07 April 2009

The Big Goodbye

I think the human reaction to change is fascinating. On some level, I think most people have an instinctual drive which causes them to force changes in their lives, once they reach a certain level of awareness of their “stagnant” condition. We seek change. We desire change. We always want to be someone else—someone who is more confident, better looking, who has more money, is more spiritually oriented, and on and on and on goes the list. There is a whole self-improvement industry which thrives precisely on this internal lack of satisfaction with who we are and where we are.

Not that changes don’t sometimes need to be made—but very often, the things we want changed about ourselves are immaterial to what is really important. Sometimes, we need to be shaken up out of our complacency to grow. Sometimes, if we refuse to get up and do this, God makes this decision for us. He pushes us out of the careful insularities we build up around ourselves. He leads us through pits and valleys, through desert wastelands that force us to dry up some of our water-fat luxury and become reduced in order to grow. It’s like pruning a plum tree (which I had some experience with last weekend); you have to cut off the bad growth in order to get better fruit in the coming year.

Of course, we often react violently to this; we want change, but we want it to be easy. It would be so nice if a magic wand could be waved over us, or we could rub a lamp and have some genie pop out and make it so without any of the work. We want the benefits of having suffered without having to suffer. We want to learn the lessons without having attended class. How absurd we all are! To think that Truth is ever purchased without sorrows and pains, without misfortunes and hard times! It’s madness. Hard times and periods of uncertainty force us to rely on God; they help us develop the character traits that make us human beings, not just animals in a cage reacting to stimuli. We need these periods. That’s one of the reasons for Lent, and the other periods of fasting the Church sets for us; and there are so many of them throughout the year, because we learn lessons like this very, very slowly.

So, even though it hurts us, in the long run, it is better to embrace the opportunities when they present themselves. Say the big goodbye to things as they were; you can’t get the next dish passed to you at dinner, until you let go of the one you’re currently holding. In the end, no one is prepared to just let go…but we make the dive, we take the plunge, and do it anyway. Even if we don’t really want to. Even if we’re scared of failing. Even if we don’t totally understand why. We do what we know is right—we trust God and His Church, and we rely on that to sustain us even through these periods of reduction, reformation, and change. In a very real sense, that’s what metanoia means.

Psalm 48
For the End: A Psalm for the Sons of Kore.

Hear this, all ye nations; give ear, all ye that inhabit the world, Both ye that are born of earth, and ye sons of men, rich and poor men together. My mouth shall speak wisdom, and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding. I will incline mine ear unto a parable, I will unfold my problem on the psaltery. Wherefore should I fear in an evil day? The iniquity at my heel shall compass me about. There be some that trust in their strength, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches. A brother cannot redeem; shall a man redeem? He shall not give to God a ransom for himself, nor the price of the redemption of his own soul, though he hath laboured for ever, and shall live to the end. For he shall not see corruption, when he shall see wise men dying. The mindless man and the witless shall perish together, and they shall leave their riches to others. And their graves shall be their houses unto eternity, their dwelling places unto generation and generation, though they have called their lands after their own names. And man, being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them. This way of theirs is a stumbling-block for them, yet afterwards they will please with their mouth. Like sheep they are laid in hades, death shall be their shepherd. And the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning, and their help shall wax old in hades; they have been cast out from their glory. Yet God shall redeem my soul out of the hand of hades, when he receiveth me. Be not afraid when a man becometh rich, nor when the glory of his house is increased. For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away, nor shall his glory descend after him. For his soul shall be blessed in his lifetime; he will acknowledge Thee while Thou doest good unto him. He shall enter into the generation of his fathers; he shall not see light unto eternity. And man, being in honour, did not understand; he is compared to the mindless cattle, and is become like unto them.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I confess sometimes I wish you would post more often, but the wait is always worth it when you do. :) This is an excellent meditation, and a very timely one. God is using you! Change has been much on my mind, and your words clarify my thinking about us wanting change and liking it, but shunning the pain that must accompany it. And like you said, it's a slow process, but I'm so impatient! Thanks for the encouragement!