The Life Worth Living

I wonder sometimes why people don’t think life is worth living.  As a Christian, I see it worth living because of its great end, because of the afterlife.  I see it worth living because I’m fighting for something, and I know in advance that the battle is as good as done.  But that’s me.  And to an extent, I’m wrapped up in my own Christian worldview, and have a difficulty understanding the world views of others when I come into one on one contact with them.  It’s easy enough to define a worldview, or to name a worldview and list all the things that people believe, but people are themselves are much more complex than that.  Sometimes you find them to be a whole mix of things.

The point is, I never expect to hear from people that life isn’t worth living, unless they tell me right up front they’re an Atheist.  In my mind, the question is always “Why isn’t life worth living?” and the answer is: “Because you have nothing to live for, nothing lasting.” It’s nothing personal against Atheists, it would just make much more sense for them to say it than for a Christian.

But now here’s the point.  If you feel that life isn’t worth living, find the life that is.  There is only one, because the life worth living is the one that takes everything away and then gives you something back after the end.  It’s the Life that deprives you even of your clothes and your body, your personal belongings, your family, the people you’ve loved, leaving your bare, shivering soul that is laying its eyes on this Life, and embracing it, and finally living it to the full. O, yes, I am an idealist, and this all sounds very idealistic, because it’s true idealism.  The grimier life gets, the harder it gets, the bloodier, the more painful, that makes this Life more worth living than ever before. It gives you hope, and hope has never been like a beacon, or a light, in my experience.  It has always been a desperate prayer, and faith that the prayer will be answered.  Because in my darkest moments, there is only one way to look, and that is forwards, and forwards has always been black.  There never was any light.  Hope was desperate clinging, but knowledge and faith that there was something to cling to.  We know when we live a nightmare of a life at times, that that life is not lasting, but the Life worth living is what we fight for, and it will come later, and last forever, and never give us the blackness or pain.

The Life worth living has love, and righteous anger, and hope, and faith, and self-sacrifice, and virtue. It is peaceful, and does not seek a quarrel, yet it is a war-filled life, battling against the forces that seek to push it down to the ground.  But it will come out victorious.

But there have been those times, in the physical life, where you may have gotten up early in the morning and walked in your bare feet, and felt the cold dew on the grass sink into your skin.  Or you may have stayed up late, and listened to the humming of nature, or heard that one bird that sang clearly and wouldn’t let your mind rest, its song was so beautiful.  There may have been someone you loved, someone who loved you back who made your work seem light just because of the thought of them.  There may have been a day where it rained and ruined your plans, so you sat with a cup of coffee, and felt the pulsing, trembling life pass around the world. And if you have experienced anything like this at all, hasn’t it made you feel like perhaps there is something, something in this life that has given you grace to be alive and enjoy it all?

Be like Henry David Thoreau, and suck out all the marrow of life.  Find out what it is really is, and live it.  Don’t waste your time.  You’re alive now, and you might as well find out why you are so.

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The Half-Thought

I experienced something the other night and I said to myself: “There! that would make for a wonderful blog post.”  And now the thought is gone, and I can’t remember what it was that I was going to say.

Life is half-filled with these half-thoughts, and their completion is lost somewhere on a ribbon that stretches on and on in my mind.

How can I reach that infinite space?  How can I touch the substance of something so far away? How can I be effective?

How can I leave my little throne of Self, where I am protected, and how can I stretch beyond the confines of my little world to try and reach the lives of those outside?

I forget that there are people who crave completion, like the half-thought in my head.  I forget that there are people who inwardly starve themselves for something that they can’t find.  And I forget that I am supposed to give them an idea.

All I see is the result of their deep thinking.  All I see is where they’ve gone wrong, and think it’s such a shame.  All I see is what they don’t have, what it is they’re missing.  What I don’t see is how I might help them.

But how might I help them?

