Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Reflections and ruminations to at the beginning of a new month

We begin a new month today. It is funny how time flies! On 1 July I was making my way back from a wonderful, if intense, two weeks in Minnesota. July was a blur. August also looks like a busy month. School starts for my children, I am preaching two weekends, registration for Children's Education begins- the beat goes on. Even more, as I awoke this morning and sleepily realized it was 1 August, I immediately recalled that it was on this day 32 years ago that my family and I moved to Ogden. Wow! It still seems weird to me that I have vivid memories of things that happened that long ago.

I mention all of this, not to bore you, but to try and somehow link all of this to my several impassioned posts on spirituality, to show that integrating faith into life and life into faith is a constant challenge and struggle. It is paradoxical because at one and the same time it is the easiest and most difficult thing in the world. I make it difficult when I force the issue by suddenly undertaking, on my own initiative, to be someone else, someone I'm not, in the mistaken hope that God will be more pleased with this other person I make out of whole of cloth, this "holy" nobody who does all the right things all time, even if it is all done mechanistically, a "korrekt Christian", if you will. Such a move is false and will not please God; neither will it solve anything for me. It will make me miserable. Nonetheless, false selves proliferate.

Holiness is not following a daily checklist, but that is not to assert that there is no discipline involved. However, the disciplines of the spiritual life (i.e., prayer, fasting, contemplation, study, solitude, simplicity, etc.) are means, not ends and mindlessly observing them yields no fruit. Being the person I am has an element of becoming, but this becoming is not self-driven, it is God-driven, which means, given my impatient and demanding nature, it is bound to be frustrating. Practicing the disciplines of the spiritual life, therefore, is done (writing metaphorically)to clear a space, to open me up to what God is doing, not about getting what I want by being good or pre-determining the outcome of my intentional actions. This is why we talk about surrendering to God, breaking down resistance to what God is trying to do in us. This requires giving up false and sentimental notions about who I am and expelling silly notions about who I'd rather be instead! I know all of that borders on nonsense because it is too dense. So, take it for what it is worth, if unpacking it helps, great. If not, no worries!

Tension abounds. It is good for me, at least the healthy kind of tension, not the kind that induces stress, but the kind that doesn't allow me to become complacent, to become smug, to think that I've arrived, that I have it all figured out, that I am the oracle of God's will to the people around me. Of course, even living with this tension, I should experience moments of peace, of reassurance, of joy and happiness, of silent stillness. I need those times when, to borrow from the language of recovery, I let go and let God.

The one thing I appreciated about reading Chesterton this past week or so is his joie de vivre. If there is any heroic virtue he possessed that makes him a candidate for sainthood it is this virtue that enabled him to revel in being alive, to look at the world, even as a grown man, with a sense of wonder, to truly enjoy the world in all its messiness. I certainly agree with him that God is more of an artist that a scientist. Chesterton was no fan uniformity and order, which is a good thing. Uniformity and order are characteristics of worldly utopias, not the Kingdom of God, where, as God's beloved child, I am free and encouraged to be myself. I think the only necessary provisio here is that I can only be myself in relation to others.

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