March 2009


Among my friends, I am known for my lack of driving skills. It’s not a reputation I ever try to rebut. I admit it. I am not a good driver. But if there’s one thing I do right when I drive, it’s my obedience of traffic laws. I stop at all stop signs, I yield when I’m supposed and I always signal before I switch lanes. Except when I drive into the city where my law school is located. With a reputation for being a fairly dangerous and lawless city where the police have bigger fish to fry than those disobeying traffic laws, I find myself treating red lights as mere suggestions to stop. I go 55 miles-per-hour in a zone with 25 miles-per-hour speed limit. And I rarely ever signal.

The state of lawlessness around me makes it much easier for me to break laws I would never break otherwise. St. Paul honed in on this point in his epistle to the Romans when he wrote, “I speak in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh. For just as you presented your members as slaves of uncleanness, and of lawlessness leading to more lawlessness…”

Lawlessness leads to more lawlessness. It’s much easier to cheat, lie, and steal when everyone else is cheating, lying, and stealing. And this is the problem that arises when we begin to set the bar for comparison at our surroundings. The world is full of lawlessness and if the world is the standard we aspire to reach then we set ourselves on a downward spiral. But we are called to perfection and holiness just as our Father in heaven is perfect and Holy. The bar must be set high so that we may continue to reach toward Him at all times.

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When faced with a hard decision, we all have our own ways of making the judgment call. Some make lists of pros and cons, others seek the advice of those they trust, others just flip a coin. But what about when the decision is something bigger than which school to go to, which car to buy, which job to take. All seemingly very imposing, life-altering decisions, but what about those bigger decisions? Those life or death decisions we all make on a daily basis. Don’t think you’re faced with life or death decisions on a daily basis? Well think again; you are. Your life constantly hangs in the air based on which way you decide to go.

“Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Romans 6:16)

The question often presents itself: Which way do I want go? Do I do the right thing or let it go this one time? And what happens when I let it go that one time? Will I let it go again? Will one lie lead to another? Will one angry comment produce rampant hatred?

We are given the answer… when we follow the path sin, we are led to death. Sin is a slippery slope where the decision to sin just once will numb the conscience just a bit so it’s easier to make the decision to sin the next time we are presented with it. Lie once, then lie again, then find yourself unable to tell the truth, and you have arrived at death’s door.

When conceptualized in this manner, sin and decision-making can be overwhelming and that’s why it must be broken down moment by moment. Every time we face a sin, we must face as if we were facing it for the first time. Each “no” must be emphatic and strong because every time we decide to sin we decide to die. Every time we resist sin, we choose to live. It is that simple and clear-cut.

…And all the single men and those who are taken and those who are married and those who wish to marry and those who are widowed and those who do not wish to marry… There is only One who sees you as a lily among the thorns. There is only One who appreciates your beauty and values it above His own life. Find Him. Love Him. Your soul will find peace.

“Like a lily among thorns, so is my love among the daughters.”

 The LORD is my shepherd;
         I shall not want.
 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
         He leads me beside the still waters.
 He restores my soul;
         He leads me in the paths of righteousness
         For His name’s sake.
 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
         I will fear no evil;
         For You are with me;
         Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
         You anoint my head with oil;
         My cup runs over.
 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
         All the days of my life;
         And I will dwell in the house of the LORD
         Forever.

- Psalm 23

*******

We are mistaken when we think that the actions or words of men will bring us peace of mind and spirit. The “if he would only…” and the “if she would just answer…” then “I’ll be at peace” are tempting paths to take. Our stormy insides can then be pegged on the actions of another person. That’s the easy way out and a complete dead-end. The harder path, the path to true inner peace, lies in an absolute trust in God… pure faith, nothing less and nothing more. Absolute faith that He will do and does what is best for us. No one else has the very hairs on our heads numbered and not a single one of those hairs falls without His permission. He who cares about the very hairs on on our heads will guard and protect our hearts and provide all good things for us. We must not fear; He is right here standing beside us.

I recently had one of the most seemingly disastrous job interviews I’ve ever been on in my life. When preping for an interview, there are some questions you expect will be asked one of which would be “What is your biggest weakness?” Of course the point is to come up with a weakness that is really a strength in disguise or a weakness that could be spun positively very easily.

I had my “weakness” at the ready so when one of the interviewers asked me to list my three biggest weaknesses, the only thing I could think was “three?!?” So I went with my usual answer, came up with another one on the spot, and when it came to the third not-so-weak-but-actually-a-good-quality “weakness” I went absolutely blank. And the pause that followed was long and painful. In fact, it was a puase so long and so painful that the other interviewer turns and tells me he has another question for me to answer until I could come up with my third “weakness.” I thought I had been relieved of the question that way but after I answered the interim question, they both stared at me and asked for my third “weakness.” And I was still drawing a blank.

In my best effort to salvage the moment all I could muster was, “Well, considering the situation, I’d say my third weakness would be that I can’t always think very quickly on my feet.”

Disaster.

I couldn’t wait to get out of there; the interview couldn’t end soon enough.

Imagine my surprise when two weeks later I got a call telling me that I’d gotten the job. It seems that my perceived absolute blunder demonstrated that I could take a bleak looking situation and make the best out of it. By using my inability to come up with an answer as my answer, I did think on the spot without even realizing it. But it seems my interviewers did.

This reitierated to me something a dear friend had briefly said to me before: It’s all about perspective. Point of view can make or break a moment, a day, a week, a year, a life. St. Paul in his epistle to the Thessalonians tells us to “Rejoice always.” It seems like a fairly difficult direction to follow because bad things happen. But the point is to rejoice during the bad and the good, to cultivate a spirit that does not waver in the face of the ups and the downs. To cultivate a spirit so solidly grounded in God that nothing but rejoicing and joy seems natural. And that’s one of the keys right there–the bad will lose all potency in the face of a joyful spirit and it will be transformed into all that is good simply because we are following His commandment.

My Dear Reader,

It has been a while. But the flow of writing has an peaks and troughs just like any wave would, so I will be back with plenty eventually. And that this is how C.S. Lewis describes our spirituality. He likens it to a sine wave. There are times when we are wholly and entirely motivated and our connection with God comes with ease. Then there are the times when it is a struggle just to crack open the Bible or say the Lord’s Prayer with real zeal and meaning. Danger lies in any complacency we may develop during the spiritual lull. So the key to emerging from the depths lies in the recognition of the trough. Only then can we begin to reach upward and begin the ascent to the peak.

With that said, expect more to be written soon.

With Love,

M.A.R.