Sunday, February 26, 2006

second nature

Sasha Cohen

I took the kids skating yesterday. It’s the first time I’ve been in…hmm…5 years? I was amazed at how it came right back, and in no time I was as good a skater as ever! (which in my case isn’t very good) But how easy it was to strap on those metal blades and hop on that slick ice and get to it. I can’t wait to go again. Next time out I’m going to attempt a triple lutz.

Skating, riding a bike, dancing, and all that—physical skills that we can train our bodies to do—isn't it amazing how they come right back somehow? Once we get the hang of it, it’s easy. Maybe it’s neural patterns that develop in our brain that just have to wake up and everything that was there last night is still there this morning. I wonder if the activities of our spiritual bodies are the same. I wonder if we learn to forgive if it becomes second nature to us. Or if we train ourselves to die to self, to become poor, to walk humbly, to be grateful or peaceable or kind or gentle or loyal or faithful. Do those patterns become a part of us forever? Is that part of living in this “way” Jesus talked about? Is that what he meant when he said it’s easy? Once we get the hang of it?

It would be a sick pun if it weren’t so beautiful, but Jesus did get the “hang” of godliness. And I think it was easy, even though painful, to just spend himself doing good and trusting God for the way it would turn out.

About the triple lutz—honestly, I doubt I will ever do one. On the other hand, I would be surprised if my daughter doesn’t someday. With only one lesson she’s already doing spins. The thing is it’s more important to her than it is to me. Which is why it’s worth it to her to spend her babysitting money and her time to get the hang of it.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

just did it

big swooshJesus never asked for permission to do good. He just did it. With a real recklessness I might add. All kinds of people mad at him all the time. Didn't know what to do with a guy who was so absolutely serious about doing good and so careless about being correct--politically, religiously socially, or otherwise. Wow. Didn't know what to do with a guy who really believed that there was a power in godliness. Didn't know what to do with a guy who didn't care what they thought or even what He thought, only what God thought. And just did it.

I wonder where we went astray.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

do you want to be right or married?

On The Journey Towards Humility
written by JOE VORSTERMANS

In a session of marriage therapy, I was confronted with the question "Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?" I had asked questions like this before, but it had a very different feeling when it was directed at me! When I asked the question of others whom I was trying to help, it sounded so profound and made me feel so wise. When it was asked of me, I felt embarrassed, challenged and humbled...in that order.

I felt embarrassed for not "getting it" sooner. I was so self-righteous that I didn't recognize my arrogance. I'd placed so much value on being right and being able to articulate the problem as I saw it that I forgot that marriage is about loving the other, not correcting the other. Then I saw it as a challenge to grow. The counselor said to me, "Hold yourself in warm regard." I recognized that my self-righteousness was only part of me, a part I could become free of, if I so desired.

Those words, "Hold yourself in warm regard," helped me to recognize that I was on a journey towards wholeness, towards being a more loving husband, and that my desire to grow was more important than where I was on the journey. This realization allowed me to move from embarrassment to humility. My embarrassment made me want to run and hide. My humility made me more tender and encouraged my desire to be more accepting of my partner's failings as well as my own and to cherish the journey we are on together.

So this was my weekly update from Henri Nouwen this week. Good stuff. I love the question, “Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?” That’s a great question for a marriage counseling session. But it’s a much greater question for a follower of the Way, for the bride of Christ. “Do you want to be right or do you want to be married?” I think you have to choose.

Friday, February 10, 2006

dying well

I know a man who seemed to have it all together. And I respected him. And then I saw that man becoming more and more aware of his need for more of Jesus. And I was moved. And then I saw that man humbling himself and seeking God. And I experienced a certain awe. And then I saw that man completely broken by circumstances in his life. And I wept. And then I saw that man wait on God. And I was inspired. And then I saw that man beginning to be restored. And I rejoiced. And then I saw that man choose to live the rest of his life for others. And it settled my soul. Yesterday that man, in Sri Lanka building houses for tsunami victims, had a heart attack. And how am I supposed to feel?

I got Henri Nouwen's devotional today. It's called Dying Well. David will probably recover from this heart attack. But he won't live forever. Nor will any of us. So how should we live? How should we die? Here's what Nouwen wrote:

We will all die one day. That is one of the few things we can be sure of. But will we die well? That is less certain. Dying well means dying for others, making our lives fruitful for those we leave behind. The big question, therefore, is not "What can I still do in the years I have left to live?" but "How can I prepare myself for my death so that my life can continue to bear fruit in the generations that will follow me?"

Jesus died well because through dying he sent his Spirit of Love to his friends, who with that Holy Spirit could live better lives. Can we also send the Spirit of Love to our friends when we leave them? Or are we too worried about what we can still do? Dying can become our greatest gift if we prepare ourselves to die well.

What an awesome thought. Instead of living for retirement (saving our life), we can die for others. I wrote back in January about dying to live. Henri Nouwen wrote about living to die. The truly powerful in life are the ones who have reckoned with their own death, the ones who live as if their death is sure. But the one who has overcome the world is the one who doesn't live as if he will die, but rather as if he has already died.

It strikes me whether we are looking forward or looking back, the Way of life is only seen clearly through the window of death.