In out last blog we talked about the story of eternity -- The narrative of Father Son and Holy Ghost and how in their great love there was an overflow. His holy family expanded and became us. As this story including the tragedy of our prodigal lives unfolded God reached out and finding human voices he engaged us to explain the story. He even wrote to us to help us understand our reality. Many of us, however, have lost context to understand our world. Most of us know it only by our experiences or the narrow dictates of our subcultures. Perhaps the lucky ones may have a sense of history or knowledge of science, but these do not comfort us well. Despite life and education, a disconnect exists between the original context of the best ideas in the world and our experience of them. These include love, truth, and beauty; virtue and grace. Other philosophical words like relationship, faith, religion, hope, or joy are taught us by our culture yet they seem to float through our collective consciousness like greeting card slogans: quaint but without depth of meaning.
It is interesting that the concepts which most transcend us both either to unite or divide us are the ones that we deeply personalize. We often hide them away, locked in our souls, unless birth, death, trauma or falling in love drags them out of us. We staring inward look to our own understanding of the deep things of life and apply them with the limitation of our own experience. If we go to the old, who have lived more than few decades on this planet, their philosophies either trend toward bitterness or love. Let us assume for a moment that being old and bitter does no one any terrible good, then we can focus on the love. The regrets the aged will espouse are never, “ I wish I could have bought that third condo…” but tend toward, “ I wish I had spent more time with my kids…” or “ I wish I would not have given up on that marriage…” If we listen to them we learn that there are ideas, truths that remain, and which the enlightened would pursue before old age and death overtake them. Though we die, the next generation speaks the same testimony.
I believe that these ‘best things’ arise during our worst and greatest moments because they are not personal, not hidden, at least not exclusively. They are within us, tied to the substance of our souls; but they are also outside us and help to define us. Love, beauty, Truth, hope….these have a density to them, like bed rock, and our feet search for them during the upheaval in our lives. They remain present and faithful to catch our feet because they do not depend on us to exist. How we feel about them, or how we were taught them cannot change what they are. Our perspectives change only how we relate to them. Truth and Faith will remain warm and bright even when we are at our most morose. They will whisper comfort even when we will not hear. Like monuments they remain beyond us, truly transcendent. They do so because they are imbued with a life that came before us.
All of the very best in life flows from that first story. Love and Joy were built into the world before humanity was. They existed, defined by the heart of God. When we were born, we did not step into a vacuum, but into a world in relationship. Our first and most definitive context is the best of all things: God’s love and relationship in Himself, overflowing to us. Virtues and graces, life and love all have a context that informs what these words mean and how we engage them in a healthy way. The easiest example is that of love. Wonderful, glorious and good, but love leaves and relationships disappoint. We try and wrap our mind around the pain. We grieve. We sometimes harden our hearts or lower our expectations. We try to make sense of these things inside our own heads and are left with wounds that don’t fully heal. What if….? What if there was a different strategy? What if love can be known differently then how my parents modeled it or my significant other demands it. What if we could reach outside ourselves and experience love the way God defines it -- A love that has more than enough and that overflows to bring life in other people. How do we step outside our experiences and find this original context for our feet to rest on. Perhaps best of all how can we build on that context – a sure foundation? So that when life gets intense, we can respond well, full of good things as opposed to only fumbling through. Now a little wiser, but still mouthing regret in our senescence.
Love, Virtue, Hope and Faith: it is truly a worthy journey to find the full meaning of these things. Let us then push the limits of our opinions and judgments which have been cheapened by our culture, and rather touch the source from whence these come. Lord I repent for living from the dogma of my mind -- The meanings I have foolishly made for myself for love, or hope or truth. I pray embolden our hearts to let go of distraction, empty philosophy and shallow religion and look past our base experiences, guided by your prevenient grace. Teach us what even this word grace means, Lord, and how much more your love.