Days 6 through 8: No Greater Joy

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I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. – 3 John 4 (AV)

I’m continuing to follow, gratefully, the daily devotionals of Friends United Meeting’s 40 Days of Prayer (see http://www.fum.org), and I hope to keep posting reflections related to them, as time and the motions of the Spirit permit, if – but only if – these prove helpful to others in their devotions.

The theme for Day 6 was about following Christ.  How happy would we be, I think, if we might all follow Christ perfectly and wholeheartedly!  And then my next thought is, Would we really?  Look in a Bible concordance under the word “follow” and check out the contexts in which Jesus spoke about what it means to follow Him:  take up your cross daily.  Sell all you have, and give it to the poor.  The Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.  – Will you really lay down your life for my sake? The cock will not crow till you have denied me three times. Knowing my own weakness and my disinclination to make myself uncomfortable, I can only beg for God’s help to make me and keep me a faithful follower of Christ. But I have to trust that God will.

The theme for Day 7 is “Gathered in Christ as One Who Knows The Truth.”  Oh, dear.  I don’t know the Truth.  If I did, would I feel any need for reference books?  If I did, would my past be so full of errors?  If I did, would I so often feel uncertainty about  how to move forward?  If I did, would I not see God before my face at all times?  But experience has taught me that there is Something within me that does know the Truth, and that I should trust It. 

I looked up the Hebrew emeth and amunah,  the two Biblical words most often rendered as “truth” in our translations (both related to our familiar “amen”), and found that their root meaning seems to be not “existence” or “reality” in any philosophical sense (“what is reality and how can we know it?”) but rather “reliability” or “faithfulness,” something any child can understand: when I ask my father for an egg he will not give me a scorpion.

To walk in the Truth, to speak Truth, to do the works of Truth, means, at minimum, abstention from lying and those grey kinds of lying we call exaggeration, distortion, sugar-coating, b.s.ing, and keeping silent when truth is called for.  A wise Friend recently mentioned that she does not allow herself the use of sarcasm.  Another recently asserted that telling the truth with hurtful intent is bearing false witness.  I’m still digesting that one: it tells me that dealing in Truth requires not only clear eyes and a fair mind but also a pure heart that wishes no one ill.

But even then, we fallen creatures are prone to see a rope in the grass and think “snake.”  We seem to see as through a glass, darkly, for as long as we wear mortal flesh.  Plato likened us to men chained in a cave, able only to see the shadows cast by firelight behind our heads.  Kant concluded that the thing behind the perceptible surface, the Ding an sich, was unknowable; Patanjali, that it was knowable only through feats of sustained, one-pointed yogic concentration.  And I – I want to know my loved ones’ hearts perfectly and have them know mine also – but so often we hurt one another through misunderstanding!

The Bhagavad Gita which, like Parmenides and Plato in the West, teaches that this apparent world of time and change is but seeming,  illusion, māyā, makes a distinction (Bh.G. 18:19 ff.) between three types of knowing, based on the character of the knower.  When the character of the knower is “clarity” (sattva), one sees in all beings one unchanging existence. When one’s character is “passion” (rajas) or “darkness” (tamas), one sees only separateness, and either a war of all against all, or, denying the existence of a great part of reality, one asserts that only a certain part is real.  This reminds me of Jesus’ saying that a good tree can only produce good fruit, and a corrupt tree, evil fruit.  God deliver us all from the all the inner passion, darkness and corruption that keep us unable to know the Truth!

But Jesus has promised us the Spirit of Truth (John 14:17, 16:13), which does, reliably, lead us out of illusion into all Truth, and allows us to hear one another when we speak Truth (1 John 4:6).  By It  we recognize our Shepherd’s voice; by It alone we know to call Jesus Lord; by It we know how to pray rightly.

It happens that I hurt Elizabeth as I was leaving for work this morning, with a reproach that she identified as guilt-provoking.  With my mind’s eye on the relentless clock, I frantically queried my own motives while asking forgiveness and trying to say what I could to comfort my beloved sweetheart.  “Thee had better get to work,” she said at last with the beginning of a smile. “Thee’s  trying to rush out the door and at the same time randomly stick band-aids on me, hoping that one will land on the right spot.”  I laughed.  She laughed.  It was such a brilliant and funny description of what I was doing that we were both cheered up by it: a perfectly placed band-aid over each of our hearts!  I think that even that may have been an intervention by the Spirit of Truth. 

The theme for Day 8 is forgiveness.  How grateful I am for God’s forgiveness!  I take to heart Paul’s advice to consider myself the chief of sinners not merely because Paul advised it, but because I’m daily reminded of things I’ve said and done that I could easily damn myself for and go fleeing into the outer darkness.  But amazingly, God does not damn me.  Once when I was obsessing over some misdeed of long ago during a meeting for worship, I heard His voice call out, “That sin is forgiven. Put it away!”  That experience is enough to make me want to spend the rest of my life advertising God’s mercy wherever I go.

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2 Responses to “Days 6 through 8: No Greater Joy”

  1. R.H. Francis O'Hara Says:

    Gratitude for this flock of Friends drafting for each other and me during this 40 day adventure, al Hamdulilliah.

    As the dervish whirls ,turning and turning she polishes her heart with estaughfurallah, while Quakers have their own unique way to achieve the same destination, al Hamdulilliah !

    Fellow travelers are thee are well hydrated with h2o, in care, francis

    p.s. Like a Friendly (Quaker) Ramadam for this friend is this 40 day gathering.

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