Friday, March 3, 2017

Second-Guessing God

The Gospel was on the rich man (Mk 10:17).  Jesus told him to “sell everything” earthly, so “you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.”  And the man went away sad.  “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom,” Jesus told His disciples.
And I wondered:  What are my riches?
The Garden of Eden showed us the commonly-held riches of every man and woman:  They are prone to value themselves highly, even more than God.  It is the Devil’s primary temptation: God’s laws are restrictive; you deserve this thing or that, and so it is right for you to have it.  (We Americans like to say we have a “right” to what we want for ourselves.)  Some rationalize a response to this temptation and their response.  They convince themselves God can’t exist, because “A God would want me happy --- no pain, no sorrow, and total freedom.”  And some convince themselves that God DOES exist --- “But I have to compensate for His shortcomings, His not loving me enough.”  Most often these compromises occur through giving in to the desires of our body.  Certainly Pride is at the top of these desires; we want to be honored, respected, and loved.  But the five physical senses are also sources of temptations, and these are often satisfied by money:  the big house, beautiful possession, trips, sex, and of course food.  All these are the temptations of the body in every man and woman --- but for some there are more.
With the fall in the Garden of Eden, the average person became prone to the temptations of Pride, choosing self over God.  Some, however, are NOT average people, they are gifted with even “better” bodies --- and for these the Parable of the Talents says: “From those who are given more, more is expected.”  But even as the gifts of our body can provide us new ways to serve God and give more, they can also provide us new ways of being led astray from Him.
Two exceptional gifts which I have some experience with are the gifts of higher knowledge and beauty.  Unfortunately, it’s often parents who first see these gifts in their children and focus undue attention on them, teaching them not as gifts to help the kids to serve God, but to serve themselves.  They are treated as special kids growing up, different than their siblings, and then these “special” kids grow up expecting to be treated as special adults.  They believe life is easier than it really is; that things are owed them, and later, they don’t know how to handle adversity which they should have seen in their youth.  They come to think that attention given them is love, a deserved love.  Their knowledge and beauty often lead to easy financial gains in their adult lives, which they treat as their due, not further gifts to be used wisely.  These are the ones who would pass easier through the eye of a needle than attain heaven.  At the root of their sins is the fact that they have never learned humility, from which flows true love of others --- the heart of the Gospels, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The rich man thought himself a good person --- like we do.  He knew and followed the commandments --- like we do.  But when Jesus said “give up your money and ways and follow Me,” he could not do it.  The rich man knew the commandments and their good results, but he’d also grown up learning the value of HIS knowledge and its good results (money).  Jesus was saying “Stop following what you know, and follow what I know.”  Trust Me.  And the rich man could not. 
I understand that rich man’s reluctance.
Peter knew Jesus and acknowledged Him as the Son of God.  And so when Jesus was walking on the water and told Peter to come, Peter immediately left the boat and started walking to Jesus.  (Notice none of the others did.)  But as Peter walked on the water he had time to think, and his initial trust faded, and he began to sink.  I very much understand that hearing of God’s call, and the subsequent forgetting of the initial trusting in God, and then thinking of what I am doing or plan to do.  How often some good idea of God’s didn’t get done by me, because I had to interject my ideas.
I think Saul had to be knocked off his horse and blinded to make Paul as trusting a man as he turned out to be.  At one point Paul saw the lame beggar and said “what I have I will give to you; rise and walk.”  I could picture myself in Paul’s shoes; I could imagine the Holy Spirit urging me to heal the lame beggar in front of me.  Unfortunately, I could also imagine what I would have done in Paul’s spot.  I would have thanked the Holy Spirit for opening my eyes to see the man in front of me, and been confident of the Spirit’s healing powers --- and then I would have started thinking:  “If I heal this beggar, he will be a poor man with no livelihood, but I know someone who might offer him a job, and someone who might give him a place to live.”  And then after I’d gone and arranged those things, I would go back to the beggar man, planning the words I would tell him: “Get up and walk; go see Sam for the job he has for you, and then Joe for a place to stay.  Now thank Jesus for His blessings and have a good life.”  It would be a good healing.  Only when I got back to where I had seen the lame beggar, I would find him gone.  I wouldn’t have trusted the urgings of the Holy Spirit without interjecting my own urgings.  That’s my problem, and one of many people.  I have some blessings of intelligence, and I am used to thinking of good solutions to problems, and being rewarded.  It’s hard for me to ignore myself and trust in God’s urgings, and just act on them.
Many of us want to be open to God’s will; we pray that He would show us.  And sometimes He does, but most often not the way we expected.  And so we pause, and we think.  And nothing changes in our lives, and we wonder why, and wonder if things will EVER change.
They won’t, not if we continue to rely on ourselves, and our wisdom not His.  We need to stop second-guessing God!
If anyone wants to be a follower of Mine, let him renounce
himself and take up his cross and follow Me.
“We need to desire Mt Calvary as much as Mt Tabor.  Only then will this hardest lesson --- that earth isn’t heaven and never will be, that the path to abundant meaning and happiness passes through a daily cross, that unless we are willing to sacrifice our personal preferences and worldly desires we will never reach the goal for which we were created --- only then will this lesson be able to seep down into our hearts and spread into every corner of our minds.”
                        -- The Better Part, Meditation 181

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