I began this story by claiming that life is an inner battle, which each of us wage; and that for me, the basis of my battle has been, and is, to seek love from the source of all love, God; and to resist seeking it in other places, along other paths, apart from Him. Consequent to this underlying battle, are manifest a myriad of more superficial, but no less important battles, waged in my heart and mind against a myriad of sins, mistakes, misdirections, vices or whatever you’d like to call them. Resulting from these battles, waged primarily in my thoughts, are all of the actions I might take, for good or for bad, in my life and in the world; as a result of the victories or the defeats I’ve won or lost within my thoughts.
I’ve described the varied paths my life has taken through childhood, youth and young adulthood as a result of living by trial and error, seeking love without direction, doing the best I can, hoping not to hurt anyone, yet acting without knowledge of the true nature of the daily battle occurring within me, and without a clear method or practice to help me learn how to fight for victory first by God’s grace, in synergy, with my own efforts.
The world is a melting pot of ideas and philosophies from which each of us pick and choose, or adhere to without awareness, consciousness or understanding. We express opinions that we learned along the way, that make us feel good, but not necessarily ones that are true; but we are sheltered from truth by the widespread and deeply held relativism of our world, that allows us to have our own truth, and thereby live free of any constraint, or obedience to anything beyond ourselves.
“I’m a good person.” We hear this all the time, by many people, nearly everywhere. But whether something is good or bad depends not on us, but on God alone; and which ideas or philosophies we adhere to, determine which direction we are going, and eventually where we will end up. One might say it is good to go to New York, and then give good reasons to support that claim; and for those who want to go to a large city with the opportunities it offers, that is good, but for others who desire peace and tranquility, this advice to take the road to New York would be bad advice. So it is in all of life; lots of advice, lots of wisdom, all pointing us in different directions; our task is to decide where we are going, where we want to go, and then listen to the advice that helps us get there, ignoring the other advice which leads us to a different end. Those who want the world can have the world, those who want God can have God.
I mentioned earlier, how, during this period of which I’ve been writing, from my teens through my early twenties, that while, in a sense, I was searching for God, in reality I was slipping further and further away, and deeper into a depravity of my own making. I could look back on this time, from my current vantage point and say, “well, these things are what make me who I am, they are learning experiences and no harm was done” and this may be true, and may be fine to say, but then, these aren’t the things to say, or the ideas and philosophies to hold, if I want to be made new in Christ. The Christian view is to hate the evil we’ve done, to repent, and to begin afresh. These compromises or excuses allow us to stay with ourselves as we are, but they don’t spur us on our path to perfection, or lead us to a better standard of love. Jesus said, “be perfect even as your father in heaven is perfect”. He calls us to be holy, to be healed, and to become whole, as we were intended from the beginning to become. It is by His grace, but also by our ongoing and committed agreement and effort that enables us to attain this goal here and now, and eventually in totality in the age to come.
I imagine myself sitting at the dinner table and I am joined by three wonderful young people, now in their twenties. They are like olive plants around my table, as the psalmist says. When I sit in my prayer nook at night, I pray for these three people, my children. They are on my mind daily as I go about my business; I am concerned for their well-being and their eternal life. So many years ago, I first knew of them, and eons before this, they were known by God. To me they are only images now, memories that barely got started; but they are with God I pray.
When I had learned that they existed, each in their own time, I was a selfish boy, thinking of myself, and also fearful of how I would be perceived by others. I had also learned to be the ‘enlightened’ boyfriend, to support the women in my life in whatever they decided was right for them. So when the decision came to stop a beating heart, I sat quietly, not in an innocent silence, but in tacit support. And when a second beating heart would be silenced, I continued in my silence. And upon the third fatal decision, I crumbled inside, and made every effort to forget, and to tell myself it hadn’t happened; that nobody died and I wasn’t accessory to murder. I was willing to believe this, and to instead understand myself as a champion of rights, a steady and dependable partner, a good man, a good person. And this is the theory I held for decades, completely forgetting the other silent parties involved; those three silent ones, within the flesh of another, which were, one by one, preparing and becoming—and then were silenced forever.
My sorrow for my three children has become complete; where at first it never existed. My tears have washed away the horror of what I did and, upon my knees, I have found peace. I look back on those years, when I sat in self-satisfied silence, and am amazed at what I was convinced was true, and how I misdirected my love and protection. I focused on the needs and rights of one while neglecting those of the other. My love was narrow and could have been larger, large enough to encompass everyone involved, but it was not. By God’s holy mercy and through His forgiveness though, I have returned to my feet again; and in gratefulness and thanksgiving to Him, I march onward.
(to be continued)