I had a conversation with someone the other day, someone who challenges me, intrigues me, who has the uncanny ability to say what I cannot seem to put to words. The sun was shining and the wind was making the "whoosh" sound through the pines by the entrance to the island. We spoke of graduation, of Northwestern, of how people change or find their faith here - I've learned so much, built a firm foundation for the beliefs I've always held in my heart. I think I've fallen in love with Jesus - in my head and in my heart. Not puppy love, la ti da, everything is perfect. But the kind of love that makes you raw, that strips the skin from you, desperately dependent love. I've realized I'm so broken and there's nothing I can do about it except cry (which happens a lot) and ask for forgiveness (when I eventually realize it), and come crawling back with broken pride (trust me, this is a very long cyclical process). And then there are moments of peace. I find that its my pride that keeps me from most things, from living. This place has given me a chance to grow up around people who love me, instead of throwing me out of the boat without a preserver- But naturally, we came to the part of the conversation where we talked about some of the troubling parts of life at Northwestern - at least the things that we've noticed aren't quite right. I write these things neither to complain, nor to produce guilt, but to show you how he challenged me.
His observation was something to the effect that sometimes we play "Christian" instead of actually thinking about what we believe and trying to authentically live it out in our lives. I think it is human nature to want to belong, and with that comes the temptation to say what others expect of you instead of asking yourself if you truly believe what is coming out of your mouth, aka speaking "Christianese", out of habit. Sometimes this can give the impression of spiritual growth but leave your heart with the emptiness of doubt and insecurity. Who wants to be vulnerable? Who wants to admit that they're not ok?-That "life actually sucks right now and I don't love God at this moment." I don't want to take liberties and say that this applies to everyone, because we're not all alike, we don't always struggle with the same things, but this is simply what I was thinking during our discussion.
I went to see Tartuffe the next day. Maybe he didn't put the "two and two together", but I heard his character speak the very same things we discussed the day before, (bear with me, I know its lengthy, but do your utmost to combat instant gratification) it was something to this effect...
"no, all the knowledge of this world has not found its abode in me. I have merely the science of discerning truth from falsehood. And as I know nothing in the world so noble and so beautiful as the holy fervour of genuine piety, so there is nothing, I think, so odious as the whitewashed outside of a specious zeal...and would purchase honour and reputation at the cost of hypocritical looks and affected groans...There are too many such mean hypocrites in the world; but from them the truly pious are easy to distinguish. Our age offers us abundant and glorious examples, my brother...They are no pretenders to virtue. You never see in them this unbearable ostentation, and their piety is human and tractable. They never censure the doings of others; they think there is too much pride in such censure; and leaving lofty words to others, they only reprove our actions by their own virtue. They do not trust to the appearance of evil, and are more inclined to judge kindly of others. We find no cabals, no intrigues among them; all their anxiety is to live a holy life. They never persecute the sinner, but they hate the sin. They do not care to display for the interest of Heaven a more ardent zeal than Heaven itself displays. These are people after my own heart; it is thus we should live; this is the pattern for us to follow...but I fear you are dazzled by false appearances."
I find it refreshing that there is a good deal of humility expressed when we see life through God's perspective- its a sort of honest love that only comes when we've recognized that piety is not a show or string of lofty theological convictions. We do not have to prove it to others, as I often feel I must in the rush of a conversation, but rather be honest with where we are at, with our failings and take so much joy from knowing that there is nothing, absolutely nothing in the entire world, that separates us from the love of the one who gave his life to make us free, Jesus.
**I included these pictures because they were taken during one of the most difficult times in my life - when I had to be the most honest with myself - when I was far from home, trying so hard to a strong Christian, but completely failing - in hindsight I'm so glad I went through that. (location: Paris,Bethlehem, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Oahu).
They are not the most beautiful pictures, (its difficult to look your best when you're worried about whether or not you'll wake up with a cockroach in your face), but in the end, we had climbed mountains, literally.