Sunday, February 16, 2014

The Joy of not living the joy of faith? Absurdity or Grace?

“Therese of Lisieux underwent profound changes in her experience of faith during the Easter of 1896: Before that time she thought that atheism was a haunted position, a sham. ’I could not believe that there really were godless people who had no faith at all, it was only by being false to their own inner convictions that someone could deny the existence of heaven.'
Finally, her eyes were opened to realize that unbelievers really exist. She experiences the sense of the darkness, such impenetrable darkness, a darkness which cannot recognize the King of Light. ‘But here I am Lord, to whom Your divine light has made itself known.'  She finds herself in a situation which seems absurdly contradictory. She does not cease to participate in the light of the faith and at the same time she participates in the darkness in which unbelievers live. She is immersed in suffering never experienced previously and in joy greater than she ever felt before. She thinks that if Jesus has made her see the reality of unbelief and has made her participate in the night of unbelief, it is only so that she may turn the tables, so that she may live this state of darkness for the sake of unbelievers themselves. And, consequently, for her it is a new joy that she had never experienced until then.  A joy of not living the joy of faith so that precisely these 'others', these unbelievers who do not know this joy, might finally attain to it: 'What does it matter, that I should catch no glimpse of heaven's beauties, here on earth, if that will help poor sinners to see them in heaven.'”
Jean Francois Six (abridged)

In my own time, I often have similar feelings for those who either claim to be atheists outright, or those who simply live as if there is no God.  Where I used to view people through the lenses of society and media, in my old age I’ve tried more and more to surrender to God and trust He will give me His “eyes” to see others as He does, with lenses of LOVE.  Instead of reacting with shallow shock and disgust (the old me) at the myriad of young, screwed, glued, tattooed, crazy shorn and colored I see daily, or the old and cranky too, I see only those His Son called the “lost” who He came to save, to redeem for His Father’s Kingdom.  I encounter lesbian friends who I would’ve thought would desire anonymity in our culture, yet, they draw attention to themselves with outrageous looks and dress?!  Yes, I now “see” only people who are hurting and in search of true love and contentment.  I don’t know the “answer” to the entire world’s searching specifically, but I do believe it lay at the foot of a cross, and in the plans of a loving Creator.  I’m not a brilliant theologian or pastor, nor even a saintly old monk for that matter, but I sense my own feeble, humble presence has meaning in His grand scheme, His “divine conspiracy” as Dallas Willard would call it?  I do all the things a Christian is supposed to do, including attend church, etc., but I believe the real mark of a disciple of Jesus is simple presence in the world and to others on a daily basis, in love, grace and humility with a heart that desires only to impart the HOPE I’ve already come to know deeply.  A HOPE that gives me contentment beyond any the world or another person ever could.  That is why I live; as a father and husband, as a grandfather, and as a sinner saved by Grace who desires only to be a friend along the way to others.  While I’m still alive it is a divine calling.  Should I die today, I gain that “new heaven and earth” He has promised . . . I can’t lose!

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