Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Death Comes in Small Packages

Life is full of choices and often the most important are so small they are overlooked. The big picture looms ever before us, and for Christians that picture usually takes the form of getting to heaven. But I contend that that vision falls short of the truest goal of all: becoming like Christ, so that we can endure entering his presence, so that we can desire being in his presence, so that we can lose ourselves in his presence for all time. Losing is not to say that we cease to exist, but that our existence becomes a trifling to us, compared to the One we have devoted all our strivings to see.

To get to that goal a staggering journey awaits us, though the steps that lead us there can be tiny. Some can march forth in great strides. Others progress along the way like a cheetah in full gallop. Most of us toddle, stumble, fall and rise again, not always pointing in the right direction, but erect and moving...somewhere. We often feel leaden, the horizon never changes before us, or we seem to be swimming upstream and passing the same landmarks over and over again. Somehow we haven't learned a lesson, so it repeats and repeats like a scratched record, until someone lifts the arm to skip the fault.

And each stride, gallop, tottering forward is a death of sorts, leading to the last death--the veil that separates us from our goal. What impedes our progress? Our own free-will making choices that either help us or hinder us. The big picture choices are often easy to make. It's the little ones that annoy us like a buzzing mosquito that we feel we shouldn't have to endure. We slap and wave off and fuss, but it's still there waiting for a chance to land unawares and be nourished at our expense. If we would just be patient and let it land, then we can pick it off. A little death of a mosquito, a little death of impatience.

What other little deaths do we encounter? A death to the need to be right. A death to indulging ourselves too much. A death to criticizing. A death to anger at receiving criticism. A death to love of possessions. A death to rebellion against aging, failing health, lack of success, authority.. Death can come in small packages. Let's not overlook the opportunity to be remade into the image of God's only Son, who embraced little deaths daily and the final death on the cross for us.


John Lynch said...

A death to the need to be right.

I submit that the "need to be right" is not something to which we should want to die. "Being right" in the sense of "knowing the truth" (or "knowing The Truth," if you prefer) is always and everywhere a good thing. That to which we need to die is rather "the need to be seen as being right" which is a criticism not of "being right" but of vanity and pride. Much of the same criticism (here comes the irony!) can be leveled against "a death to criticizing." Some things demand criticism by their very nature. It is in the area of things that do not demand criticism, the things where criticism would betray impatience and pettiness, that would should be willing to die to criticism.

Lisa said...

You are construing something from my post that is not there. I do mean "the need to be right" and not "the need to be seen as right", which are two different things. The second is just what you say it is, a form of vanity or pride. But the former is rooted more in insecurity, fear and scrupulosity.

You have a point about criticism, and had I expanded my post to include all the nuances of my choice of words it would have gotten too long. I was informed that shorter posts are more welcome.

John Lynch said...

I find this attitude very confusing. I can think of nothing more wrong than the idea that a person should not always and everywhere strive to know the truth. We need to be right because if we are not right, we are living misguided lives. How can we have a basis for our choices and beliefs if that basis is false? Thus, we have have a need to be right.

In what situation should I not want to be right? In what situation should I prefer to be wrong? I cannot think of one. It seems to me that being right is always better than being wrong. If I find that I am wrong about something, I do not persist in my wrong belief. I change my belief so that I am right. Why would I ever persist in being wrong?

From your references to insecurity, fear, and scrupulosity (and my own incredulity at the position you appear to be taking), perhaps you are not criticizing "the need to be right" but rather "the need for complete certainty." "Certainty" and "truth" or "rightness" are completely different concepts. Complete certainty is essentially an impossibility, which means that we should not allow ourselves to worry when we are not completely certain. Nothing is to be done about it. However, we should still try to be right, even if we cannot be sure we are right.

Perhaps you are criticizing "the need to vindicate ones current beliefs." This is almost the exact opposite of "the need to be right." Rightness or truth demands that we reject our current beliefs when they are shown to be false. The desire to vindicate one's preexisting beliefs demonstrates a preference for belief over truth, am idea antithetical to "the need to be right."

I am genuinely interested in what exactly you mean by "the need to be right."