Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The Mystery of Self Abandonment

I just finished Jean-Pierre De Caussade's "Abandonment to Divine Providence" and realized that it has taken me about twice as long to finish as most books I read; I'm not really sure why. I have absolutely adored this book. Its very words whisper to me, drawing me into a desire for deeper places of holiness and a reckless abandonment to God's divine intention. This little book offers in its pages a treasure that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
It's just taken me forever to finish the stupid thing.
I think most likely the reason is the weightiness of the topic itself. I've been struggling over this subject matter so much in the past few months. It's not that I disagree with what de Caussade is saying. My spirit, in fact, stands in complete agreement with almost every bit of wisdom the author offers throughout the book. It's just been a difficult platform to adopt. He deals with the Divine will in a way that seems remarkably simplistic. I don't disagree with his viewpoints, I just haven't been able to fully and effortlessly abandon myself to them as of yet. God knows I want to.
Throughout the book, the overall echoing theme is that we, as Christians, should take hold of each moment, each choice before us, and view it as God's primary method of sanctifying us. In every second, God is placing us in situations that are meant to slowly transform us into holy beings. At one point he states that we should "embrace the present moment as an ever-flowing source of Holiness."
This, to me, has been a profound revelation. This means that God's will is a process instigated by the Divine and not something I have to restlessly seek after, always worried I'm missing something better. This is water for my perpetually thirsty soul. The problem for me seems to lie somewhere in the midst of the faithlessness that so often seems to define me and the anxiety that most often seems to plague me. Fear and faith make difficult companions. I am a worrier. I would love to define it as something innocent or as a simple vice, but the plain truth is, worry is the polar opposite of faith. And this anxiety seems to regularly obstruct the act of pure faith in God's will. I waver from being completely confident in the sovereignty and plans of God, to completely and hopelessly abandoned to my anxiety over my future. I am the man who is "like a wave that's driven and tossed by the wind" that the writer James speaks of in his letter. The least bit of discomfort, whether in mind or body, seems to easily shake me to my foundation.
But God's purpose is not to make me comfortable. The will of God is not meant for me to decipher the code, connect the dots, and as a result have a great testimony of exactly how God is working around me. This comes at times, don't get me wrong. Many faithful Christians quite often have the eyes to see and the mind to understand some of the plans and intentions of God. But God's purpose is to make us holy, whether we understand His means or not. Even if all our lives we are completely ignorant of exactly how his fingertips crafted us precisely, day by day, into holy beings, all will be revealed in the end. De Caussade states that "God is the center of faith, and faith is a gulf of shadows, and these shadows emerge and veil all the divine operations."
But we come from a generation no longer wanting to be "side-tracked" by the chase for holiness. If anything, I've seen most seek after the opposite, claiming the struggle for holiness as a subject far too "religious" for us to pursue.
I realize that I am among a growing minority that still view the Christian disciplines as a way to express my love towards a holy God. "Be holy, as I am holy." But suddenly the methods and practices of Christians for two thousand years before us now are now being labeled as too religious or old fashioned. This is deeply saddening to me.
I recently attended a church that doesn't put emphasis on the development of disciples, but concentrates solely on the pursuit of those who don't know Christ. I realize that this is the Great Commission and I won't for a second accuse this objective as being something unworthy. But I do wonder what happens to many who are "won" (a strange term in itself) for Christ after the initial meeting, if left to their own devices, without any emphasis on further growth. The desire for holiness within the church, sadly, seems to be waning.
I'm seeing that God seems to reveal His purpose in a way that both extends and expands our faith. Many times, God seems to veil His plan/purpose just to the point where we give out, lose faith, and delve into an abyss of doubt and confusion. Often, this seems to be his method of elongating an inelastic faith. We have to cling to God's will not just as the divine dance that we should try to emulate, but as the primary technique the artist uses to mold us, moment by moment, into something beautiful…and holy.
I'm more restless in this moment than I've ever been before. I feel strangely discontent with my present state yet inexplicably confident in the Divine Will. I pray for a deeper thirst to fuel passion in the places where passion has grown despondent. I pray for a deeper sense of urgency for my continual abandonment to His intentions for this moment I live and move across this trackless wilderness, waiting for one more glimpse of the path ahead of me, even if that glimpse is only momentary.
"Holiness is produced in us by the will of God and our acceptance of it. It is not produced by intellectual speculation about it. If we are thirsty we must have a drink and not worry about books which explain what thirst is...We must put all speculation aside and, with childlike willingness, accept all that God presents to us. What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us…It is a divine warmth from heaven and gives us a ceaseless increase of grace. It is the kingdom of heaven which penetrates the soul. It is the bread of angels which is eaten on earth as well as in heaven. There is nothing trivial about our passing moments, as they enclose the whole kingdom of holiness and the food on which angels feed."
- Jean-Pierre de Caussade