Ancient Vision, Post-Modern Longing – Part 2

Part 2: Dh’iarrainn gur Tu Bhiodh ’gam stiùreadh gach uair;

Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.

Same question as before: a plea or statement of fact? If a statement, then this one has an added facet: It can be made real. There are definitive, physical actions that can manifest this – transform it from idea to a functioning reality. People can choose to put other things aside (make them “naught”) thereby giving form to the otherwise ephemeral idea of the Lord being first and only in our hearts.

I can live live like the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10:17-27. I can take it a step further (like he refused to) and sell everything. You could live in a hut on a mountain and pray 20 hours a day. We can make this happen.

Give it all away!

There is a trap set here, however. One can act like the Lord is “all” without it actually being the case. Is this not the very sin of the Pharisees? Is this not exactly what Jesus violently protested?

This twilight between being and doing is dangerous territory. However, if there is any hope of becoming like Him, we must walk in it. I am still surprised (and sometimes shamed) by the frequency with which I get caught in this trap.

I end up putting aside “all else” for the sake of appearances.

The remedy is a person

Watchman Nee (“Christ: The sum of all Spiritual Things”) and Thomas Merton (“No Man is an Island”) speak to a remedy, but I only grasp it with my soul, not yet with my mind or my heart. The remedy is the person of Christ.

The remedy is more than ascent to his Lordship. It is more than faith in his deity or belief in his historicity. The remedy is to possess him…no, to be possessed. A surrender to his person-hood animating one’s self. This is the death, I think, that Paul spoke of. The death that Jesus himself introduced: “Die to self, take up your cross and follow me”. (Luke 9:23). There is something base and primitive, an instinct, that resists allowing another person (no matter how holy) to possess my heart, mind, soul and strength. I am willing to accept an ideal, a philosophy or a way of living. I am less willing to allow another person to displace me as a person.

Am I compassionate?

Several years ago I was approached by a homeless woman near the church office. She asked if we could provide her a coat. I responded “yes” and used her first name. (I had met her a few days earlier) She was visibly moved/impressed that I remembered her. As I walked away to get the jacket, I was feeling equal parts self-important and annoyed at having my schedule interfered with. It was at that moment that I became aware that this woman was laboring under the false impression that I was compassionate. She had no idea what I was really feeling.

The truth is, I was being arrogant and cold. I was the opposite of what she was experiencing. I quickly attempted some sort of internal “values judo” in which I turned these character flaws in on themselves and manufactured true compassion. Instead, I discovered only emptiness. There was no compassion. I found that, in that moment, I could behave compassionately (which is not worthless: check out Seeds of Grace ministry opportunities!) but that compassion didn’t actually exist in me, and I have no way of manufacturing it.

The Truth hurts…but it’s true

I was suddenly heart-broken – not for the homeless woman, but for myself. For my own depth of brokenness. My hypocrisy. Hopelessness quickly settled upon me as I realized my true nature. In the following instant, just before despair arrived, I sensed the voice of the Holy Spirit reminding me that:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Galatians 2:20

Self-pity slowly turned to wonder as the plain truth of Paul’s word emerged from a haze of theory, metaphor, academics, justifications and fear. The compassion-less Dan is real – but dead. Jesus Christ, alive in me, is now my compassion.

Dan

55 year old husband of 29 years, father of two, drumming Gardner.

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