Down the Path – God Will Be Guiding Me
…I may always feel looking back on any past sin that in the very heart of my evil passion there was something that God approves and wants me to feel not less but more. Take a sin of lust. The overwhelming thirst for rapture was good and even divine; it has not got to be unsaid (so to speak) and recanted. But it will never be quenched as I tried to quench it. If I refrain…God will be guiding me as quickly as He can to where I shall get what I really wanted all the time. It will not be very like what I now think I want; but it will be more like it than some suppose. In any case it will be the real thing, not a consolation prize or substitute. If I had it I should not need to fight against sensuality as something impure; rather I should spontaneously turn away from it as something dull, cold, abstract, and artificial…
When we are tempted, we must remember that just because God wants for us what we really want and knows the only way to get it, therefore He must, in a sense, be quite ruthless towards sin… The more He loves you the more determined He must be to pull you back from your way which leads nowhere, into His way which leads you where you want to go… You may go the wrong way again, and again He may forgive you…but there is no hope in the end of getting where you want to go except by going God’s way…” ~C.S. Lewis
So, after a few months it’s time for another posting in the “Down the Path” series. The quote from Lewis (above) is one of my most favorite and one that has had a significant impact in my life. I was reminded of it after a difficult talk with an old friend yesterday, albeit one that ended well. The crux of our conversation was about desire, selfishness, longing, and the difficult task of finding our way in the world. It was good to catch up and to simply listen. As I mentioned in my last post it seems that life often just picks up speed and spins us around, and things move so quickly that we rarely stop and take the time to reflect on all that’s happened, or to catch up with old friends. There can quickly become a chasm of things unsaid, and that’s the real sadness of it all.
For me the sorrow consists in knowing how easily I forget those around me and pursue my own happiness. I was deeply grieved yesterday when I realized how long it had been since my friend and I had simply talked over a good drink, and then I began to think of the past and all the ways in which our lives have intertwined and the happiness and joy began to spread in me. The memories are warm and full of love and of the good things of God. But time slips through our fingers and if we’re not awake to it suddenly it’s gone. Things change – people change – and desires change. But I know that the love of brothers is something I don’t want to take for granted; and I do all too easily.
I think that for many the idea of happiness is a foreign thing – or at least a confusing thing. There are many different and conflicting versions of what happiness really is, spanning from material wealth to total abandonment. What things make me happy? Am I happy because of what I have, what I do, with who I am or who I know? Am I happy when my desires get fulfilled; when I get what I want? And what do I want, really? Is happiness the same as fulfillment? Is it the same as having no cares or burdens? What is it? And most importantly, how do I get it?
I can remember hearing a very good homily from an old EOC bishop when I was a much younger man that has stuck with me throughout my life. The title of the homily is “Being Happy and the Beatitudes” and drew parallels between the two. The bishop used the Good News for Modern Man which translates the Beatitudes differently. Instead of “Blessed are those who _____.” it says, “Happy are those who ____.” That translation changed the way I thought about happiness, as did the short paragraphs from Lewis above.
I know in my own life there are many times when I can’t seem to see my way ahead and wonder where I’m going. I often think about the desires in my heart – you know, those things that you want and when you’re really depressed you say to yourself, “If only I had…I could get that.” or “If only I was…then I’d be happy.” Replace the dots with whatever you’d like – job, money, friends, success, beauty, etc. I think everyone utters something similar at some point in their lives. It’s easy to think that external things would change our circumstances and thus our level of happiness, and honestly they very well may. However I know that for me the experience has been that I rarely end up getting what I want – even when I get what I want. Which is where Lewis’s quote comes into play. Ultimately I want what I think most people want; to be happy and content. The danger consists of me screwing that up by trying to get it my own way. And this is where Lewis’s words are life-saving.
It’s difficult to remember that God does indeed want what I want and wants to give it to me. Contrary to the popular belief in Christianity that if you’re happy and content then you’re not doing God’s will, He indeed has instilled desires in each one of us – desires that He Himself wants to fulfill and is pleased to do so. He wants us to be happy! But the more I fight to get what it is that I think I want, and the more I attempt to control my own destiny, the more unfulfilled I will become because ultimately, “…there is no hope in the end of getting where you want to go except by going Godâ€™s way.”
Life is full of joy and disappointment, understanding and confusion, hope and despair, and above all a longing for something more; to be in the presence of God and to be Home. The older I get the more I find that what makes me truly happy are surprisingly things that I already have. As I’ve said many times before glimpses come here and there, and today I’m reminded of these simple things in forgiveness and in the love of brothers. God’s love, His good, and his plans for me are infinitely better than anything I can conceive. I am thankful that even when the surroundings look strange and nothing makes sense, God will be guiding me, because He knows where it is that I long to go, and He knows the quickest way down the path. And as Mikey was fond of saying, “Man, what a ride!”
God grant me light enough for the next step, or if not, then give me the hope that drives out all fear.
I alone know the plans I have for you, plans to bring you prosperity and not disaster, plans to bring about the future you hope for.” ~Jeremiah 29:11 (GNT)
“However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him…” ~1 Cor. 2:9