Thursday, October 20, 2005

On New Life

I just discovered an insightful passage about new life in Christ and his Spirit. It is taken from The Life of the Soul, by Samuel Howard Miller. I found it on the Bruderhof site: I think most of us can see ourselves somewhere in the following reflection and can use a shot of renewing hope.

“It is the rare person who, looking back over his life and seeing what he has done to it, hasn't sighed for a chance to redeem what he has cheaply used or carelessly ruined. If only somehow, somewhere, there was a way to live again the days we have darkened with our blind haste—the innumerable occasions when our indifference trod on all the pearls of God’s graciousness: the times when our pride, or our fear, or our meanness poured the acid of contempt over the fair countenance of another’s soul! …It is not that we futilely ask to be born at the beginning again, but rather that now being what we are, we are ill content to go on in the same way. The past is past, and we know it. It cannot be broken or re-made. There is no way back…

“All of us carry in us devils that came to us in the other days, quietly and slowly at first, with courtesy and bright wit and enticing manners. Here in these hearts are the compromises we lightly made with the world. Here in these hearts are the entanglements by which we have entered into social fellowship and became known by our fellows; all our opinions, our class or our set, our position or our profession or our reputation, everything which others have known or know about us, which they say or think we are. All these things are like stakes driven deeply into the earth and to which we have been tied. Here in these hearts are the ruts—ruts made by knowledge as well as ignorance, ruts of presumption, of hesitancy, of selfish security and cowardly fear, of pride and lust: deep, deep ruts made by half-truths and half-lies, half-free and half-slave, half-life and half-death. This is the tangled network of all that we have ever thought or done in which the new life digs deeper the old ways.

“We rise each day with new and courageous impulses, we daringly aim at the nobler and more generous existence, we put all our energy back of it—and then scarcely has it been moved when with a sickening thud it falls back into the well-worn rut of our habitual way of doing things. Our life is so cut and scarred with what has gone before that it is difficult to move without falling to our accustomed level.

“What we want is…to start now with a completely new life, free of the burden of the cursed giant of the past who towers above us; to begin a new life unhindered by the weight of all the acts and thoughts piled upon our backs by the years… What is impossible with man is possible with God. All one can say is that these things happen, men are reborn, decisive changes are made and souls enter new life. Men, in short, become new creations. The stakes are pulled up, the compromises repudiated, the entanglements thrown off, the devils driven out, reputation denied, and with a leap life is started on a new level… It is then that the soul rises in its own right and declares its absolute need of a new relationship unhindered by all that has gone before. To put it briefly, there must be a beginning somewhere, when the soul with revolutionary decisiveness turns its attention to and places its interest in things of the spirit…

“It is not enough to be born of the flesh, for that is to be born to die. To fulfil our destiny we must also be born of the spirit, for that is to live eternally. To live carnally, then, is to live in death every day. To live carnally is not only to live coarsely or lustfully or vulgarly. Carnal living is often the most respectable. It seeks only appearance, reputation, traditions, and what men usually call happiness. To live spiritually is…to be conscious of the eternal stream of creation in God; and to know that there is no satisfaction of human thirst outside of it.

“Sooner or later, the yes or no must be given. Man must have his treasure either here or there, he will serve mammon or God, either or, but never both. Once the decision is made, the travails suffered, the new life entered, then the years may be full of creative occasions. And these shall come again and again, as long he has continuing faith.”