Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A View of the World Inside-Out

Coffee shop. Hot americano and photo edits. Quiet contentment. Window seats, conversations with a good friend, prayer, truth spoken and received.

Life is beautiful.

Until confronted by selfishness. And brokenness. And emptiness. A pretty, middle-aged mom caught up in her life. The man with her, lonely as well, completely consumed by the unhappiness of his current marriage. Life is unfair. The past has been hard. The present is empty, unless they make something of it. "Just out to coffee" turns into questions about divorce attorneys (he needs one, she knows from personal experience which local ones are cheap and which ones are good). They go on their way, but not before discussing whether or not he could rent a room from her.

Life seems to me less beautiful than before.

Afternoon turns to evening. Table replaces the window seat, a latte replaces the americano, and a different friend sits beside me. The hour passes quickly and feels five hours too short. She leaves. I stay. Quiet contemplation on subjects of love, trust, and loneliness. 1 Corinthians 13 is open before me.

Selfishness confronts me once again. And brokenness. And emptiness. Loud high school girls out to coffee with their priest. Disrespect for teachers. Cheers because an older, conservative priest will be on sabbatical for several months. The f--- word unabashedly jumps from a 17-year-olds lips.

Life seems gray as I leave, and my heart teeters between brokenness and judgment.

The evening turns to night, and my view turns inward. Laptop open. Thoughts swirl. Emotions grow too strong to dismiss. Tears blur my sight. Once again, I am confronted with selfishness. And brokenness. And emptiness.

But this time it is my own heart that condemns me.

Lonely in the midst of friends. Self-centered in the face of needs. Judgment where love should reign. Despair in the face of grace. "Our Lord finds our desires, not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily satisfied." C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

My heart turns back to 1 Corinthians 13. Questions. Self-examination. Truth told. Shelter sought and found.

What is love? How do I love people?
How do I show Christ to those around me?

Do I envy the relationships that other people enjoy?
Am I patient with the Holy Spirit's work of sanctification in others?

Do I rejoice in others' growth? Do I bear all things for the sake of that growth?

Do I believe that God is working good in the lives of those around me?

At what point does my love for my God-family end?

Love is not duty for duty's sake or right for right's sake. It is not a resolute abandoning of one's own good with a view solely for the good of the other person. It is first a deeply satisfying experience of the fullness of God's grace, then a doubly satisfying experience of sharing that grace with another person. - John Piper, Desiring God

We are all constantly teaching and learning, forgiving and being forgiven, representing Christ to man when we intercede, and man to Christ when others intercede for us. The sacrifice of selfish privacy which is daily demanded of us is daily repaid a hundredfold in the true growth of personality which the life of the Body encourages. - C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor's glory should be daily laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. - C. S. Lewis, ibid.

I have no answers to share, no steps to achieving unselfish, Gospel-centered love. Just this: God has not finished His work in me yet. And that I am uncertain of my next step, but certain of God. And this is enough.

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