Posted by: edsohn | June 7, 2008

Infiltrate

I shared at the living room this past Sunday that one of my struggles is in living a dichotomous lifestyle. It’s scary how my entire life, all I’ve been doing is become more and more adept at becoming a smoother switcher between modes, a lifestyle router, if you will.

One mode is the mode of Christian thought. It is highly aspirational, and within this lifestyle, I seek to love, to encourage, to fight, to preach, to advocate, to worship, and to pray. I see the paradigm of Christian holiness and continue to add to it through further theological exploration.

But another mode is unwittingly and utterly secular, so secular in fact that it would qualify to what Craig Gay (and perhaps others before him) has called “practical atheism”. It is a lifestyle devoid of God, an immersion into a personal culture in which we behave as if there IS no God. Literally, hours go by without an active acknowledgment from me that God is God and I am a finite creation of His whim: loved, sustained, counseled, and disciplined by His hand.

What is the solution? Short of total monastic devotion, I don’t really know what a life wholly dedicated to Christ really looks like. The appealing but sloppy solutions are as follows:

1. Admit that loving God with all of our heart, souls, minds and strengths is actually impossible, that it’s just an aspirational goal that cannot be realized on earth. In a sense, Jesus was just talking overboard; He didn’t really mean it. And even if He did, it was largely within a cultural context of rabbinic hyperbole, a phrase not to be overly literalist with. God is happy when we do our best to love Him.

I reject this for a simple reason: if God is God, an empowering game-changing life-altering force of supernatural weight through whom all things are possible, then giving His people a command that asks for everything is not hyperbolic. It is simply the high calling of humankind from its one true deity.

2. The other reconciling theory is that loving God can happen without the conscious acknowledgment of God. This is the abstraction of God’s personhood into His qualities. Whenever I love anyone, I’m participating in blessing God, because God is love. Whenever I feel restful and at peace, I am somehow magnifying concepts that remind people of God, so I’m really loving Him.

Yes, loving Him may bear fruit in subconscious effects, such that the desires of His heart become our own. Good. But to actively LOVE God, like loving any person… it is an act of will. It is not something that can be rationalized after the fact. A man would never tell his wife, “Gosh do I love feasting my eyes on Eva Longoria, or what. She’s so crazy hot. Um, because she’s a brunette. Just like you. I’m really loving you, here. Dang, I must really love you, honey.” (If that works for you, wow. I don’t know if you’re lucky or cursed.)

_____________________________________________________

The solution? I don’t really know. But all I know is that I must find a way to infiltrate my days and nights with the identity of God. I don’t think this means piety or religiousness as we’ve known it, but I do think that it means an active, courageous foray into moments of sanctity, of reverence. I think it means discipline to pause and consider, at any given instant, if the hour that has just passed is one that was spent with the person of God, wearing the mantle of His royal, chosen priest.

My new roommate, jadanzzy, and I will be moving into our place over the next month. As I consider where the furniture will go, I consider the space that I’m designing for my daily activities. Where will I cook, sleep, watch tv? How should I arrange my furniture accordingly?

But as I make plans and arrangements for the mundane, do I make plans for holiness to inhabit my space? Have I considered where and how God will reside in the mornings and afternoons of my everyday life? Is it so absurd for the old Jesuit order to require a crucifix in every room, or for the early Eastern Christian traditions to build shrines of icons?

I welcome any thoughts or concepts about how to sanctify the time and space that constitute my life.

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Responses

  1. Encouraging and rebuking post.

    It’s kind of funny how you and i go back and forth with theological musings and we have not yet asked each other if we commune deeply with God.

    I suggest we do so as future roommates. I realize how crucial it is for me to have visual reminders of God’s presence where I go. I’m even considering doing some daily rituals like kissing a cross or kneeling before an icon to symbolically connect myself.

    However, I do believe God is happy when we do our best to love him. But also, he did mean it. I wonder if he really meant it but we just don’t get it even when we literally apply it or fight for it.

  2. “how to sanctify the time and space that constitute my life”

    Part of my ordination training was in doing house-blessings. I bet Tom and others from The Living Room would be willing to come be part of a formal blessing of your new living space.

    PS: I’ve added a link to Merging Lanes at my Blog of the Grateful Bear.

  3. jadanzzy: i concur that sometimes we’re too small-minded to understand when God is asking us for big faith to do things

    darrell: great to hear from you. we’d love for you to come and consecrate our apartment for holy living . also, i like your blog

  4. great post. i think that is why i am so interested in ancient christian practices – what would life look like if we lived a practiced faith. not works righteouness… rather, how can practices create order in one’s life while they are living a normal life (not a removed monastic life)?? i find these kinds of questions can provide helpful solutions.

    also – i would love to be part of blessing your house. one idea is to have a house blessing and then i could wash your toilets. whatcha think?

  5. This is me at work. Actually, this (http://www.boxcarpoetry.com/014/jebsen_mara_001.html) is me at work.

    I’m not sure how to get past the monotony and the smallness of what I do (as well as the constant fight with my sinful nature to stay on task and not surf the web all day) and see that God is there.

    Maybe Tom needs to come bless my work, too. 😛

  6. you are so right… my workplace is, perhaps, the most “practically atheistic” place in my life

    how is it that the primary context of our waking hours (where we spend 40 to 90 hours a week) is not the primary context of our worship?

  7. I’ve been thinking about your comment all day, and I don’t just want to let the subject go with a “yes, this is hard.” So if you’re game, anakainosis, let’s keep chewing on it and wrestling it out here, shall we?

    What does it mean to worship God at work? I’ve been pondering today what N.T. Wright says (and I cannot for the life of me find the quote, but it’s in the third section of “Simply Christian”): that following Christ isn’t living up to a set of moral rules, but an emptying of the self so that God shines through. That’s comforting, but also frustrating. How do I do this on purpose? Where does my agency come in?

    And, even before mining the theological/philosophical data, can we hypothesize some practical applications? I realize that they may not work forever (ritual can be liturgy or habit at any given time), but I have been stumped on where to start.

    P.S. “Forgetting Ourselves on Purpose: Vocation and the Ethics of Ambition” by Brian J. Mahan is definitely being budgeted into my next paycheck. I have a hunch that it’s very applicable to this discussion.

  8. […] Posted in Asian American, Church by David Park on June 11th, 2008 In a recent conversation with anakainosis from Merging Lanes this week at the nearby James Joyce Pub,(oh yes, Happy Birthday, Dan Ra), we […]

  9. I think it is a topic that requires actual, intentional study. There are Christian ways to fundamentally change how at least business and the corporate world operate… guys like John Maxwell and Dennis Bakke are taking big strides forward in challenging corporations to alter the way they do business.

    http://www.dennisbakke.com/pages/

    I own “Joy at Work” but it’s been collecting dust. Maybe it’s worth more reading.

    As for Bishop Wright’s challenge to “empty ourselves”, I agree that it sounds great but is difficult to wrap our hands around. Perhaps (again, as applied in American corporate culture) a big part of it is an active refusal to be filled with seemingly positive motivations that surround us, like upward mobility, providing for our families, the desire to make a good impression. And perhaps, instead, our excellence at work can be more visibly attributed to the motivation of bearing witness to Christ.

  10. I suggest praying without ceasing and practically making faith inconvenient. To pray for safe passage before driving, and thanking God for safe conveyance upon revival. To prayerfully offer the work of the day to the Lord before beginning, to pause in the day to ask for strength and wisdom to finish, and to thank him at the close. I find these things difficult to practice, but there are those who do, and it makes a difference.


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