Abiding in Christ the Vine, and obeying Christ our Shepherd, seem such obviously good ideas that I had to ask myself, this morning, why we don’t always, all of us, obey and abide. Looking into my own heart, as I rode the bus to work, I saw a number of contrary tendencies that I’ve learned to call laziness, and fear, and resentment, and desire, all swimming around in a dark pool of ignorance.
The ignorance, it seems, we humans mostly can’t help, but there are some bits of ancient wisdom that suggest that we often choose to make ourselves more ignorant than we already were, driving out the possibility of faith. My memories of my youth as a teen-aged shoplifter, poseur and chronic liar tend to support them. Bad moral choices dumb us down; or, ask for darkness to cover your selfish misdeeds and you’ll get darkness. The Yoga Sutras (2:34) warn that sins such as harming others “bear fruit in endless suffering and ignorance” (emphasis mine – je). Jesus teaches Nicodemus that “men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” (John 3:19-20.) Paul writes of God’s creatures turning away from their primordial knowledge of God “because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God… but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.” (Romans 1:21-22.) The Bhagavad-Gita (18:22) speaks of people whose nature is “darkness” (tamas) as clinging obstinately to a false knowledge that takes the part to be the whole, denying the rest of reality. The literature of modern psychology is full of observations about repression, denial, and the many ways we protect ourselves from the truth. I find myself wondering whether it’s my addictive delight in having a will independent of God’s – my sinfulness, some would call it – that keeps me from the delight of unbroken and infinite knowledge of God that I know I was made for. “I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness.” (Psalm 17:15.)
This ignorance (avidya), the Yoga Sutras assert (2:3-4), provides the “field” for all the other afflictions that taint consciousness: self-regard, attachment, aversion, and clinging to the mortal body. Here are the “laziness, and fear, and resentment, and desire” that I found on my morning bus ride, the things that would pull me away from Christ my Guide.
I watched an episode on “The Simpsons” some years ago, in which the foolish Homer Simpson “got religion” and kept praying, as he followed his own impulses, “if this is Your will, Lord, send no sign.” How we dread getting a “sign” that would send us on a mission that risks pain and death! (As if we could avoid them.) And yet my experience has shown me, time after time, that when the Lord requires me to do something, He always provides the courage, or patience, or wisdom, or whatever I need, to get it done! Why fear pain when He will give me the strength to bear it?