Friday, October 3, 2014

Choosing the One Thing Needful



I’ve noticed this clamoring fear in my heart, this fear that some piece of slander will turn friends into enemies, that malice will finish the grand undoing of my life.  I find it so very easy to place myself on that same field of play, to try my hand at the very same game of undoing to others what took decades to do, of giving as good as I get.  But this is the way of death.  There is no love in treating someone else this way.  Joy flees, as does peace.  Patience evaporates and kindness is seen as a weakness.  Goodness ceases to matter, and gentleness is taken as a mark of impotence.  Self-control is cast aside as a useless obstruction to what the self should do for itself.  It’s a prep school for hell.

I find myself also thinking that if only I still lived in a home with a family full to the brim with the fruit of love and respect, rather than as a boarder in another person’s house.  If only I was back in Kenya teaching eager students rather than spending long hours pulling weeds and trimming trees and shrubs.  If only I lived in a place where people knew me and where I belonged rather than in a foreign land where I must start everything from scratch.

But I am reminded today that this sort of thinking comes from an unhealthy, unhealed place.  I am reminded today that none of this is needful.  I am reminded today that there are bigger things that God is concerned about in my life, things which transcend my current broken family, my current state of exile away from what was my life in Kenya. 

I’ve been reading a kind of autobiography by Elder Porphyrios, Wounded By Love: The Life and Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios, and today’s pages were like a cool drink in the middle of a long hot day of hard work.  Let me share with you some things that are meaningful to me today:

Let us love Christ and let our only hope and care be for Him.  Let us love Christ for His own sake only.  Never for our sake.  Let Him put us wherever He likes.  Let Him give us whatever He wishes.  Don’t let’s love Him for His gifts….  What we should say rather is: ‘My Christ, whatever Your love dictates; it is sufficient for me to live within Your love.’

 As for myself, poor soul…what can I say…I am very weak.  I haven’t managed to love Christ so very fervently and for my soul to long for Him.  I feel that I have a very long way to go.  I haven’t arrived at where I want to be; I don’t experience this love.  But I’m not discouraged.  I trust in the love of God.  I say to Christ: ‘I know I’m not worthy: Send me wherever Your love wishes.  That’s what I desire, that’s what I want.  During my life I always worshipped You.’

 When I was seriously ill and on the point of leaving this life, I didn’t want to think about my sins.  I wanted to think about the love of my Lord, my Christ, and about eternal life.  I didn’t want to feel fear.  I wanted to go to the Lord and to think about His goodness, His love.  And now that my life is nearing its end, I don’t feel anxiety or apprehension, but I think that when I appear at the Second Coming and Christ says to me: Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?  I will bow my head and I will say to Him: ‘Whatever you want, my Lord, whatever your love desires.  I know I am not worthy.  Send me wherever your love wishes.  I am fit for hell.  And place me in hell, as long as I am with You.  There is one thing I want, one thing I desire, one thing I ask for, and that is to be with You, wherever and however You wish.’
Elder Porphyrios (1906-1991)

I try to give myself over entirely to the love and worship of God.  I have consciousness of my sinfulness, but I live with hope.  It is bad to despair, because someone who despairs becomes embittered and loses his willingness and strength.  Someone who has hope, on the contrary, advances forward.  Because he feels that he is poor, he tries to enrich himself.  What does a poor man do?  If he is smart, he tries to find a way to become rich.

 And so in spite of the fact that I feel weak and that I haven’t achieved what I desire, I nevertheless do not fall into despair.  It is a consolation to me, as I’ve told you, that I don’t cease to try continually.  Yet I don’t do what I want to do.  Pray for me.  The point is that I cannot love Christ absolutely without His grace.  Christ does not allow His love to show itself if my soul does not have something which will attract Him.

 And perhaps I lack that something.  And so I entreat God and say, ‘I am very weak, O Christ.  Only You with Your grace will be able to allow me to say along with Saint Paul the Apostle, It is no longer I who live; Christ lives in me.

 This is what preoccupies me.  I try to find ways to love Christ.  This love is never sated.  However much you love Christ, you always think that you don’t love Him and you long all the more to love Him.  And without being aware of it, you go higher and higher!  [Wounded By Love (Denis Harvey, publisher: Limni, Evia, Greece, 2005), 97-99]

It is enough to be with You.  To be where You wish me to be.  To do what You wish me to do.  To go where You wish me to go.