Thursday, July 31, 2008

The absurdity of selfishness

As I shut off the lights in my house and headed to bed this evening, I was, for reasons I don't understand, overwhelmed by an uncommon sense of gratitude for what I have. I felt strangely free, not to compare my situation in life to anyone else's... to judge what I had or had not by some aggregate of what others have... but for a brief miraculous moment, to see everything as a blessing... a gift from God.

For that moment... for the first time that I can recall... I could have truly rejoiced in seeing God take everything away...because in that moment I was struck by the absurdity of selfishness... in striving to hold onto things that won't last, and aren't even mine to begin with. It's like trying to capture the awe of a sunset or vanishing cloud or a rainbow in a photograph.

Does God get angry about my ingratitude, or does He instead weep for me, for all the bounty of life that I fail to experience? Whose is the loss when I fail to recognize blessings in my life?

I realized for one moment tonight that the tragedy doesn't take place when the blessings end or pass. The sun sets, the clouds change, the rainbow vanishes. The tragedy is in trying to preserve them and, in so doing, missing the fact that they were ever there to begin with.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

To be a witness...

You may have either (1) read elsewhere on this blog, or (2) tolerated my incessant ranting in person about my belief that we, as Christians, often tend to focus on the externals of being a living witness as though evangelism were some sort of a formula by which, as long as the net result in our lives is greater than the average level of morality in society, we're doing it right and people will come to know the Lord.

As usual, there are many people out there who have expressed this point much more succinctly, artistically, and with a more hopeful outlook than I have been able to.

I have come across such an expression recently... two sentences that I can really grasp... that help me remember and communicate this concept:

To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one's life would not make sense if God did not exist.

-Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard
as quoted by Madeline L'Engle in Walking on Water

L'Engle adds to this thought the following quote from turn-of-the-(19th)-century Spanish philosopher Miguel de Unamuno, who observes:

Those who believe they believe in God, but without passion in the heart, without anguish of mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, and even at times without despair, believe only in the idea of God, and not in God himself.