“Prostitutes are in no danger of finding their present life so satisfactory that they cannot turn to God: the proud, the avaricious, the self-righteous, are in that danger.”-C.S Lewis
If you have ever spent a night, or many nights, with uncertainty about what you might eat or where you might sleep and you come into a season of life when such comforts become consistent…you could choose to simply be grateful and live from that place of gratitude, or you could choose to become fearful and live from that place of clinging. It looks very different for each of us and I would not grade those choices as I have probably tried on several of them. There are many kinds of suffering, but I am reading about one kind of suffering which is the kind that purports to have the power to actually remove pain and bring peace. Mostly, I think I struggle with calling it suffering, or sacrifice at all. The pain only comes when we choose to respond to whatever popular judgement is projected our way…when we do not fit into some socially accepted conformity. And even with that conformity there are still too many choices which don’t fall under the category of divine sacrifice…too many distortions of a single truth. Since God is big, He has also taught us that the spiritual truth for each of us is very different and falls according to our growth. Spiritual growth and the work it comes with are like shoes for a growing child..we all wear different sizes which we are likely out-growing and none of us, I don’t think, aspire to any particular, universal, glass slipper. Perhaps though, unlike our physical growth, our spiritual growth is not meant to arrive at a stopping place. I wish there were some notion of a guarantee, however that comfort is some place we could aspire to and move towards and rest in..but as I continue to wrestle with that I am finding it is not a destination we are meant for here. It is cyclical, like nature, our existence, and it moves us (if we get on the ride) towards each next level of being almost intentionally out of whatever comfort zone we previously thought we longed for.
My sister has been in a foreign country for the past 6 months, living without hot water, running water, safe food or general safety. Every morning when I get into my hot shower I am mindful of what she, and millions of other people live without every day. I am mindful also of what they live with…bugs, disease, heat, oppression, and strangely, or not so strangely, joy and compassion and gratitude for next to nothing. While I hate to quote it (and I won’t reveal the source anyway) someone said ‘ruin is the restoration’. I believe that the depth of our capacity to feel peace and comfort is equal to the depth of whatever has or was taken from us, denied us, beaten or stolen out of us. It requires digging and scraping and crawling and sowing and thinking and re-feeling to restore what has been burned away, but it can be found or cultivated or reborn. Birth is an incredibly violent process if you really consider it. So maybe we go through this birth and death and rebirth cycle and maybe some of us simply choose the half life and remain dead-ish, settling for the satisfactory comforts that are so readily available here. (and here I might point to our current cultural obsession with zombies and vampires…the living dead who are voracious with insatiable hungers and tormented eternally).
So what is the sacrifice that holds this promise of unattached fulfillment…the kind of deep peace that nothing or no one can remove because it is of you, in you, surrounding you, grounding you and setting you free all at the same time? Let go of your illusions of control and comfort. Let go of needless worry, which gives you something to do while you contemplate whether or not this thing is real. Let go of all the other feelings and pursuits to make room for the one thing which is all we are we are left with when everything else has been used up and worn away: Love.