Friday, June 20, 2008

Where to Go? What to Do? And I Don't Have a Thing to Wear!

"I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."

- Jesus, speaking to Peter, John 21.19

The world says, "When you were young you were dependent and could not go where you wanted, but when you grow old you will be able to make your own decisions, go your own way, and control your own desitny." But Jesus has a different vision of maturity: It is the ability and willngness to be led where you would rather not go.

- Henri Nouwen, "In the Name of Jesus," p.81


In a recent post, I quoted Thomas Hopko, who said, "The freer a person is, the less they choose. Thus a person who would be perfectly free by God's grace would never 'choose' anything at all. They would see, know, and will what is good, true, and beautiful, and do it." But in the Nouwen quote above, the suggestion is that we need to be willing to be led where we do not prefer to go. Do these paradoxical thoughts go together? I think they do.

It seems to me that a fully Christlike person will automatically do what pleases God, and will want to do it. But we are not yet fully Christlike. Therefore, there will still be times - many times, I fear - when we must force ourselves to do what is right simply because we know it is right. As we continue to develop Godly character through the disciplines of grace, we will increasingly desire to do what pleases Him.

I believe the Orthodox Hopko's statement, but I still often inhabit the Catholic Nouwen's reality. As a Protestant prayer book suggests, if I only do what I feel like doing, I will regularly "leave undone those things which I ought to have done, and do those things which I ought not to have done." I will "follow too much the devices and desires of my own heart." (After the Episcopal/Anglican Book of Common Prayer)

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