Struggling To Satisfy
Will our culture ever get enough? Intent on nothing else but the next conquest, the next fix, the next, the next, the next; we forget to stop and follow the river shallows to the stillness of the deeper waters. It is only in stillness that we can ‘know’; it is only in quiet times of reflection that we can see that our constant rush to ‘do’ rather than to ‘be’ is killing us.
I want to pour into something other than the melodrama this culture has to offer. I want to bend my mind around something that is bigger than the plasma screen in front of me; something deeper than the blogs I can’t seem to keep up with. I want a place—a place culture refuses to take me—a place as still and as frightening as Gethsemane—a place as tender as the bloody sweat of Christ.
Thomas Á Kempis wrote, in The Imitation of Christ, that “If thou wilt make ready for Him in thy heart a dwelling-place, that is all He desireth to have in thee, and there it is His pleasure to be.” If I sit and think about it for any length of time, I realize that I haven’t much room in my heart for Him to dwell. What with all the chasing to and fro in my mind, in my schedule, and in my life?
The tragedy of our culture is that man thinks in order to satisfy his soul he must accumulate things like wealth, possessions, information and power. Believers in Christ are no different. We are so busy pursuing the trappings of a dying world that we need to wear bracelets to remind us to do things that Jesus would do. Perhaps instead of hoping we make the right decisions when the time comes we should be doing what it takes each day to not just react how Jesus would react, but live as he lived. The life of Christ is marked by a consistent regimen of silent retreat, contemplation, communion with God and reflection.
Calling All Mystics
For some reason the mystical side to our faith has been replaced by a feel good mentality that allows for cultural imbibing and very little reflection. As long as we are punching our spiritual time cards on Sundays and group night then we are fine. As he laments the loss of the Christian mystic in The Relentless Tenderness of Jesus, Brennan Manning redirects our thinking as to what true Christian mysticism is: “A mystic is aglow with the passionate longing for Jesus Christ, who is sought, loved and worshipped for Himself alone. A mystic is a person whose life is ruled by thirst.”
Our thirst for God should drive us to Him. Our culture is antithetical to silence and reflection, thus resulting in a sea of people who cannot even hear their own hearts quaking beneath all the garbage that culture heaps on it. We must become less driven to produce and more driven to drink in Christ.
The Greater Light
Our culture is constantly plugged in. However, Christ consistently unplugged himself so that he could be away from the crowds, away from the frenzied rodeo of culture and in communion with his Father. Because we tend to be more reactive as a culture we struggle to find balance in life.
I know it may be hard, but think way back to the movie Karate Kid. Mr. Miyagi takes young Daniel down to the ocean so he can learn to kick while being pummeled by the ocean. “Must learn balance!” Daniel-son was forced to face the crashing waves while remaining disciplined in order to fight. If Daniel could find the strength to stand and fight the waves, he would have no problem finding his balance when he needed it when facing an opponent.
Extremes look good and make us feel like we are on the cutting edge, when really it is just the easy way out. Anyone can react; few can find the balance available through a disciplined life of quiet reflection.
In The Last Samurai, Captain Algren (Tom Cruise) comments in his journal about what it is to be Samurai: “What does it mean to be Samurai;to devote yourself utterly to a set of moral principles, to seek a stillness of your mind, and to master the way of the sword?” He finds it interesting that the word Samurai means, “to serve.” Algren comments further that “they (the Samurai people) devote themselves to the perfection of whatever they pursue.” This kind of life, devotion and discipline seems forever away from our culture.
Captain Algren determines to learn the sword. However, he is quickly beaten while sparring. Katsumoto’s son tells Algren that he has, “Too many mind. Mind the sword, mind the people watching, mind the enemy … too many mind. No mind.” In our ADHD culture we bounce from television, to club, to church, to theatre, to Internet, perpetuating a disease that we have created. We need to have “no mind.” We need to be more focused on our passions, our faith and devotion.
I had a professor once who really challenged the class to take the time to reflect on what we were reading, and let it permeate our thoughts. And so it should be with our relationship to Christ. When we focus on a passage of scripture or an attribute of God we are bending his light—we reflect on God, so that we can reflect God.
I used to love tubing on rivers and creeks. But in the summer months it seemed like we were constantly picking our tubes up and walking through the shallow water, seeking deeper water. There is something about deeper water; it is almost ominous.
Deep water allows you to recover from the rapids and relax in the sunshine and quietness, allowing the other sounds of the wilderness to filter in. Depth equals stillness. In order to find spiritual depth we must take time to be still and reflect on the wonder and majesty of God.
The shallows are similar to our culture: We are constantly walking with our tubes to find the next set of rapids. We are programmed by the speed of culture to get what we want when we want it. The postmodern mind has become a sea of information on every subject imaginable, and in the process has sacrificed the depth that comes from the disciplined pursuit of our passions.
To form an image of an object, to throw or bend back, this is what happens when light is reflected. It bends in the other direction. What would happen if we focused on bending our minds around the magnificence of Christ? Perhaps we would begin to bend.
Frederick Buechner says that we are less alive as human beings when we do not allow times of silence in our lives. If we do not go to the well of the deep, we will forever be lost, splashing around the shallow waters of nonchalance.