Why do what God wants? An attempt at Translation.
"Loving God" is not about belief in some set of propositions. It's about living right. Not living right to be good enough for "God," but as a response... as a thanksgiving for life. It's about treating the creation well; people, plants, animals, rivers, the air the earth and the sea. "Faith," in a Christian context, is acting on the trust that the stories of Jesus point us to "God" and to "what God wants."
The stories about Jesus show a way to live well and human-ly. "He" shows a way to grow beyond the animal, and a way of defeating despair in an age that struggles to see a reason to live. We see in him joy, compassion, love and respect. There is no other way to live well (whether we use Jesus as a guide, or some other.)
Joy, compassion, love and respect are not side issues. They are THE issues. We are not to be a business woman who is compassionate. We are to be a compassionate person who is a business woman. We are to be a joyful person who is a business woman. If we put the business first it will always mar our joy.
Joy, compassion, love and respect are some of the key boundary markers of life. They are qualities and ideals that guide us away from despair and ruin. They are an armour that protects us, and an energy that pulls us through the horrors of life. They are pointers toward humanity away from sheer brutality and animalist.
Joy is the experience of the pleasure of creation, whether it be in food, or sex, the sunrise, or watching a cat play. Joy is a simple thing- childlike. We see it in the pleasure of a child at some simple thing, secure in the knowledge of her safety, and knowing that mummy and the whole world are their for her. We lose this first joy, of course, in our growing realisation of the horrors of the world, and our unavoidable complicity in some of them. Childish pleasures are lost if we are ever to grow up.
Real joy is a post-horror-and-despair rediscovery of child-like pleasures in the midst of brutal reality. Joy is in the adult who can stop and play with her cat, and smile a moment at his antics, on the same day she goes to her mother's funeral.
Joy is a gift It is all around. Yet we must give it time. We must be still and observant. Happiness, and then joy, do not come from finding or doing more. They are re-discovered when we clean away some of the clutter, and be and do with less.
Joy is a cultivated determination to feel the pleasures of life, despite the calls of duty and compassion. There is a balance to find here Cultivation of joy prepares the mind for glimpses of the divine. Joy leads to Joy. It is no mere chance thing.
Compassion protects joy from becoming selfish.
Compassion means to feel the feeling of others. It is first of all to understand as them- to stand under their experience and see why and how and who they are. The biblical word for compassion is mercy. It derives from womb and has the taste about it of the care and understanding of the womb mother for her child.
Jesus put mercy before law. God desires mercy, not the sacrifice of the law, he said.
Compassion gives entry into some of the joys of others. Just as it is more blessed to give than receive, so it is more blessed to help than be helped.
Compassion humanises our ability to feel. It takes our feelings beyond ourselves. Fear, rage, hunger, raw pleasure- all animals know these. Compassion knows there is an-other.
Compassion is the great healer of relationships. Not judging, but simply standing under, it understands. Out of compassion flows forgiveness and healing. Compassion can free us from the bonds of anger and resentment so that we may know joy. It resurrects love and respect, or brings them into being for the first time.
Respect is an integral part of the fabric of love. I tease it out of the cloth here to address our confusions. We confuse love with romance and sentimentality and infatuation. Parental love often loses the ability to discipline and discern, and so becomes less than love. Also we are not used to the term love with respect to land and sea. We do understand the idea of respect for our environment.
Respect does quality control on our compassion. It curtails gossip. It questions our own motives, our voyeurism, our own need for fulfilment masquerading as compassion. It cuts our superiority down to size- our listening to the pain and failings of another is no reason to feel superior. Respect remembers our own failings.
Respect forbids contempt. It forbids something that has begun as compassion from losing its humanity. Respect pulls us into line and reminds us of who we are, and of our calling, when there is a plea for compassion we wish to ignore. It too is a call to humanity out of sheer animal survival and superiority.
Respect is what is missing in the thread-bare love of so many churches... churches who profess God's love for the people around them- who claim to want the best for these people- but also have no respect and often despise those unlike themselves. Respect dignifies the humanity of others. It prevents love being mere words.
In the face of despair there is, finally, only humanity. Without humanity there is only brute survival, and no real reason to avoid final solutions and pogroms, let alone the torture of Australian detention centres, if they should serve our immediate advantage.
The delight in the first peach on the tree... the soul remedy of an old cat who settles down on my chest as I lie sad in bed... the endless depth looking up into the branches of a great tree in the park... what joy are these things if there is no one to tell?.
Some things will remain untold or untellable, but the people- the other souls- and the great mercy of knowing and being known- these complete the circle back to joy. Without the other people, childlike joy is a foolish simplisticism which has no answer to the poison of despair's "so what." Love of people delivers joy from narcissism and self indulgence. Love answers the "so what" with "because," and it is enough.
Joy and love: inarticulate, fragile, searching and ephemeral, but able to be found again. They bring us back to God- the Divine somewhere among us and beyond us. It is a mystery- mostly known to us in its absence and in our longings... and in the deep cries of sexual desire, the longings of love and the hopes of adventure.
But in that known absence and the short glimpses through love and joy, there is something of Worth. There is a Point, a Reason. In the practise of joy and the loving of people we move towards this God. This is my faith. This is why I "do what God wants."
Posted January 11 2004
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