The man who loves his fellow is infinitely more alive than he whose endeavor is to exalt himself above him; the man who strives to be better, than he who longs for the praise of the many; but the man to whom God is all in all, who feels his life-roots hid with Christ in God, who knows himself the inheritor of all wealth and worlds and ages, that man has begun to be alive indeed. Let us in all the troubles of life remember that what we need is more life, more of the life-making presence in us making us more alive. When most suppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us bethink ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death we are weary of. When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live. Of all things, let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are. It is the life in us that is discontented; we need more of what is discontented, not more of the cause of its discontent. He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death, not for the repose of forgetfulness, but for strength to fight; for more God in him; who, when sorest wounded, says with Sir Andrew Barton in the old ballad:
Fight on my men, says Sir Andrew Barton,
I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I’ll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I’ll rise and fight again.
To Be As Young As Our Father
by Dave Roney
I have sinned and am older than my Father; in Him Who has the Life, for He is Life, there can be no age save, for lack of a better term, to call it agelessness, youthfulness ever abounding in fully adult perpetuity—that which is without beginning nor ending has no date, to say no beginning and no ending—and ending is Death; we speak of beginning and ending of life as though it were a linear interval between a previous nothing and a future something; the true Life goes in no line, has no progression, but is swollen in infinite multi-directional avenues, unseen and unknown, at best barely and imperfectly perceived, which storms Heaven and Earth, those things under the earth, all things whatsoever, Death itself being swept helplessly along on the effulgent tide of Life, the body of Death slain by the Resurrection, the odor of it still lingering in the world, it as well to finally be destroyed.
Sin, and nothing else other than sin, brings forth Death, and the process of dying is to grow old in every way; those in the way of Christ have Life and can never grow old, can never perish— “I have come that they may have Life!” says He. His Life He shares with them, they can no more taste death than can He; they may indeed die in this world, but the dying is not Death; it is their sunset speaking of a greater Sunrise; it is the splitting of their chrysalises, from which casements they take flight and soar into Life in the fullness of God's Own Life, without ending, without encumbrances, without limitations, eternal Youth.
Our Lord was that Child born to us Who grew, in time, into full Manhood; do you suppose that He, as with other men, would have continued to age, to grow old, become infirm? Not so! Except He willingly lay down His life no one could take it from Him—including the process of time beyond its use for His perfect physical maturing. In Him the physical serves a deeper, more profound truth for us. But for the cross He would have lived forever in perfect Manhood, and that Adulthood can not be denied for He has His resurrection (Death having no hold upon Him); we, born of Him, are as children who must come to maturity: That we age and die is due to the Death that is in us, of which He had none, of which He is even now in the process of cleansing us. He is as young as His Father, the Mature-Man-God Whose heart is that of the Child. It is to this that the Adoption is working, redeeming the time, awaiting the glorious manifestation of the fully mature sons and daughters of the most High who shall, on that Day, be as much like, and as young as, their Lord Who is like and therefore as young as His Father. Neither Youth nor Manhood is not a matter of time but condition.
Daniel has a vision of Him, titling Him the “Ancient of Days”—but what it that? It is the feeble effort made by the limit-bound creature, consigned to time and history, who has modest understanding but is Divinely compelled to relate that which is Incomprehensible; he speaks of what is unknown and higher by the thing which is known and lower—the failure of the effort is found in this; the one thing, the Life, is not a sub-specie of the other thing, the mortality; the problem is much greater than were a man's attempt to define a bird by what he knew of a fish.
The Scripture, which is man's only window into the hereafter, tells us precious little about those things, that state of being, the affairs ahead; much of what little is written is highly symbolic, setting things in front of us to which we can somewhat relate, though such images are never real but always emblematic; it is not that God's intent is to secret the future things from our understanding, but that for now we are unable to grasp more than what our present frames are able to ingest—the truth is nearly lost on us that simple saying, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”—It speaks of those who unwittingly crucified the Lord of Glory—it speaks to us as well, as far as comprehension is concerned; for we have only the vaguest notion of the things prepared for us; this mortal, the only thing we've known, our chrysalis, must put on the imortality of the Living One—wear it, have it, live it, be it, fully.
Only when we Are, and no longer Becoming, will we know in fullness the Youth Eternal, the Life: In the great catalog of Love found in the 13th of 1st Corinthians the Apostle, having made a good effort, concludes “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.” What is it that shall pass? All which we now know and are—at least the limitations and perfections of such things. Our striving, searching, longing, when the mastery Paul sought is finally attained, the goal reached, the race run—that for which even the cosmos itself is now groaning, the full revealing of the children of light, fully interpenetrated by the Light Himself, our final adoption, coronation, revelation, as the fully grown sons and daughters of our Father. Then shall we all become changed; the decrepit shall fall away and we, finally, shall become as young as our Father, for we shall then have Life in all the fullness He is Life.
