Nor does the lesson apply to those only who worship Mammon; it applies equally to those who in any way worship the transitory, who seek the praise of men more than the praise of God, who would make a show in the world by taste, intellect, power, art, or genius of any kind. Nor to such only, but surely to those as well whose pleasures are of a more transitory nature still, such as the pleasures of the senses. The hurt lies not in that these pleasures pass away and leave a fierce disappointment behind, for that is only so much the better; the hurt lies in that the immortal, created in the image of the everlasting God, is housed with the fading and the corrupting, and clings to them till it is infected with their disease, which assume in it a form more terrible in proportion to the superiority of its kind. That which is mere decay in the one becomes moral vileness in the other, that which fits the one for the dunghill casts the other into the outer darkness. It creeps into a burrow in the earth, where its budded wings wither and damp and drop away from its shoulders, instead of haunting the open plains, spreading abroad its young pinions to the sun and the air, and strengthening them in further and further flights, till at last they should become strong enough to bear the God-born into the presence of its Father in heaven.
He whose heart is sound because it haunts the treasure-house of heaven may be tempted of the devil, but will be first led up of the Spirit into the wilderness.
by Diane Adams
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky once wrote, ‘Pain and suffering are always inevitable for a large intelligence and a deep heart. The really great men must, I think, have great sadness on earth.” I have a soul friend--what the Celtic mystics called an anam cara. We are on the same journey, struggling with many of the same things, seeing things nearly the same way. When we talk, it always ends up being very real and to the point in both of immediate situations. Neither one of us expects to be a great success in this life. We share that bond. The struggle against the self, against circumstances that are overwhelming, seems to both of us fairly hopeless. Any leftover hope must be transferred from this life to the next, in order to keep any hope at all.
Knowing this does not make it simple or easy. I think it is true that if you would follow Jesus in this world, you will lose everything for his sake. If you commit your life to him, one way or another, it is going to happen. As long as we have bodies, we will crave the things of this world. There will be a struggle. At some point along the way, it becomes too much to bear. When we crack under the tension, pulled between the Spirit and the flesh, stretched beyond endurance again and again, the choices become obscured, the reasons for trying seem meaningless, and God acts as though he can’t hear. But he does not leave us alone.
At those moments, the broken places where we can no longer theologize, rationalize, or self-helpisize any longer, we truly have free will, and it is a terrifying thing. In that place, we need each other. The quest, as Tolkien describes, “[...] stands on the edge of a knife. Stray but a little, and it will fail, to the ruin of all. Yet hope remains while the Company is true.”
Sometimes God may not remove the circumstances that are so difficult to bear, but he sends help in other ways. The company of my anam cara is true. There are no shadows between us, no hidden agendas or conversion attempts, no lectures, no need to be right. We are two pilgrims on the suffering way, helping each other over the rocks and through the briars.
I see my friend becoming everything he should be, even while becoming everything the world says he should not. He is one of Dostoevsky’s "great men." His life lends me courage because I see how he is shaped by what has gone wrong--not shaped through ideas or theories, but in the soul itself. It is good to walk the hard road with another; in company, we find strength to turn our eyes upward instead of outward.
The only things we will take with us when we leave here are the changes we’ve made to our own souls. I hope for each of us there is at least one anam cara out there, someone with the wisdom and purity only faithful suffering can accomplish, a friend unafraid to discover the truth of his or her own being alongside those doing the same. Someone who is learning through experience, as our friend Dostoevsky did, to look upwards as more and more of our bonds with this world are cut and say: