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August 19, 2006

Leaning against the Master's Breast

There is a certain kind of person who makes me nearly nauseated with envy; a kind of person from whom I would rob what they have, were it robbable and take it for myself. This isn't laudable, but I may as well admit it. The type of person is one of those who has never for a moment been more than a step away from Jesus. You know them--you really want to believe that all their nicey-nice God-talk is all made up because then you'd have a little surcease from your own inner kvetching--but you also know that it's authentic. You want to think of it as a put-on because that makes it easier for you to pretend that this isn't a real state, the real state that people are called to.

I say you and I mean me. I was born to perpetual rebellion. Jesus lifts me up in His arms and like a recalcitrant two-year-old, I throw myself back in one of those fits trying to escape that prison that threatens to keep me from whatever it is I want--only, of course, I don't know what it is I want. I circle round and round Him, never coming at the front, but hoping to sneak up like the woman with an issue of blood and claim the prize and run away. What a terrible state!

I know full well what I should do, but I also know I cannot do it on my own. I'll never be able to be one of those people who look like they're about to swoon when they speak of the Blessed Mother, or who piously and gently touch the feet of all the Holy Statues in the Church they pass by; people whose faith and devotion sears me because my own is so weak.

That's the angst. But the assurance is that God made me the way I am and He will bring me to Him in the way He wishes me to come. I am not piety and grace embodied--I am not the poster child for the Christian way. Rather, I'm one of those battered circle-with-a-bar in it signs warning everyone else to find a different way. My example is more often than not negative rather than positive. And I know that through the grace of God in time that will change also. But in the meantime, I look upon those who seem constantly leaning against the Master's breast and ask Him, why can't that be me? Why must I go by this other road thick with brambles and barely marked out? What have I done to merit this hard way?

Of course, I don't know how hard the way is of those I look on with envy. It may be even harder. Oh, but this will of mine, unruly, constantly trying to assert its own dominance, constantly singing with the famous atheist poet:

William Henley

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

What lies! What falsehoods! But my pride draws me back again and again--and at times I think of Calvin and how some are elect and wonder if I have fallen out of that group. But I remember, no longer Calvinist, I'm free to believe that the elect are those who despite themselves long to be and face that fight and continue to move forward despite themselves. Christ died for all, not for some, not for many. That all do not come to Him is the choice of the all, not His preferred plan. There is no elect separate from humanity, all of humanity has the calling and the possibility. Some of us just don't seem to get it very well.

And so the struggle goes on. The comfort comes from Jesus' words, "To whom much is given, much is expected." And I have been given much and more. I have been blessed beyond reasonable blessing, and I am treasured and cherished as a Child of God. I hold onto this hope even as I struggle with obedience, pride, willfulness, lack of charity, lack of discipline, and anger. God will, in His time and way, bring me home. I trust that, I know that, I rely upon that. He is the Father who loves all of His children, and even when I feel very distant, I know He is near always waiting for the prodigal.

Posted by Steven Riddle at August 19, 2006 6:40 PM

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