We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
“Drink deep…or taste not,” is a direction full as applicable to Religion, if we would find it a source of pleasure, as it is to knowledge. A little Religion is, it must be confessed, apt to make men gloomy, as a little knowledge to render them vain: hence the unjust imputation often brought upon Religion by those whose degree of Religion is just sufficeint, by condemning their course of conduct, to render them uneasy; enough merely to impair the sweetness of the pleasures of sin, and not enough to compensate for the relinquishment of them by its own peculiar comforts. Thus these men bring up, as it were, an ill report of the land of promise, which, in truth, abounds with whatever, in our journey through life, can best refresh and strengthen us.
Great quote! But it isn't just that shallow faith spoils one's fun. It's that cheap grace takes one out on weak ice, thinking it solid, unaware of one's own sinful depths. Not to be ventured upon alone or without advice.
The people that lived in darkness have seen a light, and they are first warmed, drawn, directed to come closer. All is calm, all is bright. They even leave the dark holes they have been skulking in to feel more secure. The proverbial cripple dropping crutches at Lourdes. An initial heartfelt leap of faith and the joy of hope after an age without it. And then? Well, what I always wonder about after Jesus left town, leaving the newly healed...What do you do after you have been changed, seen a new direction, but are still mostly the same sinner you were before, still prone to the same old habits, and weaknesses of character, still in the same marriage, same job, etc. You have drawn attention to yourself by standing up and following God, but do the people around you always approve? No, if they are like Christian's family in "The Pilgrim's Progress" they think you mad or sick and put to bed to recover. In any case, a rush of spiritual enthusiasm, may get you walking again after an age crippled, but those limbs will still need therapy, building up again after atrophying.
Most of us tend to wildly overestimate our own strength and ability to change ourselves, so people who convert are often more susceptible to that old original sin, because they think they are now protected, transformed. Having felt God touch them, they think that they are now godlike.
Anyway, my point is that I know from my own experience that after a spiritual honeymoon, there is often a kind of wakeup and growing disappointment and is this all there is to an ongoing relationship with God, and experience of His forgiveness.
THink of it another way, nobody wants to be the one to dent the new car so one drives supercautiously at first, but once the inevitable happens, and perfection is marred, one gets discouraged.
Also, to return to the light imagery: light exposes our weaknesses, our sins, our addictions, our obsessions, our rage, our age...Sooner or later, people hear those passages in Scripture about Jesus calling us to count the cost, be ready to give up all for Him, sooner or later we realize how abysmally short we fall of what He requires of us. And without other Christians to encourage and exhort and guide us, it is easy to wallow in the Slough of Despond, drowning in the awareness of one's own sin. It's like that old cliche that the more you learn, you more you realize how ignorant you really are.
We all need that initial rush, that falling in love with God, that ecstatic commitment of our lives before we really know what we are doing. Again, to use a mundane example, people wouldn't dare get married or have kids if they knew what would really be expected of them. We are selfish, comfort-loving mammals, and sacrifice does not come easily to us.
Forgive the cliches, but as I often say, Christianity isn't taught, it's caught. And the reason is that the spiritual life is not to be lived in isolation. We grow closer to God as we learn from fellow believers and help each other. It's not that we cannot relate directly to God, nor that we can't learn from studying His Word alone, just that these solitary activities are enriched and our path eased and cheered by company.
And you know what a grouchy old social misfit I am! In the end, the spiritual life is all about love. The saintly hermits and mystics would probably disagree with me (there was one ancient CHurch father who lived on top of a flagpole for years!) but for most of us we learn about love in the abstract by loving the unlovable people around us and gratefully accepting the love shared with us even when we are most unlovable. Without that safety net of the gathered faithful, we will be killed learning how to balance across the highwire, or leaping out across the void to our destination. The spiritual life is more like a love affair than anything else, with its highs, lows, distance, ecstasies...and we all know that any relationship is helped by the support of the community. Think of all the times we convince a friend not to despair, not to give up on a good relationship when they are depressed or angry or just disilllusioned....How much more so do we need each other in the life of faith.
Probably more than you wanted, and dashed off in a hurry, have to go clean the kitchen and do the laundry
Habu, as always, you are too kind..but thanks. It was encouraging reading your contented musings on 28 years. I collect sayings and observations about happy couples, few and far between tho they seem to be. Amidst the guffaws in my household over that "silent wife" story, there was general agreement that all of us verbose humanoids love the dog best of anyone in the family---simply because he doesn't talk. Doesn't inflict his opinions or criticise or order anyone around. J2BCJKust stares soulfully (hungrily? with a teenager assigned to feed you, you can get pretty skinny) and nuzzles and is content having his ears scratched. And incidentally is the most perfect example of unconditional love readily available...I am always quoting the Will Rogers or Mark Twain (?) saying about how if dogs aren't allowed in Heaven, I want to be where they are.