This is the question of my life right now.  I am a writer, and I could write books.  But what’s the use in writing books to try and reach the wandering souls if only Christians read them? And yet, how can I tell that that’s how it will be? How can I know that maybe a word, a sentence, or a thought will drive deeply into someone’s brain, causing them to think?

How can I know how God is using me?

“Every step that you take, could be your biggest mistake

It could bend or it could break, but that’s the risk that you take.” – Coldplay

Do I stop walking? Will I let the fear of messing up drive my feet into the ground like nails, and keep me at a standstill, reaching, but never gaining?  What if a piece of truth escapes on that endless ribbon, and I mess up people’s lives?  Am I adequate?

But if I wait till I am adequate, nothing will ever get accomplished.

I am only a sinner—a saved one, but still, a sinner—releasing the love inside of me to other sinners like me.  Because there is love inside of me, and there is a desire, a yearning for the hungry souls that I’ve never met.

I want to know them, and I want to help them. I want them to know what I know and more.  I want to be a tool for the salvation of this world I love and hate so much.

“‘It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door,’ he used to say. ‘You step onto the Road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.'”.  – Frodo Baggins

I want the people living in misery to know the joy of Christ.  I want them to know his love, to accept it.  I want them to have the faith that I have in Christ.  I want them to be comforted in affliction; I want them to have a reason to hope.

And I want Christ to use me.

So the end of this matter is simply this: To walk by faith, not by sight.  To rely only on God.  To look beyond my desires and ambitions to see the greater purpose, the much more important road.  To not stay still or be silent, but be diligent in the proclamation of my faith.

I do not want to state my faith here and then hope that it reaches some people.  That is not enough.  A proclamation is not enough.  A pursuit is needed, a constant active awareness of someone’s state, a love, a gentleness for that person.  Faith is not something to hammer over someone’s head.

So I must be humble, and I must be reliant on God; lowly, as it were, and yet proud.  Never assuming or unapproachable, never judgmental.  Only loving, only kind, only gentle.   And if I can do nothing else, if no other road is presented, to pray fervently and steadily for those who are seeking but not finding, and craving but left unsatisfied.

Let me be a light, or a word, however small, that is effective, so that the half-thoughts are completed, so that the joy is infinite, and the love almost unbearable.  So that what is lost may be found, and what is lacking be given.  Only Christ can do this, but let me be an instrument, for it is He who works in me.

The Night My Daddy Played Me To Sleep

On the way home from a vacation in Delaware yesterday, I got through a good middle portion of Dostoevsky’s “The Idiot.”  I only just thought of this correlation between something in there and something I was feeling almost a week ago.   Dostoevsky had gone into a description of a certain feeling that “the Idiot” or Prince Myshkin felt before an attack of epilepsy.  Before the utter darkness descended upon his mind and soul, a bright joy would flood through him, and everything would be intensified, so that he felt an overwhelming gladness.  That does not do justice to what the author was getting across, but it says something.  This feeling lasted about half a second, then the fit would seize him, and he would be plunged into the fit of epilepsy.

Last week I was trying to go to sleep.  It had been a long day, and I hadn’t slept well in awhile.  But for the life of me, I couldn’t sleep, yet I was too tired to get up and do anything.  I lay there for a long time, and I felt like I didn’t have the strength to fight against a darkness that I felt was creeping over my mind.  One might call it depression.  Probably the result of not enough sleep.  We were going to leave the next day for Delaware where, before we hit the beach, dad had a concert at a Presbyterian church in Wilmington.  I felt depressed and closed in by life, almost suffocated by it.  I wanted to be free of something – but I couldn’t quite grasp what it was I wanted to be free from.  I didn’t know – and that was half that darkness – not knowing.  So I lay there, becoming more and more depressed, and feeling more and more trapped and sleepless.  The windows in the room were open, and after about an hour or two I heard music from far away (it sounded like) coming in through the window.  I listened for awhile, and realized it was daddy, practicing for his concert.  Some of the songs I had never heard before – I didn’t even know he had written them.  But I heard him playing and it calmed me.  It distracted me from darker thoughts and made me think about the music.   Then after awhile he played a song he wrote called “Credo,” which has a Latin sounding theme.  I listened to him sing, and actually thought about the words.

