August 24, 2009

Current Read

Been reading Dallas Willard's Hearing God and it goes to the necessity of having an continual personal conversation with God. Willard quotes Brother Lawrence as saying how sweet this constant communication with God is but - BUT! - you can't do it for that motivation. (And, Brother Lawrence reports there was agony in getting to that point of constant communication - a cross before a resurrection.) Lawrence says it has to be because it is what God wants:
"There is not in the world a kind of life more sweet and delightful than that of a continual conversation with God. Those only can comprehend it who practice and experience it,; yet I do not advise you to do it from that motive. It is not pleasure which we ought to seek in this exercise; but let us do it from a principle of love, and because God would have us...
Later he writes:
"Immediately make a holy and firm resolution never more to forget Him. Resolve to spend the rest of your days in His sacred presence, deprived of all consolations for the love of Him if He thinks fit...Be not discouraged by the repugnance which you may find in it from nature. You must sacrifice yourself. At first, one often thinks it is a waste of time. But you must go on and resolve to persevere in it until death, notwithstanding all the difficulties that may occur."
My motivation is often askew and I feel frustration in trying to change it. But then I can give that frustration and sense of powerlessness to God. I can admit my weakness and ever-poor motivations to Him. When I read spiritual books, this is the discouragement I feel whenever I'm told something like "you can't do this for the wrong motivation". Because invariably I think: "but how do I change my motivation?" The answer is not dissimilar to how you forgive someone you can't forgive. You ask God for help and let him do it through you.

Willard writes:
"Second, we may have the wrong motives for seeking to hear from God. We all in some measure share in the general human anxiety about the future. By nature we live in the future, constantly hurled into it whether we like it or not. Knowing what we will meet there is a condition of our being prepared to deal with it - or so it would seem from the human point of view. Francis Bacon's saying that knowledge is power is never more vividly realized than in our concern about our own future. So we ceaselessly inquire about events to come. The great businesses and the halls of government are filled today with experts and technocrats, our modern-day magicians and soothsayers. A new discipline of 'futurology' has recently emerged within universities. The age-old trades of palm reading and fortune telling flourish."
He then mentions how within the Christian community teaching on the will of God and how to know it continues to be one of the most popular subjects. He comments:
"But is not a self-defeating motive at work here - one that causes people to take these classes and workshops over and over without coming to peace about their place in the will of God? I fear that many people seek to hear God solely as a device for securing their own safety, comfort and righteousness. For those who busy themselves to know the will of God, however, it is still true that 'those who want to save their life will lose it' (Mt 16:25). My extreme preoccupation with knowing God's will for me may only indicate, contrary to what is often thought, that I am overconcerned with myself, not a Christlike interest in the well-being of others or in the glory of God."
He goes on to say that another problem is that we often fall into the trap of wanting to become robotic when God desires a relationship: "the sort of relationship suited to friends who are mature personalities in a shared enterprise, no matter how different they may be in other respects." God's not looking for Stepford children. "In close personal relationships conformity to another's wishes is not desirable, be it ever so perfect, if it is mindless or purchased at the expense of freedom and the destruction of personality."

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