There are times as I go through my day that the thought occurs to me, "This is my life. This is me living my life." As if I sort of lean back and see that I'm looking through the eyes of a mask at the action going on around me, at the movie that is playing out before me. I mentally "switch cameras" and see myself from the outside, walking down the sidewalk, shoulders slumped against the cold, holding my coffee cup in front of me like a talisman warding off evil. And then I remind myself that it's not a movie, that it is my reality, and at that moment I fall back into the patterns of thinking about other random stuff. I stop noticing my own existence, and go on with my day.
Every once in a while, things take on a sudden sense of unreality for me. I can't explain it well enough, but it just seems that once in a while, the edges blur, the costume hangs crookedly, and things feel "off" for a few seconds.
Okay, I'll dispense with the "Matrix"-like preamble and get to my point (hopefully).
So much of my life is spent doing stuff that doesn't matter. I think that's true for everyone. Much--most--of what people do, aside from a very select few, doesn't matter. It doesn't last. It's like we revel in distraction. I think this is because we all, each of us, know what really matters, and we just can't handle it. To paraphrase those British sages: it's all too much for us to take.
Approaching the idea from a Christian perspective: As a believer, I affirm the existence of the Triune God, the Lordship of Christ, the work of the Holy Spirit through the ministry of the Church, the eventual resurrection of the dead, and the end of time that will usher in the dawn of eternity. I believe these things are real and true. But the implications of these beliefs should drastically impact my life in ways that they aren't now doing.
A belief in eternity should set the events of this life in dramatic contrast. If I really believe that the permanent destination of each person's ever-living soul depends on their actions and affirmations in this lifetime, it would and should behoove me to spend every moment of every day making the case to all of humanity for reconciliation with God. It should become my all-consuming passion, my untiring obsession. If I really thought it mattered, it would supercede everything else in my mind and become the focus of my waking life.
But it doesn't. I work. I play video games. I watch baseball and football. I read fiction. I rent movies. I spend time with my family. I do fun things. Very little of my life is devoted toward the thing I claim to be truer and longer-lasting than the rest.
While much of the reason for this can be attributed to weakness, laziness, or fear, I think part of the reason I fill my life with distracting trifles is that carrying the notion of eternity around too long becomes almost too much to bear. Same thing with being burdened by the suffering of the world, and the sorrowful people in it. Geez, just thinking too much about the plight of the homeless in my fair city. The more I dwell on it, the more I try to care, the darker and heavier my heart becomes.
I am not a sin-eater. I am not the world's one saviour.
And it's a good thing, too, because I'd be lousy at it.
I think this just makes me marvel all the more at the work of Christ. He came, fully comprehending and carrying the weight of eternity, lived on this earth, and lived full of compassion as he reached out to heal and help the wearied, troubled people around him. Then he carried the weight of the world's darkness upon himself, and suffered and died and buried it in his tomb before rising again triumphant over it. He had to have been as much fully God as fully man, because man alone couldn't have done that.
I can't do it. I can't live every day full of compassion. It's too much. I can't bear it. I'm selfish and weak and fearful.
So I distract myself, quite a bit actually. I fill my time with other things, so that I don't spend all day thinking of all the torments and trials of the people around me, nor of the heaven or hell that awaits each person.
I don't know what I'm trying to say here. I don't even know if I have a point.
I want to be like Christ, constantly giving, full of compassion and driven to minister to others. I want to spend my life doing things that are real and that have weight. Things that last. I'm not doing that--not enough, anyway.
One of my friends from church sat down to dinner with me last week, and he told me over and over again how much it's meant to him to have me as a Bible study leader at church. That what I've been teaching has impacted his life in a big way.
But I couldn't even feel encouragement from that kind word. All I felt as he said that was discomfort and shame.
I wanted to say to him, "I'm not doing anything. If you are gaining any benefit from it, it's God's work in you, not mine. I'm nothing. I don't care enough, and I don't love enough. I didn't even want to meet with you today, but I'm here because I feel I'm supposed to be here. I am so self-involved. I contemplated quitting the teaching thing last week, not because God's direction in my life has changed but because I just didn't want to expend the effort any more. My heart and my life have become so shallow and inward-focused that I don't deserve any thanks. If I said something in class that meant something to you, it was at worst a divine accident, and at best a mercy of God. Every week, I approach teaching feeling more and more unworthy and empty, and instead of pursuing God and His kingdom and His righteousness, I pursue entertainments and distractions that steal my time and my focus. I'm entrenched in so much sin and useless striving that I can barely find my way out again. You come to me because you think I'm some spiritual leader or because I'll know the right words to say. I know nothing. I'm God's idiot-child, who benefits from his overwhelming mercy. I have nothing to give you. I'm sorry I haven't cared for you enough, or loved you enough, or concerned myself with what's going on in your life. I've been afraid. Afraid of opening up, afraid of reaching out, afraid that if I try to be your friend and brother, I would have to really invest myself and open myself up and be vulnerable and honest with you. I can't even be honest with myself sometimes. And if I started reaching out to people and being honest, I'm afraid I'd be revealed for the fraud that I am. And that terrifies me."
But I didn't say that. I just nodded, and sipped my root beer.
Am I being too hard on myself? Maybe. It's a Wednesday. That's always a good day for it.
Maybe I just need to get this out of my system.
What it boils down to is: I keep butting up against my own worldliness. There's a throwback term for ya: worldliness. But I've become so focused on the things that are even now passing away, because I'm afraid of the things that last. I'm afraid of being found lacking by He who judges justly. Of having the whole of my deeds consumed in fire like so much wood, hay, and stubble, and finding only a small handful of precious stones buried under truckloads of ash.
And the worst part of it all is that deep down, I don't know if I really want to change or if I just want to be told that I'm just fine as I am. I'm the textbook definition of a double-minded man.
If you're so inclined, I'd appreciate your prayers. However, just in case all I want is affirmation, I'm closing the comments on this one. Just think it to yourself, and then let it pass. Thanks.