Tuesday, March 30, 2010

SCARET OF DYING

Mary Trumbull Slosson, whose quaint and profound folktales give us a “glimpse of Joy beyond the walls of the world,” writes about a little boy that was “scaret of dying.”

Once there was a boy that was dreadful scaret o’ dyin’. Some folks is that way, you know; they ain’t never done it to know how it feels, and they’re scaret. And this boy was that way. He wa’n’t very rugged, his health was sort o’ slim, and mebbe that made him think about sech things more. ‘Tany rate, he was terr’ble scaret o’ dyin’. ‘Twas a long time ago this was,—the times when posies and creaturs could talk so’s folks could know what they was sayin’.

And one day, as this boy, his name was Reuben,—I forget his other name, —as Reuben was settin’ under a tree, an ellum tree, cryin’, he heerd a little, little bit of a voice,—not squeaky, you know, but small and thin and soft like, —and he see ‘t was a posy talkin’. ‘T was one o’ them posies they call Benjamins, with three-cornered whitey blowths with a mite o’ pink on ‘em, and it talked in a kind o’ pinky-white voice, and it says, “What you cryin’ for, Reuben? “And he says, “‘Cause I’m scaret o’ dyin’,” says he; “I‘m dreadful scaret o’ dyin’.” Well, what do you think? That posy jest laughed, the most cur’us little pinky-white laugh ‘t was,—and it says, the Benjamin says: “Dyin’! Scaret o’ dyin’? Why, I die myself every single year o’ my life.” “Die yourself ! “says Reuben “You ‘re foolin’; you ‘re alive this minute.” “‘Course I be,” says the Benjamin; “but that ‘s neither here nor there,—I’ve died every year sence I can remember.” “Don’t it hurt? “says the boy. “No, it don’t,” says the posy; “it ‘s real nice. You see, you get kind o’ tired a-holdin’ up your head straight and lookin’ peart and wide awake, and tired o’ the sun shinin’ so hot, and the winds blowin’ you to pieces, and the bees a-takin’ your honey. So it’s nice to feel sleepy and kind o’ hang your head down, and get sleepier and sleepier, and then find you ‘re droppin’ off. Then you wake up jest ‘t the nicest time o’ year, and come up and look ‘round, and—why, I like to die, I do.” But someways that didn’t help Reuben much as you ‘d think. “I ain’t a posy,” he think to himself, “and mebbe I wouldn’t come up.”

April showers bring May flowers; they also bring us the stirring of hope. Spring “posies, trees and creaturs” are hints of heaven, for God has planned it that way. But spring alone is not enough. It may only leave us with Reuben’s worry: “I ain’t a posy and mebbe I wouldn’t come up.”

Spring’s hope could be an illusion, which is why T. S. Eliot, in his pre–Christian days, thought April was “the cruelest month.”
There is a truer word: Jesus said: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (John 11:25,26).

Who said this? One who rose from the grave. It’s one thing to make such a bold assertion; it’s another to back it up—and back it up Jesus did by rising from the dead, “the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20).

“If you believe that the Son of God died and rose again,” writes George MacDonald, “your whole future is full of the dawn of eternal morning, coming up beyond the hills of life, and full of such hope as the highest imagination for the poet has not a glimmer yet.”
The Son of God died and rose again, and his resurrection is the guarantee that God will bring us up and out of the ground. A thinking, feeling, remembering, recognizable part of us will live forever.

Living forever means living out the thought of eternity that God has placed in our hearts; meeting one’s loved ones lost through separating death; living in a world without blood, sweat and tears; seeing our Lord who loves us so much he gave everything he had to unite us to him forever.

But there’s another meaning I see: since we go around twice we can live in broken and ruined bodies for time; we can endure poverty and hardship for awhile; we can face loneliness, heartache and pain for a season. We don’t have to have it all on this earth. There is a second birth.

DHR

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

ACEDIA

"The arrow that flies by day..." (Psalm 91:5)

One of the so-called Seven Deadly Sins is acedia (a-said-ia), said to be a state of apathy, boredom and dissatisfaction with one's lot. Early Christian monks referred to acedia as "the arrow that flies by day" because the temptation often struck in the afternoon, when hunger and fatigue made them susceptible to restlessness. It drove them out of their rooms to wander aimlessly, to seek better companions or conditions, rather than enjoy God in the "sweetness of their cells."

One fourth century Christian, Evagrius, wrote that when acedia "has taken possession of some unhappy soul, it produces dislike of the place, disgust with the cell, and disdain and contempt of the brethren who dwell with him or at a little distance, as if they were careless or unspiritual... He often groans because he can do no good while he stays there, and complains and sighs because he can bear no spiritual fruit so long as he is joined to that society; and he complains that he is cut off from spiritual gain, and is of no use in the place, as if he were one who, though he could govern others and be useful to a great number of people, yet was edifying none, nor profiting anyone by his teaching and doctrine. He cries up distant monasteries and those which are a long way off, and describes such places as more profitable and better suited for salvation; and besides this he paints the intercourse with the brethren there as sweet and full of spiritual life."[1]

Can it be that our restlessness and desire for change (read here "a greater challenge"), is nothing more than ancient acedia in another guise?

The word, "acedia" is not a biblical word, of course, and, as such, is not proscribed. Some, therefore, may doubt that it falls into the category of sin or temptation to sin. But it occurs to me that my boredom and dissatisfaction could be nothing less than the sin of covetousness: a craving for something other than God has given me. [2]

Boredom and restlessness are endemic in me; I'm a rolling stone. But I must see my impatience for what it is and do what is required of me this day simply because God has called me to be faithful to his will. I must do it in the situation in which he has placed me, not yielding to my restless passion for that elusive "something more." I must tend "the lamp quietly for God without wondering how much longer it has got to go on.[3]

It may be that someday God will move me to another place to serve His purposes there. In the meantime I must be calm, patient, willing to do anything, willing to do nothing--to sit and wait, to enjoy God in the "sweetness of my cell." Here in this place I must stay. Here I must be content with my Lord alone, until he guides me to some other place--on earth, or in heaven. "In this the long unrest is soothed and stilled; / Our hearts are filled!"

DHR

[1] The Institutions
[2] Cf., 1 Corinthians10:1-14 and Numbers 11:4-9
[3] From The Fruits of the Spirit by Evelyn Underhill

A Poor Wise Man ""It is amazing what you can accomplish if you don't care who gets the credit" (Harry S. Truman). ...