Monday, May 5, 2014
But for the Grace of God
If I recounted the many negative things I've had to confront over the course of a lifetime it would not read well, so I'll refrain. Life has a way of producing difficulties; disease, dysfunction, conflict, death. Last night one of my best friends recounted a terrible struggle with a bipolar child; none of us are strangers to such things. The world is filled with anger, violence, and unreason.
It falls to those of us who can cope with the difficulties to do so; so many can't. The responsibility to stand upright and do the right thing falls on the shoulders of those who can bear it; and that's a privilege, not a burden, even though this kind of weight always at first feels too heavy to pick up and carry.
We have an opportunity in life to come to ourselves, search our souls, and discover a relationship to God. To do so is a choice; we can choose to avoid these questions and walk away, and many do. Yet to choose God is to choose responsibility; and that always means to suffer in ways that might appear to the uninitiated as unnecessary. No one has to be a good person; no one has to act selflessly. Self interest always seems to be compelling in one way or another, and much of society is filled with people who selfishly argue in its favor, using those arguments to condone an endless series of deeply wrong behaviors.
Yet there is a satisfaction in doing the right thing by another human being that can't quite be described, except to say that one knows in an instinctive, inner sense that it is right; and this alignment is unmistakable. Taking the high ground needn't make one feel superior or self-righteous; far from it. It brings a deep sense of humility in seeing the helplessness of ourselves, and of other fellow men and women. It reminds me of one of the sayings I learned many years ago in AA: There but for the Grace of God go I.
Those treading the spiritual path are asked—not commanded, for God never commands in the coercive way that fundamentalists would have us think He does—to set an example for the good; and the chief feature of the good is mercy. It begins with mercy towards ourselves; and it extends directly into mercy towards others, especially the unmerciful. No matter how low another may stoop and no matter how awful their deeds may be, we are asked to set a better example. Now, it's true, we are not truly expected to destroy ourselves or sacrifice our dignity in the midst of such action; yet by setting a compassionate and merciful example, we uphold ourselves and our dignity.
This idea seems to be decaying in modern times. Too many are quick to anger and slow to forgive; hatred seems to be a common household fixture.
Appliances this expensive do not belong in the house of God.
Remember; let love guide the hand, and all work will be well done.