On Being Eager
One aspect of the art of spirituality is learning to pay attention. As I learn to practice paying attention, I am amazed at how much stuff is going on all around me that generally I am unaware. I realize that I am lucky to be around the kind of people with whom I pretty regularly interact. A college community is a crucible of activity, of ideas, of dynamics that are not always present in other contexts.
Clearly, it is not always exciting. There is complaining, grouching, and whining almost anytime you want to seek it out. And sometimes it comes booming out of places in ways you can’t miss it.
But as I have been paying attention, one of the aspects of life around me that has become evident is eagerness. I realize I have personally experienced my own eagerness. If I begin to think about the times and the situations when I was eager for something, I am astounded. I can push those memories all the way back to childhood. There are predictable eager occasions, like the coming of my birthday or the first game of the new basketball seasons.
The occasions of eagerness continue through adolescence right up to the present time. I am glad that I now realize I can still be eager for something---or maybe even for someone. I don’t have grandkids yet, but every grandparent I know was duly eager for the little creature to come into his or her life. And then when the little package arrives, we are treated with pictures, statistics, names, etc.
So I began to think a little about the dynamics of eagerness. The first thing that occurred to me is that eagerness is like hope. Eagerness is always about the future---about the not-yet. When that future comes, eagerness gives way to glee or satisfaction. Or my eagerness can flounder on the rocks of disappointment if that for which I was eager does not pan out the way I wanted it to happen.
The second aspect I note about eagerness deals with definition. If you were to seek the dictionary definition of eagerness, you would find characteristics such as enthusiasm. By nature to be eager is to be enthusiastic for something or someone. Eagerness has a vested quality to it. Eagerness names my enthusiastic interest in something. It comes out in phrases like “I’m really hoping…” Or one will hear someone say, “I can’t wait for…”
Eagerness is also characterized by desire. If I am eager, I desire something or someone. In fact, eagerness often suggests that my desire is impatient, as the phrase, “I can’t wait for…” articulates.
I have to suspect that eagerness can be an appropriate characteristic of my life. Of course, there may be things for which I am eager that really do not matter. But there are other things---especially, spiritual things---that I would do well to have some eagerness.
When I think about the ministry of Jesus, I often summarize it by saying his ministry was all about the kingdom. Indeed, his earliest words proclaimed the coming of the kingdom. Characteristics of that kingdom were peace (shalom), justice, compassion, sharing, etc. I want to be eager for that same reality.
I want to develop spiritually so that I am enthusiastic about those deeply meaningful things. I want to become impatient to be a peace-maker. I am eager to learn how to become more compassionate and less self-interested. I want to learn to care about the neighbor whom I don’t yet know and the stranger whom I might fear. Somehow that seems more important than being eager for ice cream!
I conclude this kind of eagerness can be learned and practiced. I am ready to learn. I want to be that kind of disciple!