I don’t remember exactly how the verses go, but the chorus is like this:

“Hallelujah! His love is all around me

In love he sought and found me

His death my victory

Hallelujah! His Spirit breaks my fetters

His Word is Truth, His Truth has set me free!”

Well that struck a note.  “His spirit breaks my fetters…” and “His truth has set me free…” Talk about God’s timing!  I realized I didn’t need to be bogged down with life and the fear and hardships that come with it.  I had been called to something higher than that, something more holy.  I had already been set free from my bondage – what I was feeling then was an illusion.  There were no fetters, I was not in a prison.  I was free from this world of sin because Christ died for me.

“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

That verse is my freedom right there.  Because of his great love for me, because of his choice, I have been freed from this bondage of sin and darkness, from the judgement I deserved, and I have been given a higher calling, something more beautiful, utterly pure and holy.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:8,9)

These subjects of thought point out my way for me.  They show me how I should act, what I should say, where I should go.

Daddy was singing the chorus again.

“His death my victory…”

“His Word is Truth His Truth has set me free…”

“Rejoice in hope…” (Romans 12:12)  I was meant to rejoice in hope… There was hope.  A pervading light in the midst of the gulf of darkness.  And in that light I was meant to rejoice.  It was my Hope.  It was and is and will be my salvation, for that Hope is Christ.

And now looking back, Dostoevsky’s description of what the Prince felt before his fit of epilepsy almost exactly describes what I was feeling.  There came a great joy, a complete contentment and peace.  It did not mean that trials or trouble were absent or far away, but that I felt the freedom of the Spirit.  And yet, even my freedom was the sweetest bondage.  I was free of the world of sin and darkness, yet I was a slave of light and righteousness.

And in the midst of these thoughts, my daddy played on… and on.  I listened to him until he stopped, and I felt quiet and serene. A heaviness came about me, and a few minutes later I was plunged into a deep sleep, with those very thoughts on my mind….

“His Spirit breaks my fetters…

“His Word is Truth, His Truth has set me free…”

Dickens: The Mind of A Murderer

(A morbid tale.)

This is a morbid tale, and may contain spoilers.  For those of you who are reading or planning on reading Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens, and don’t want anything spoiled, I would suggest skipping this post.

Have you ever wondered about the mind of a murderer?  I’ve always assumed the same thing for each case: the murderer, deep deep down inside, felt a tinge of guilt… and his conscience plagued him, of course, even if he didn’t necessarily regret it.  Though Charles Dickens never murdered anybody, and could never really see into the mind of a murderer, he lent a new perspective to me.

In Our Mutual Friend, this is basically what happens.  Eugene Wrayburn is a lawyer who’s never had a purpose in life.  He’s never wanted a purpose, and he always gets bored… and he continues in a perpetual state of boredom… until he meets Lizzie Hexam.  She changes his life, though she his exact opposite.  Though he’s well above her station, Lizzie begins to love Eugene because she sees his purposelessness, and she wants to give him a purpose… help him find one, through her interest, help him become interested.  Eugene, always doubting himself because of his Boredom, doesn’t know whether he really truly loves her or not.

Enter school master: Bradley Headstone.  He meets Lizzie, and immediately falls in love with her.  Here is compared the difference between two loves: Eugene is hesitant to admit his, for he would never want to do her any harm, and he is only interested in doing what is good for her. (Sure proof of love.)  The schoolmaster becomes inflamed with passion for her.  He also sees her undoubted love for Eugene, and this maddens him.  The thought consumes him, the passion eats away his sense of right from wrong.  He hurriedly proposes, and is rejected.  Almost makes her accept by force, but finally goes away.

