Close to Home:
Now I’ll be the first to confess, that I am a card carrying “Lord I believe, help my unbelief-er.” It takes a great deal of concentration for me to thread my spiritual convictions in and out through the patchwork of my assurances and doubts, joys and sorrows, disgust and fascination with our culture. “What if none of it’s real?” asked my nine-year-old son, breaking through the watery surface of his cool and muffled innocence into the heat and blinding clarity of reason, intellect, and political correctness; The exact same “in the know” environment I, myself, have been steeped in for decades. “We can’t see God,” he went on. “We can’t hear him. What if we die and then nothing happens. What if we end up nowhere?” Quickly I rigged up some sort of confident expression in order to quell his disturbing reservations. “I know, babe” I said honestly, “that it is difficult to comprehend.”
Sometimes, when the earthly addiction of seeking one soothing pleasure after another becomes too thick of a buffer between the awesomeness of a Final Judgment and my own pacifying expediency, I worry that my devotion to a cross and a Savior is but a habit, a hobby, or an inherited gene. Yet I show up, regardless, in front of icons bearing faces, bearing lives whose unashamed commitment to radical repentance prick uncomfortably at the halfhearted existence I’ve grown accustomed to. Yet I pray, trying my best to ignore the seasons of dryness and the sometimes overwhelming suspicion that the teachings of a sandal clad, wood-working God-Man may not be apply, at least in a literal sense, to a less extreme modernity. Every Sunday morning I arrive hungry at the Divine Liturgy, anticipating the moment when my undeserving spirit and aging physical body will receive through holy Eucharist a supernatural link to the unfathomable Kingdom of Heaven without which I would surely yield completely to the persuasions of a society I can touch, taste, feel, inhale and gawk at. “The squeaky wheel gets the grease,” isn’t that what they say about those who are paid attention to by being louder and more obnoxious than their softer spoken counterparts?
If they told us that we couldn’t, without severe and frightening consequences, worship any old way that we desired, we’d have no other choice than to become all for or against something. But as it stands, there’s an awful lot of wiggle room right here smack dab in the middle. With Reverend Oprah as our guide promoting god(s), morality, and personal fulfillment, as more and more individuals settle down contentedly with their borderless and genial religiosity, as some well intentioned proponents of Christianity attempt to broaden its awfully limiting definition, we end up with a message sounding hauntingly familiar in a slithering and deceitful sort of way: “Eat it up kids! This won’t kill you. You’ll find nothing but enlightenment if you follow wholeheartedly your own agenda.”
Faith, said Flannery O’Connor, is what someone knows to be true, whether they believe it or not. So while admittedly, I’m no poster child for sacrificial piety and though I may continually struggle to absorb the foreign tenets of a Tradition based on losing your life in order to gain it, as a prodigal daughter who has experienced too many times the inexplicable satisfaction of being cherished and known and forgiven by Christ…that’s right, you heard me say it – Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Immanuel, the Prince of Peace, I know deep down in my soul that Truth exists. I cannot shake, even in the midst of uncertainty, the unpopular notion that only one Trinitarian path can lead to my Salvation if I cooperate with the plan God has provided.
I heard this week a half hour interview with a prize-winning novelist and literary scholar who had recently been honored by a prestigious University on the occasion of his 75th birthday. “I know,” said the host, “that you have never been religious, but now that you are older and that much closer to death, do you ever wish you had it in you to believe in eternity?”
“No,” he answered hurriedly with just a hint of exasperation. “I have absolutely no desire to be delusional.”
And for a moment my foreground reality consisting primarily of instantly gratifying distractions fell impotently by the wayside revealing a surety that I didn’t have to fight for. The ridiculous and grim assertion that we are here for nothing, that we live for nothing, that our affection for one another is of no lasting significance actually solidified my previously soft resolve to proceed otherwise. There are two kinds of people: said C.S. Lewis, those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, “All right, then, have it your way.” With independence comes the burden of our choices. Will I move forward as the foolish girl I am, participating despite my weaknesses, or lose my relevance as a Christian by watching, waiting, critiquing from the sidelines? No one, nothing, will force either option upon me for what is love without the freedom to refuse it? “He was in the world, we read in the Gospel of St. John, and the world was made through Him, yet the world knew Him not. He came to His own home, and His own people received Him not.” What if the sum of all my days adds up only to a lifetime of wasted opportunities? It is possible, way too possible of a scenario to take lightly.
Act first, surrendering a dependence upon logic, then feel the shifting of your priorities confirm that God, as He revealed Himself through the Church, is indeed with us. Come cynical, come starving, come weary and disappointed, come trusting just a little and you’ll understand why there is more, thank goodness so much more than what is force fed down our throats as acceptable, as preferable to the rigors of self-denial, by a civilization living solely for the present. Hope in Christ instead of fluctuating emotions and find meaning and purpose and peace in the midst of chaos.
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