Seek ye first the kingdom of heaven. Some gifts are of the Lord, but they are not intended to be sought first above Him. The beautiful cathedrals and pageantry of Christmas are often the things that were left behind by those who were busy seeking Him. But, somewhere along the way, people began to seek out these things first, and breeze in for a quick service in the chapel as a sideshow on the way to the main event: the gifts, the food, the drink the mirth and play.
Such as it is with life. Your immediate family, church family, community and reasonable abundance are all of the gifts and blessings from a merciful Lord who indulges His children with more than they ever deserved for their wicked ways. You should pray to the Lord for others who are less fortunate than you to soon be blessed with as much or even more than what you have.
I had this insight into how it will be when I die and go to Heaven. True righteousness and Love from the Lord will suddenly be overflowing beyond all comprehension. In my own world, because I am beset by a sense of linear Time, I think that I must continue to view my path toward becoming most righteous and blessed as one of incrementally getting better each passing year. But why should I wait? Of course, I shouldn’t be false to myself or God about the evil things inside of me that still need to be rectified. But, I should seize each moment as an opportunity to unite my heart and mind and soul with that Great Place beyond this one, and yield to it, making myself as righteous and holy for as long as I can. And when I backslide and say or do some sin, I should ask for forgiveness with a sincerely contrite heart and immediately return to attempting to be the most righteous man I can possibly be.
I also needn’t tell others that this is the business I am about. I hardly want to become a publicly vilified hypocrite at some point before I die. However, in my heart and mind and soul, I should always be looking to try to be the best.
The point is that my soul is not a project like a house that needs renovation. While some of its rooms are indeed in a state of disrepair, and it’s easy to see much that works in this analogy, the way that time works for God is different than the way time works down here. By accepting God’s grace to make me holy, righteous and clean again, I do not necessarily have to continue to remove the junk in my soul bit by bit. I can purge it completely. If it returns, then I purge it again with even more willpower and pure desire to know God and do His will.
No person on this earth, except Christ, has ever been perfectly aligned with God while alive on this earth. This will not happen until the new heaven and new earth come to be. But, I can start to see the results of human endeavor when communities did desire to be more aligned with God and when they did not. It is facile to equate the Roman Catholic Church during the Inquisition with the sincerely devout men and women who lived in monasteries and sought to align themselves with the Lord. Those who have wielded power in the Church for their own gain were no more seeking to do the will of God in their hearts than, say, Stalin or Hitler were.
I found it interesting when thinking about the history of Russia during the 20th Century that the monasteries survived but the Czar and his family and the Soviet party did not. The same thing will come to be with ISIS trying to purge other faiths in the Middle East and future atheist governments attempting to wipe out Christians. Yes, they will succeed in purging many of us, and some of us or our children may die as martyrs, but the pockets of truly God-focused communities will persist and rise back up when these secular governments eventually obliterate themselves. Yes, our own U.S. government today is far too focused on money and material gain as it has been for some time. Once so many of the more God-focused, simple men and women who survived the Depression and WWII are gone, our country will implode or be carved up by other economic superpowers that rise up near the end of this century.
This is, of course, only one scenario, and it may very well not happen if a new generation springs up that is less materialistic and more God-focused. But, I’m not holding my breath.
For me, then, it’s not about how much you profess the perfect Trinitarian doctrine as handed down to you by the Pope or Calvin, because you can pay lip service to it all day long and still be aligned in your heart with money, football, power, fame, sex, etc. Who is more aligned with God in their hearts? That is for God to ultimately decide and know.
It isn’t easy to be aligned with God in your heart these days, either. It was probably much easier in the Middle Ages, when the main source of excitement and entertainment was the Church and going there to sing and unite with other members of your community in prayer. The amount of distractions and temptations were far fewer than they are today. There is nothing inherently wrong with computers, the Internet and other modern technologies and media. They serve a purpose just like a mason’s tools or scrivener’s parchment did in the Middle Ages.
It’s hard to describe the feeling that comes over me during the phases of my life when I aligned more with material things than God. There is a certain sense of magic and adoration that comes for certain things of the world. It seems to put your mind into such a state as to believe that this or that thing, if you spend enough time focused on it and studying it–that thing will transform you in some way beyond what simple, steady work can do.
Books, new computers, technologies, new jobs, new relationships, new musical instruments–probably games and travel for a lot of people–even bottles of a new kind of beer–they all come with this promise and potential before they are consumed that they will be the ones to satisfy and make whole the places inside you that are empty, uneven, unwanted and make you unwelcome to others.
Some of these things lose their shine the day you take them out of the package. Their entire power lay in their potential, a potential that you created mostly in your own mind by contemplating a future in which you are transformed into a somebody far greater than the somebody you are today.
Sometimes, you can build up a “shine” simply by investing a lot of hope and dreams into an imaginary workout or writing schedule that you will begin enacting in the coming week or year. All of the glory, power and majesty that you can muster are but weak imitations of what the Lord can deliver. They are simply glimpses into the Greatness that is the Lord, and little guideposts along the way, that if used correctly, would allow more and more of you to be aligned with God.
But, even when you’ve made up your mind to align yourself completely with God at all times, you can find yourself failing miserably. Suddenly, you are more interested in scouring the Internet for new books about God–each one surely being that perfect book that will help you unlock a greatness from your own heart and place you forever more on the right path of God’s Will. You won’t spend a minute unhappy after you read that perfect book and sleep a perfect sleep.
The problems with this kind of thinking are many, but it kind of just creeps up on you throughout the week. Instead of investing more time praying directly to God and contemplating His Greatness, and attempting to contemplate how your own heart, mind and soul can be filled with it, without the help of anything other than the Bible, you invest more and more time reading reviews of books on Amazon and checking their page counts, for the books under 300 pages surely can’t offer enough in the way of a power to utterly transform you.