Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Soul Stretching So We May Be Filled

Long have I been aware of what I call the curse of being "pretty-much-okay".  I realize that when our lives are doing pretty much okay we are less aware of our deepest needs, and we are more likely to be self-satisfied to the point that we fail to see the hurt and need of the very people around us, the people who sleep on my doorstep for instance.  I think of the Jack Nicholson character in the movie, "As Good as it Gets".  He is deeply aware of his suffering and need, and when two acquaintances of his tell him everyone suffers he replies, "That is not true.  Some people have a good life.  For some people they have what they need.  For some people life is noodle salad.  For some people they don't know much suffering."  [Okay I don't remember the actual words but I feel I do justice to the sentiment.]  I think he is talking about people doing "pretty-much-okay".

Charles Simeon whom the Episcopal Church commemorates today wrote, "There is a kind of religion which is held in esteem by mankind at large.  An outward reverence for the ordinances of religion, together with habits of temperance, justice, chastity, and benevolence, constitute what the world considers a perfect character."  He goes on to say this pretty much describes St. Paul before he met Christ on the road to Emmaus.  Paul came to realize that he needed Christ.  He needed a savior.  There was sin in his life,  he needed the love of Jesus, he needed to attach himself to the mission of Jesus.  St. Paul came to realize that he could not attain the beauty God could envision for him on his own.  When we are pretty-much-okay, like St. Paul was, we are settling for far less than what God has in store for us.

St. Augustine tells us we need God because we are unable to imagine or describe God, and God chooses to give nothing short of Godself to us.  St. Augustine says we can desire that which we cannot describe.  And in that process of longing God expands our hearts more and more so that we can contain the blessing that God chooses to give.  If we hoard other things in our heart, money, sex, popularity, family, feelings of competence or feelings of incompetence in denial of our God given gifts, if we hoard these things in our hearts we do not have room for the better things God wishes to put there.

There are many in life who find it hard.  I'll be honest, I am one of those.  The blesssing in that is that in my struggles I come across my need for God, and I ask for the grace of God to open me to his workings in my life.  And since to be open to God cannot be an infatuation with my own health, at the same time I pray for those who have either in their struggles not turned to God yet, or for those who have fallen under the curse of being pretty much okay.  I feel certain that the lover of our souls will be busy at work until he meets their eyes in mutual affection.

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