his identity and relationships in order to recover a sense of who he is.

This scene has struck me over the years because it reminds me of how one of the devil’s go-to tactics is to distort the truth and make reality less clear to us. Jesus tells us in John 14:6 that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, so it makes sense that when we lose touch of reality, we lose touch of the all-loving, all-wise Creator of reality, Truth Himself. I’m not about to go into the philosophical underpinnings of the mysterious word reality, but here’s what I do know: many of us are in a time of change right now. We are starting school again, maybe starting jobs, and daydreaming about scarves and cider mills. We are navigating new schedules and new responsibilities. We are reading the news that’s constantly circling around us, wondering what our place and our task is in it all. In the midst of change, transition, and instability, Jesus is inviting us to remember that He is true, that He is real, and that He is the only constant foundation and source of direction that we have.

Now is the time for a reality check. The most real thing I can say to you is that you have a Father who loves you, that Jesus Christ died for you, and that the Holy Spirit is their gift who guides you home to be with them forever. It is so real that you are made for Heaven. You are made to be saint. But it is so easy to view these realities as distant, far-off ideas that maybe touched your heart on a retreat one time or that connected you with some pretty awesome friends or that will be applicable once you’re older and settle into your future career and family life. But what is real is this moment. This is where the grace is found.  Saints are made in the tiny moments that maybe no one else will ever see. Holiness is found in the moments when we stop agonizing over our past mistakes and stop pretending that worrying about future scenarios will make anything better. Growth is found in the moment when we check out of Instagram and check into the reality of God’s love and care for our lives. We are found in the moments when we remember who we are, who we’re meant to be, and where we are going, all while fully living the lives in which God has placed us.

What’s real, then, is that we need saints who are, in this moment, pushing hard for a passing grade in AP Bio. We need saints who give it their all at practice and rehearsal, who are fully alive because they are activating the gifts their Creator has given them. We need saints who work 9-5 and remember to offer their day to Jesus amidst phone calls and paperwork and emails. We need saints who value family dinners, ask how others’ days were, answer questions honestly, and want to listen to honest answers. We need you to be a saint, wherever you are, with all that you are.

Cue the practical question: sounds nice, but HOW?

St. Paul invites us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 to “take every thought captive to obey Christ.” If we carry The Hunger Games analogy through, we can run straight to Truth Himself with the question “Real or not real?” The thought comes into my head that I am out of place and inadequate. “Jesus, is this real or not real?” I worry that I have messed up a situation so much to the point that it is beyond repair. “Jesus, is this real or not real?” I fear that striving to be a saint in my daily life costs too much and will take too much out of me. “Jesus, is this real or not real?” Listen to the response of Truth and Love. If you’re having a hard time knowing what He would say, run to Scripture. Be confident that any time you’re listening to and proclaiming the Truth, you’re winning back territory for the Kingdom of God in the battlefield of your mind.

Let’s remember that Jesus has called us friends, and He wants us to hear the voice of our Father. So as we continue through this school year and live through all the changes it presents, let’s be bold in quieting our hearts, turning to the Father, and asking, “What do you think of me right now, in this situation? What is real? What is true?” Listen to Him speak words of love to you. Let Him remind you that His presence is more real than you could ever imagine. Let’s revolutionize each moment of today, choosing to be saints by living in the reality of the glorious identity our Father has given us and anticipating our eternal home with Him where Truth will reign.