This mortal is dying away, our chrysalis; within the tomb of the temporal there is growing that Life which our Lord declared “abundant,” which is to say overflowing, which disregards the failing health, the entrapping years, the coming grave, and the sin which so easily besets us—it begins in us as a candle destined to become a great light, a trickle bound to be a roaring river of life, it defies the gravity of time and flows, flies, ever upward, ascending toward and into the Heart of God from which came its being, which sustains it, which is moving it from childhood to adulthood by ever growing and increasing the Immortal Child within the mortal creature. From the glory of a crucified Christ on to the greater glory of a risen Christ, from glory to glory, thus also in us, transformed, redeemed and reconciled to God by He Himself, from Him Who IS Life to those for whom Life is as important, as essential, as life is to The Life Himself—for how shall we even live in time except by Life which is without beginning or ending?
I said an unkind thing to a dear brother in a moment of angst, of frustration, under tension, and nearly immediately repented it and confessed my sin to him; yet, even so, the terrible act haunts me; I have not done enough, cannot take the ill word back, can never efface it from either his memory or mine. I am grieved at myself and grieved for him. What shall I say but that my need is terrible, for I need more of Life in me than I have, more of Christ, less of Self—you say I am forgiven, and in fact I am; my friend forgave me, but all is not well within me; for in that moment I spoke death and not Life, I reacted as one from the realm of death and not as a citizen of the Kingdom of Life, I was in that moment the agent of death to him and not Life.
Though I had crucified the old miserable Self, in that moment it tore itself from the cross and went raving, mad, destructive, unimproved as though I had none of Life in me. In that brief moment, by only a sentence, I shared in the Apostle's grief, “O wretched man that I am!” And with the Apostle I know the remedy; “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” And, yet, there are consequences attached to our thoughts, words, and deeds; and though God Himself forgive me, though my friend forgive me, I must live with the memory of what I said, even if I forgive myself. For, in that sordid moment I forgot who I am becoming, and am, and fell back into who I was:
“The man who loves his fellow is infinitely more alive than he whose endeavor is to exalt himself above him; the man who strives to be better, than he who longs for the praise of the many; but the man to whom God is all in all, who feels his life-roots hid with Christ in God, who knows himself the inheritor of all wealth and worlds and ages, that man has begun to live indeed.”
Our Lord said “I did not come into the world to condemn the world...” He said that if a man looks on a woman with lust he has committed adultery with her in his heart—see, then, that to condemn the world in His heart would be for the Savior of the world to commit sin, to damn the world; He, through that same condemnation which is of men, would have vilified His very Self and mission of redemption. Never a time did He ever lash out with an unkind word, for in Him is no unkindness from which such words are generated; He is Faithful and True, utterly faithful to the purpose of His Father's sending, utterly true to the accomplishment of His Father's will for Him, and for us. We may have Life; He IS Life. Our need is for more Life, more of Him. Thus we must die to Self daily, moment by moment, when the unkind thought leads to the unkind word, we must die to it.
When we are unkind, to neighbor or spouse, friend or enemy, when we do not love, when the old Self tears itself from the cross of submission to God where we have nailed it, and rears its ugly head, when this “old man” deposes the Right and Exalted King and sits itself down on the throne of personal existence which is rightfully only His, we are turning from Life back to Death; and for that child of the Father it is to make oneself completely miserable. To the sensitive heart, the one who would be like his Savior and has failed Him, the onsetting, insetting, gloom wells up in the immediate emotion which, if given utterance, speaks Death: “O, God, that I'd never thought that and said it!;” “Would that I had never been born!,” “Wish that I could die!” And yet that thought is a fog, concealing the true emotion and thought which is, “Would that I were not so broken, so self-willed and aggrandizing, would that I were more, in fact exactly, like Jesus!” For, it is not Death that we seek, which we desperately need, but Life; not the supposed solace of forgetfulness, nor the grave, nor some escape, but the gush of Life which we lack and need and crave and sometimes have so little of within us:
“When most suppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us bethink ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death that we are weary of. When most inclined to sleep, let us rouse ourselves to live.”
For my sin against my brother, against myself, against my God, I have repented; the wound inflicted is even now healing though the scar will remain—in my misery of Self-infliction I have laid myself down and bled for a while; I have hurt myself but not been slain; even now I am rising from the ground, to take in feeble hand the sword of Love and begin again the great battle for Life, Love, and Liberty. Death is not only the ending of a man's mortal life; Death is also the black coal he carries in his bosom, producing no light nor heat, a sham, the poorest imitation of the Fire which is God's love, which is Life itself to us and for those in our world. “Of all things let us avoid the false refuge of a weary collapse, a hopeless yielding to things as they are.” We must continue the struggle, doing our part, to purge from ourselves that which is Death, do so by both will and discipline, by our surrender to The Will for us, against the odds, against the tide, against the powers of darkness and perhaps more than any other thing against our own unnatural Self.
