Archive for September 27th, 2007

The Slowness of Grace

September 27, 2007

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This is a reprint from November of 2006. I’m not trying to be lazy here – but to bring out some things that I think worth reading twice. 

From Prayer by the Elder Sophrony

At times prayer seems over-slow in bringing results, and life is so short. Instinctively we cry, “Make haste unto me.” But He does not always respond at once. Like fruit on a tree , our soul is left to scorch in the sun, to endure the cold wind, the scorching wind, to die of thirst or be drowned in the rain. but if we do not let go of the hem of His garment, all will end well.

 We live in a culture of fast food, and tend to want grace to operate on the same speed track. Some versions of Christianity make grace as “quick” as walking the aisle. This, of course, is misleading.

In my experience, grace works on a level that is proper to human beings with some notable exceptions (but even then one can wonder). Grace takes time because we are not built on a fast track. Human beings don’t wean until about 2 1/2 years, properly (women you may correct me). We take 9 months of gestation, and we do not reach puberty for 13 years, traditionally. We are not instant people.

Neither does grace work on such an instant level (or is not at least noticeable on such an instant level). We should know that to be a human requires years for some things, including things pertaining to God.

I am comforted, that, unlike physicists, theologians do not reach their best work until near retirement age. I’m waiting for my maturity!

But each of us would do well to slow down our expections and speed up our efforts of prayer. Pray more, but wait on God. This lesson of patience is not something God does to us to torture us, but is something He does to bring us back into line with our humanity. Let patience have her perfect work (James 1:4).

The Mystery of Ourselves

September 27, 2007

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For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 2:11

I think it can be quickly agreed by all that God is a mystery – we do not know God as we would like to know God nor is it possible to know God except by His own gracious gift. What we would not so readily agree to (unless we had all just read the Scripture cited above) is that we ourselves are mysteries – even to our own selves.

That God mostly remains a mystery – that other people are mysteries – all of this can be more easily accepted – but that I do not know even myself can leave us wondering, “Well then, what do we know?”

The answer is: “Not much.”

This is or should be a beginning of wisdom – certainly a beginning of humility.

Socrates age old admonition: “Know thyself!” is much more easily said than done. It is possible to know ourselves – St. Paul says the “spirit of the man which is in him knows a man.” But my experience says that knowing what my spirit knows is not an easy thing nor is their an easy remedy. Much time, quiet, listening – many things are required of us in order to know even this mystery of ourselves.

Surrounded by so many mysteries – why doesn’t the world seem a more mysterious place? Indeed.

We live in an age of false knowledge. Many people know much about trees (I’m not one of them) but they don’t feel mysterious to me because someone else knows many things. I could multiply such false knowledge. We do not expect to receive any great revelations from the world about us because we live in an age where others are tortuously extracting knowledge out of everything around us.

Of course, I will sound quite mysterious when I say that you can dissect a tree and study it down to its last element of genetic code and yet not know a tree. To know the logos of a tree – what it is before God – is given only to a few – and saints at that.

Armed as we are with such ignorance, we should go about our day in wonder at the wisdom and mystery of everything. Do your job, but become as a child, at least sometime during the day. But most especially when you are standing before the mysteries – of God, of the world, of your self, of another human being. In reverence and in awe they occasionally yield something of the mystery up and we know what can only be known by a gift. And this is marvelous indeed.