Good morning. I am writing to you from a tiny place and time, a tiny body, a corruptible, mortal body. My soul craves eternal life, and my flesh craves this world of death. My flesh has craved death-making things for about as long as I can remember. I wanted to depart from the world of things, too. That was my soul talking. I think about how much I might actually remember of this life when I die.
I may remember nothing at all, except a few shining moments of beauty or vice. I would like to die to all that was old and corruptible, but there is a pull that is quite strong. Jesus, please help me.
I know that I am a nobody, but I am not so insignificant that I will be ignored when it comes time to be held accountable for my life. At this point in my life, I think I have just about reset all of the bad deeds with some good ones. I am running at about a goodness factor of 0, which may seem terrible, but it’s better than being negative and still full of evil. However, every time I try to be really good, wise and loving of the world and my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, I seem to rouse a demon who is every bit the opposite of my attempts at being really pious.
I’ve tried to be nice to people, and then I get mad when they aren’t nice. Of course, I can step back and think rationally that it is absurd to expect people to be nice back to you when you are nice to them. You can almost always count on them returning any meanness tit-for-tat, but niceness, not so much.
People aren’t the problem, though. Or, they have always been, and always will be a problem of sorts, but they don’t inform who I am trying to be.
I am trying to become a stripped-down person, free of any sort of baggage or proclivity toward baggage and accruing stuff. This obviously includes material possessions, but also mental thought patterns that rise up and become obsessions for days at a time. At my core, I’d like to know myself, as I am, as I was made to be by God, and act accordingly. I want to spend the rest of my life not craving after places I will never go, things I will never have, women I will never know…occupations I will never hold. I want to just be me, straight up plain and simple and free of all but a few books, papers and photos.
I open up myself and become more susceptible to distractions when I do this. My spirit hasn’t matured sufficiently to combat the whims of the flesh. I see something that might be fun to do, and I buy it. A beermaking kit and a pastamaker sit unused and unopened for years. I don’t know why I don’t get involved with such things after they are purchased. The time involved to try something new usually ends up producing a satisfaction and reward that can’t come from reading more books and writing more words.
I just feel this uneasiness every time I start to get too caught up in a subject that isn’t related to the revelation and expression of Jesus and His love. Like I’ve gotten off track and am missing the point in being here. Decades have been spent full of misery for not paying more attention to this. Nothing I’ve ever done professionally, with maybe the exception of some moments of cooking, has ever brought me any real deep satisfaction. I know that I can be content with difficult people and problems at work during periods where I am fooling myself into thinking that my job brings me deep satisfaction.
So, I surmise that I will likely be okay with such problems as they arise when I go to seminary and become a pastor. I am not expecting a perfect life in the future, but I do want to live the life that is most perfect for me as God wills it. If God wills that I never get to see lands abroad again in this life, I can accept it. However, if this isn’t His will, but I have foolishly wasted money on frivolous food and drink that could have been saved for such visits (as I have done most of my adult life), then I would not consider my life to be perfectly lived.
For me, all of this starts with (and continues to loop back to) a burning love for Jesus. This love causes me to see how impoverished of spirit I really am. I have lived too many years as a bitter soul, demanding that God give me what I deserve out of life. I have only marginally and weakly offered prayers of gratitude to Him on a regular basis for all of the blessings that have come to me in my life. But, once I reach a somewhat better state, I quickly realize that making myself and my family better off is not enough. I must help others. There is no question about it. Charity doesn’t end at my property line. Being charitable isn’t just about plopping a check in the offering plate, but having a completely different mindset–reaching out to others even when you know they might ignore you or even laugh at you or scowl at you or yell at you. Because when you do, you will stumble upon those who want to receive your charitable spirit–which may or may not come in the form of material gifts.
I have no need to keep much at all to myself. I believe the best gift I can pass on to my son isn’t a trust fund but a sense of how to learn what he needs to know to be successful in a knowledge-based economy. I am confident that L will grow up to not need much money for college–he will have the initiative to do well in school and get scholarships and do well in college to get a degree that affords him a decent paying job. If he should decide that he too doesn’t want to live for a salary, but live for a meaningful occupation that may or may not pay well, I am perfectly okay with that too, but I don’t expect him to have the same mindset as me. He is his own person. This was a lesson that was so hard to learn for me when H started to express his own likes and dislikes. He wasn’t interested in books like I was, but had an exceptionally good mind for logic and numbers.
I do believe that I can’t really become an exceptionally charitable individual in my community if I can’t be charitable with my family. If I am unable to stop my selfish will toward going off and reading a book or writing, and spend time with my family, then I will never learn to be charitable to others–or if I am freely giving of my time to my community and not my family, I will end up raising a son who is deeply alienated from me.