And thereby we are becoming younger and younger, to be by the grace of God eventually as young as is our great Heavenly Father. Youth, vitality, health and wholeness, are the earmarks of Life in this world and age—they are the great Ideal, eternally perfected in God. Unto us a Child was born, Who grew to manhood yet remained the Child in heart; He is like His Father and ours, we are the Children of our Father, called to His Childlikeness, to be one day come into our full Adulthood as sons and daughters, totally transformed, into that Adult-Childhood which is His. We now are familiar with the phrase “young at heart;” in that great coming Day we shall truly be young in heart, and in every way. And little by little we are even now being changed into the likeness of Christ, therefore becoming young, our growing youth destined to be fully joined, seamlessly, for each of us to become utterly one with that Youth which is God's present, abiding, unalterable, state of Being.
Self: The Enemy of Life
by Dave Roney
How often our Lord said both what a thing is and what it is not, using contrast as liberally as He did comparison. The verse before us is no exception; though we are familiar with that part of it quoted concerning the “abundant life,” how much thought do we give to its counterpart; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy?” It is first said that this “thief” would do this, then the Lord says He would provide the Life. By “I came” He identifies Himself specifically; concerning the “thieves and robbers” (see 10:8) he is unspecific; we may assume it to be Satan, but He does not restrict the thief to any particular wrongdoer; the fact that it is in the plural, “thieves” and “robbers,” indicates more than a single felon is in His view. If that is the case, of whom does He speak? His reference is to “the world, the flesh, and the Devil,” so including any and all things which would usurp His rightful place?
Of these three I would now, in view of the daily reading, turn my attention to that usurper who is the “the flesh,” for this speaks of the Self, each person individually; in the reading is the contrast found between the man who “loves his fellow” and “he whose endeavor is to exalt himself above him,” and the man who “longs for praise” over against “the man to whom God is all in all.” If I am the one who exalts myself, who longs for the praise of men, then I have met the enemy and it is me; I am the thief!
If my focus is turned inward on my old miserable Self, who is it that I first rob? Is it not my own miserable Self—am I not the making of my misery? It is not God, Who cannot be robbed; it is Me. What does a man rob himself of? Is it not his peace, his joy, his true-son relationship with God? What of neighbor? By Self-exalting I am debasing him; if I expect or demand praise for myself, what room is left to approve him? But if I rob myself, what is the most precious treasure I can steal? It is my life itself, plundering its goods and then, in desperation, perhaps by the ending of my own life.
Sometimes a man can be his own worst enemy, in which case and if he be honest, he would say to himself; “I have met the enemy and it is me!”
As I wrote this, a man of my acquaintance who had previously attempted to hang himself while in jail is now more miserable than before; I cannot help him because he will not receive my help; “The help you think you need I cannot give; the help I know you need, you will not receive.” So utterly self-absorbed is this man that he informed me he is going to hang himself again. To him I said “You are contemplating suicide because of your despair,” and he replied (his very words) “Yes, I am despairing my life!” How would you answer a man in this condition? In my own words I said to him what MacDonald said to us in this reading:
“When most suppressed, when most weary of life, as our unbelief would phrase it, let us bethink ourselves that it is in truth the inroad and presence of death we are weary of.”
In other words, said I, “You are not despairing of life; the problem is that you need more life and do not see how you can get the life you must have in order to live; for without more of life than you possess, living can become impossible; death can appear to be a better, a final option, a way out.” This man, in denying the Truth, has deceived himself; what he mistook for life was only the shadow of life, a living death. He, through compounded misery, has met his enemy and it is himself—yet he has not suffered enough yet to know it true. It is not Satan, nor the world, not God, but his own miserable Self.
I prayed for him; “Father, the cause of his misery is his dross; let your Consuming Fire continue to do its work of love and grace in him, either in this life or if necessary in the next, to burn Self out of him and bring this errant Prodigal-child to your great Heart. For only when his Self dies will he become his true self, Your own self-child. Only then will he discover the peace and joy which, without You, has ever eluded him.” This is the best I can pray for such a man. I cannot pray that God would, in his present spiritual darkness, relieve him of his misery (which is his desire) because, thus far and as bad as his life is, the misery has not been sufficient to drive him to his Father (which is my desire for him).
At the moment this fellow despises me because he thinks he needs money and I have withheld it, and he despises God because he thinks he needs peace, joy, success and the things of the world, without submitting to the Divine requirement of an inner change, and God is withholding these things from him. He will continue to despise the Good until he learns to despise himself; I pray God, and know, that He will use the evil in my friend to bring about the Good. Then will he know, as I and so many others have found, that “He has the victory who, in the midst of pain and weakness, cries out, not for death, not for the repose of forgetfulness [as though by some soul-sleeping death], but for strength to fight.” And any such strength rises out of the heart of God, our Friend and no enemy to us.
And in conclusion to this reading, GMD says; “It is the life in us that is discontented; we need more discontentment, not more of the cause of its discontent...”
“I am hurt, but I am not slain;
I'll lay me down and bleed awhile,
And then I'll rise and fight again.”
Andrew Barton, 1466-1511, High Admiral of the Kingdom of Scotland