Wednesday, February 3, 2016
There's Plenty of Time
Sin crept up on me yesterday. I thought I had a wall against such a behavior, a defense to put in place for when I saw it creeping up --- but I never saw it coming. And so the best laid plans of mice and men …
Reflecting back, maybe I should have seen some warning signs, perhaps in my recent complacency. I knew I had spiritual things I should do in recent days, and in my head I had made plans, but, well, “There’s plenty of time,” I thought. My plans had no timetable, or if they did, I didn’t adhere to it. But these were spiritual matter of which I speak, and spiritual matters such as holiness or love either grow or die. This is the lesson which was taught to me today, as I considered my weakness while also contemplating on God’s word for the day.
Mark 6: 1-6
Jesus went into his home town, “and they would not accept him.” Why? -- Because they thought they knew him. They said: “Where did the man get all this wisdom that he preached?” And Jesus said to them, “a prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relatives.”
And I notice and underlined that word “only” in the text. Why was that word there? Now the meditations I read (in the book, The Better Part) noted that Jesus “gives countless signs … but he refuses to give any evidence that will eliminate the need for trust and faith. He invites, he does not compel.” He wants our trust in him, our love for him to be freely given. No one can compel another to love.
But then the words of Mark go on to say that “Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith.” Was Jesus – God really amazed? He was amazed that “only” his own townspeople rejected him? And as I considered this I saw something similar in both Jesus AND in the townspeople: the natural human inclination to rely upon what we know --- which creates a bias toward our self-perceptions. Without saying the words, each of us often thinks: “But I know …” Now it is true that a man can know many things, but in spiritual matters a man cannot know ALL things of God, and further, if he does not continue to learn new things of God a man will grow complacent, and a bias will form within him: “I know all there is to know on these matters.”
The villagers thought they “knew” Jesus, and they did, but they did not “know” him today. Jesus had changed from his earlier ways, but they didn’t. And even Jesus was “amazed” at them, because he had seen so many other people grow in their faith in him. But those other people didn’t think they “knew” him; they had no history of Jesus, as the townspeople did, to bias their thinking.
The meditations I read today went deeper. “Christ appeals to us on a personal level as a friend … to get involved in his life.” The defining of our relationship with Christ as a friendship helped me see how a bias can slip in even among friends, but it also causes me to reflect how true friends, really close friends, continue to speak to each other, and often, to prevent any bias. And while some “friends” may sometimes surprise us (in our bias): “You did what!?” But among really close friends they never do. We notice that our close friends are continually changing, and we follow in their changing lives, as they do in ours. That’s what friends do. And so there are no surprises. And real friends trust one another, and require no proofs of friendship. This is the relationship, the friendship, we should be having with God. “To demand assurances from God before following God is to treat Christianity like a business, not a friendship --- a contract, not a covenant.”
And finally in the meditations I read today I saw the concluding personal prayer: “You have given me so much, Lord, I can’t help wondering if because of your closeness and generosity I have let my faith wane. Maybe I am like your hometown companions, so familiar with you that I forget what a grace and gift your friendship really is. Never let me fall into routine, Lord.” Jesus, let me grow in our friendship --- while there is time.
And so my meditations reached a conclusion --- and new knowledge and growth. “There’s plenty of time?” No there isn’t. This faith journey must be a continuing thing. There can be routines in our life, yes, but part of our faith routine must be prayer time, must be plans, must be growth in holiness --- and time dedicated to living this friendship with Jesus in his company, growing in this friendship, and doing things together. Now, today.
If we don’t let this friendship grow cold, we won’t find ourselves concentrating on, or drifting into plans of “what I want,” or how I want things to be, forgetting our friend. That is how sin crops into our life, when not friends but “I” becomes our focus.
Remember that: “I” is at the center of sIn.