The premise is, after Lizzie leaves to escape this man’s terrible passion, Eugene tries to find her, and Bradley follows him.  Lizzie and Eugene have an interview, in which they both confess their love for each other, but the awful fact that they can never, never be married.  Most of it is the class difference, the other part is the passion of Bradley Headstone.  Lizzie fears for Eugene’s safety, and begs him to go and never come again, but the entire scene is spied upon by Bradley Headstone.  As soon as Lizzie leaves, Bradley mutilates the body of Eugene with an oar and throws him in the river.  Eugene is saved, but it is believed he will die.  Unsettled in spirit, Eugene makes one last request: that Lizzie would be his wife ere he died.  And there, upon the death bed, Lizzie and Eugene are united… and she must help him put her ring on her finger, because he’s too weak and hurt to do it himself.  And they watch the sun rise together.

The next chapter began to delve into Bradley Headstone’s mind.  I settled down and thought, “O, here’s where we deal with the guilt. Woe to you, Bradley Headstone.”  But oh no, something quite different.  The thought plagued him, the scene embittered him.  Why? Well… Was Eugene really dead? Had he done it the best way? It wasn’t perfect… he should have done this, altered this, made it less dramatic, made it quicker… etc.  I was shocked.  Was this the mind of a murderer? I thought there was remorse?  But I wonder, did I have any reason to think there would be remorse?  Had I ever hated to such an extreme, or experienced that kind of passion to such an extent?  No, I haven’t.  Bradley Headstone’s hate and passion went so far, that no remorse, no grief lingered behind.  In the end, his conscience was dead, he was lost, he could not be brought back.  In this I experienced something else: the awful sense of hopelessness. I felt that there was no hope for him, absolutely none.  People might try to bring him back out of this, but nothing could ever heal him.  He was hopelessly gone, and no amount of hope could bring him back.  Is this what the mind of someone God-forsaken looks like?

I know that in C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity he talks about how man always has a sense of right and wrong… It’s like the moral code, underneath everything there’s a conscience, something that tells right from wrong and plagues you if you do the wrong thing.  But Bradley Headstone had none of that.  I’ve always wondered, if Lewis’ theory was correct, where did that leave the Indians, or the cannibals, who felt absolutely no remorse at killing/eating the people that came their way?  Wasn’t that wrong?  Why didn’t they feel guilty? But who can tell? I’ve never been an Indian, and I’ve never been a murderer.

Who was right? Dickens, or Lewis? I’m not saying I believe one or the other, but Dickens presents a dark, lost, forsaken side.  It’s morbid, it’s horrific, and it’s evil.  Lewis present a side that’s “good but gone a bit wrong, with the ability to do right.”  But it seemed as though Bradley Headstone couldn’t do right he was so lost beyond healing.

What about the people today?  Mothers are horrified when their children come home from school or from anywhere and start swearing.  If they aren’t Christians, or “religious,” why are they horrified?  Because it’s not appropriate to swear? Well, why not?  It presents a bad view of your family? Well, why? WHY?  It eventually gets back to the fact that long, long ago, Christ set an example for use.  God set down the rules.  We aren’t supposed to take His name in vain, we are supposed to treat everybody with respect, “Let no unwholesome talk come out of your mouth,” etc.  That’s where it originated, and it’s been passed down through the years, but the reason has become antiquated, and lost.  Some people swear and “do all the bad things” without feeling guilty in the least. It’s natural to them. But a Christian would be horrified, wouldn’t he/she?

I’ve never been a murderer, I’ve never been an Indian, I’ve never been a “swearer.”  I cannot tell you if there is a conscience in any one of them, I can’t tell you whether Dickens or Lewis was right.  I would lean towards Dickens, because I do believe that God has forsaken some.  The “wicked” to be exact.  And if there is any such thing as a God-forsaken mind, then I think Dickens represented it in a horrifyingly true nature.

For the record, Bradley Headstone, in the end of the book, wraps his arms around a man he tried to blame the murder on, and jumps into the river.  They both drown.  This is after he hears of the marriage of Lizzie and Eugene, and Eugene’s decided progress in health.