There is no shortage of good days. It is good lives that are hard to come by. A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is the life of greed; it requires more and more. The life of the spirit requires less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet. Who would call a day spent reading a good day? But a life spent reading – – that is a good life.
Annie Dillard, A Writing Life
I first came across this quote a few months ago, and it still lingers in my mind. In particular, two points have stuck with me. First, that a life of the spirit requires less and less. I have thought a lot about what this looks like. Is it less stuff? Less recognition? Is it feeling increasingly content and satisfied? All of the above, I think.
Second, that by talking of one’s life, I believe it will need to be worked on throughout my life. It takes time, intentionality, mistakes, lessons learned, vulnerability, patience and grace. Life is measured as a whole. I can look at its parts and evaluate how I am doing. But to look at my life, I must step back and examine the whole of my life – self, relationships, work, interests, thoughts, contributions, and so forth.
I would like to some day look back on my life and think of it as good. For there is no shortage of good days. But a good life is hard to come by.
There is an unsettling story in which Jesus tells a potential follower to sell all that he has and give it to the poor first, if in fact he wants to follow Jesus. Some cite this story as what it costs to be a christian. Many christians are quick to say that the story is but one facet, and to make this the litmus test of faith is taking that story out of its context.
Robert Gundry has a different take, and it is his words that I sit with today.
” ‘Jesus did not command all of his followers to sell all their possessions’ gives comfort only to the kind of people to whom he would issue that command.”
When I use my conviction of faith to diminish or judge another, I have missed the point of that conviction. My convictions should make me uncomfortable, not be used to make you uncomfortable. Your convictions belong to you, and are yours to do with what you choose. When we come to different conclusions in our convictions, one does not diminish the other. They are simply different.
I don’t think giving away all that I have would be the most unsettling question asked of me. What I hold onto the tightest, what would be nearly impossible to give up if asked, that is what I am pondering today.
“We must not see any person as an abstraction. Instead, we must see in every person a universe with its own secrets, with its own treasures, with its own sources of anguish, and with some measure of triumph.”
We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.
These are the words of Nazi concentration camp survivor and Nobel Prize winning author Elie Wiesel, and they ring true deeply in my soul today. I am praying for wisdom in how to best stand with those who need an advocate, a friend, an ally.
I found this prayer a few years ago and I keep coming back to it. It meets me right where I am, regardless of where I am. Like a gem, I continue to find new facets that draw me in and hold my gaze.
Prayer for Today
by Francis of Sales (1567-1622)
[Our] God, we give you this day.
We offer You, now, all of the good
that we shall do and we promise to accept,
for love of You,
all of the difficulty that we shall meet.
Help us to conduct ourselves during this day, during this time,
in a manner pleasing to You.
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
“Most things will be okay eventually, but not everything will be. Sometimes you’ll put up a good fight and lose. Sometimes you’ll hold on really hard and realize there is no choice but to let go. Acceptance is a small, quiet room.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar
I’ve been thinking for awhile about doing an additional post for the blog each week, something that has caught my attention by challenging or encouraging me. Something that I thought might be meaningful to others too. Today is the day to begin, because I came across this gem, written by Richard Rohr and posted through his daily meditations. This will be one to sift through for awhile, again and again. To discover one’s soul…
The writings of the Hebrew Scriptures show an evolutionary development, a gradual coming to see how God acts in human life. God is not changing; it is our comprehension of God that is changing. As we go through the Scriptures, what we see in Israel’s growth as a people is a pattern of what happens to every person and to every people who set out on the journey of faith. They go through stages and gradually come to see how God loves them and what God’s liberation does for them. But they come kicking and screaming and denying.
In the first stage, people start to experience the reality of God and God’s love as more than abstract concepts. At the same time, however, they tend to believe that God’s love is limited to just themselves, a select few such as a chosen people or the one true Church.
In the second stage, people begin to respond to God’s love, but they perceive God’s love as rather totally dependent on their ideal response. They believe that grace is a conditional gift, that God will love them if they are good, that God will save or reward them if they keep the commandments.
In the third stage, people begin to see God’s love as unlimited and unconditional, but they do not see further than that. They acknowledge that God loves them whether they are good or bad, and that God is gracious to the just and the unjust alike. But they still think that God is doing that from afar, from up in heaven somewhere. They do not yet see themselves as inherently participating in the process. Frankly, they have not discovered their own soul yet.
Finally, in the fourth stage, they make the breakthrough to seeing that God’s grace and love is present within them, through them, with them, and even as them! The mystery of incarnation has come full circle. They can now enjoy God’s temple within their own body, as Paul loves to teach, and can love themselves and others and God by the same one flow. It is all one stream of Love! They now fully realize that it is God who is doing the loving, and they surrender themselves to being channels and instruments of that Divine Flow into the world.