"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

13 March 2007

Quiet Companion

I regularly read a number of posts at a Christian college blogring. A few are genuinely, deeply thoughtful and I appreciate and learn from them. They mostly depress me, however, just because so many tend to be completely superficial -- "so I got up and had breakfast and skipped class and went to lunch . . ." -- you know the type. But of course others are more serious, young people writing about what they hope and dream and seek for. Some of these disturb me because they reveal the completely worldly values of folk who should be moving out of these into Christ's values. Others disturb me because the writers simply seem so lost and confused.

This morning I finally realized the main feature that bothers me about so many of these -- the absolute focus on self. Even when writing about a desire for the spiritual, it is a desire for spiritual emotion: I want to feel this, feel that, feel the other; I want God to show me this, give me that. It's all about me.

That, of course, is human nature in a nutshell, exacerbated by the self-absorbed culture that surrounds us. I've been there, still go there far too often. But if we want to know Him, then we need to seek Him -- Him, not some experience we want Him to give us. We need to love Him with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength -- and I no longer believe that has anything to do with how we feel at any given moment. Rather, it is a decision to walk in the Truth of His nature, of His salvation, of His Lordship, whether we feel anything in particular or not. (Of course, it is best to do this cheerfully and willingly, not begrudgingly. But, despite the many people I admire who say the opposite, I think it better to do the right thing out of obligation rather than excuse sin because I don't feel like being righteous. At the least, it builds good habits.)

Oh, I long to feel good, too! I can't say how many times I've begged for just a taste of that abundant life He promises. But I think I am beginning to understand that, as C. S. Lewis demonstrates in Surprised by Joy, we can't find some kind of emotional experience by seeking it out and focusing on it. Rather, the knowledge of joy comes as a complete and marvelous surprise when we are absorbed in simply living our lives in His Truth -- absorbed not in ourselves but in Him, the world He created, the others He places in our path.

I used to beg, to plead, for a taste of joy. I am now often startled to find joy a quiet companion along the way, most noticeable when I seek it the least.


St. Kevin & the Blackbird said...

I teach a university course called "Love and its Myths". I tell my students: Love isn't a feeling; it's a promise to handle feelings in a certain way.

alaiyo said...

SK&TB: That's an excellent way of putting it. I will probably steal it! I dropped by your weblog; it looks most interesting -- I'll spend some time browsing when I get through with classes today.

Curious to know -- how did you find inscapes? Mere Comments, maybe?


St. Kevin & the Blackbird said...

It's not stealing if I give it to you! Found you some time ago now (at least a year, maybe more). Kept coming back for the comtemplative devotions. Plus I love Hopkins. I've been quiet because I only started St.Blackbird recently (last week) with the encouragement of a friend and blogger (moniker: awareness). Glad to make your acquaintance (finally).

Fieldfleur said...

I like this post. I'm guilty of self-focus, self-need, and self-want for the feeling side of faith. Yet, it's getting better as I age and meet head-on with disappointment, and reality, and then reassurance via feeling-knowledge that He remains. Thank goodness, weaning happens!

Thanks for the good thoughts,

Megan said...

Conviction hurts...
Christ alone must be glorified.
Thanks for the encouragement. You never fail to point in the right direction.

alaiyo said...

Good to hear from you, Megan! Thanks for the kind words. (And don't ever become too adult for spring fever!)