Unfit to Worship

by

I woke up from a horrifying dream.

I was in a college library, smoking the stub of a joint in a secluded aisle. Fearing that others might smell marijuana smoke and come looking, I realized that I’d better conceal my little roach in my cupped hand and leave the library quickly. I hurried out the glass doors and onto the deserted twilit lawn. And then I realized that I hadn’t done my morning devotions, but had chosen to blow off greeting my God and Savior, my very Life, so that I could get stoned instead. How remorseful that made me, and how ashamed! And this choice that I’d made was no simple mistake that I could repent and ask forgiveness for, but one that had left me, at least for the moment, unfit to approach God at all, for I had just poisoned my mind with a drug that would leave me incapable of worship or focused concentration of any kind. As despair struck me, I snapped awake.

I won’t waste the reader’s time telling about my college years, now roughly half a century in the past, which provided the symbolic imagery for this dream and taught me the effects of marijuana on my own brain. I’d rather direct the reader’s attention to the outer darkness, where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 8:12, 22:13, 25:30; Luke 13:28; in my dream, the lawn outside the library), and the scriptural warnings against “finding no place of repentance, though we seek it carefully with tears” (Hebrews 12:17; so also in Jesus’ parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31). Shakespeare gives us a memorable portrait of a sinner who kneels, but cannot pray, in King Claudius (Hamlet, III.iii). But perhaps my readers have their own memories of being in such a case. It’s not that God won’t gladly hear prayers from the most hopeless of sinners in the most hopeless of positions! But there are things we do, on our side, to disable our own access to God.

Now I’ve been proclaiming, with joy, a God who forgives everything, heralded by a prophet, God’s unique son Jesus, who forgave even His own murderers, and convincingly claimed that His Heavenly Father was of the same character (John 14:7-11). But I fear I haven’t been paying sufficient attention to the predicament of the soul who puts herself beyond this wonderful universal forgiveness, locks herself out, and throws away the key. God does not damn us; we damn ourselves (John 3:19-20). This is not God’s will for us! God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11); God intends a universal reconciliation (Colossians 1:20)! God’s nature is love (1 John 4:8) and love wishes only good to every being (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Moreover, God tells us (please forgive the masculine pronoun, which I know limits the Limitless One) that there is nothing too hard for Him (Genesis 18:14, Jeremiah 32:27). Jesus tells of the good shepherd’s delight in rescuing the lost sheep (Luke 15:4-7). But God, who created us with freedom of choice, can’t rescue a will that willfully refuses rescue. One must say “yes.” And we have ways of sealing our own mouths so that we can’t say “yes.” Adrienne von Speyr (in The Letter to the Colossians, commenting on Colossians 3:17) observes: “That is the most serious thing about sin: that, once chosen, it remains constant and sticks to the sinner. Unless help comes from outside, from above, unless he receives grace, man cannot get rid of it.”

I held the details of my dream in worship, and the significance of the act of smoking pot in a college library grew on me: what is a college library but a place where a student goes to acquire knowledge for the sake of understanding, and understanding for the sake of wisdom? In its essence it’s a temple for lovers of Wisdom, the bride of Love. But if one loves merely the empty mental pleasures that smoldering cannabis induces, or loves knowledge for purposes contrary to wisdom and love (say, the power to dominate, exploit, impress or seduce people), then one is not only an impostor with no business in the temple of Wisdom but a fire-hazard dangerous to its treasures. They and you don’t belong together. For your own sake it’s best to get out of the treasury of knowledge before the knowledge itself turns hurtful to you, as our misguided civilization is now starting to discover – but that’s another topic.

For the topic at hand is love: we’re given the Great Commandment to love God with all our heart, and our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:37-40), as God loves us. When we love things incompatible with the love of God and the neighbor, like our own pleasure and profit, our own safety, our own preeminence and good name,  or the secret compartment we hide our lies in, then, and to the extent of these loves, we disable our own access to God. What foolishness! And yet we all do it, at least until we ask to have our hearts washed clean of loves for lifeless idols. But that’s the easiest and simplest thing to ask for!

So take this opportunity to pray with me: Lord God, Divine Mother, Higher Power, whatever You wish us to call You, show us the true nature of the objects we’ve given our love to; help us discern rightly what deserves our love, and what does not; give us hearts willing to love the good and the worthy; and then set them on fire with love! This we ask in Jesus’ name, who promised (John 14:14), “If you ask anything in my name, I will do it.” Amen.

 

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

4 Responses to “Unfit to Worship”

  1. treegestalt Says:

    Hmm, my own reactions to pot got quite unpleasant eventually — A sort of “All right, you’ve learned all you can from this and need to move on” message, with Emphasis!
    But I don’t think it necessarily cuts a person off from contact with God; some pretty well-connected people have even described it as ‘a sacrament.’ (Sometimes it’s been like that for me as well — except that I learned pretty painfully that everything that struck me powerfully at the time wasn’t necessarily true. Some were, some weren’t.)
    I don’t think that turning away from pleasure is profitable — but striving to habitually remember God, to let God
    steer-when-we-veer seems more to the point. Can’t be error-proof; can keep alert for correction.
    Not necessarily right about this, but:
    http://www.sneezingflower.blogspot.com/2013/08/how-to-worship-god.html

  2. Matthew Says:

    Hi John,

    Wow, what a beautiful piece.

    I love the line “loves knowledge for purposes contrary to wisdom”.
    Before I found God/Jesus a few months ago I was living life this way. I never really ever thought of articulating it that way though.

    After I get through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John I’m going to spend some time looking contemplating the listed passages.

    Bless,
    Matthew

  3. John Jeremiah Edminster Says:

    Thank you, Matthew! It makes me happy to learn that people are not only reading what I’ve written, but taking encouragement from it.

    I wish you all joy as you get to know Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    If the stories of the healings of Jesus particularly draw you, be aware that studying them is part of the curriculum for membership in the Order of Saint Luke the Physician (http://orderofstluke.org/en/), to which I belong — a body of “clergy, health professionals and lay people who feel called to make Jesus’ Ministry of Healing a regular part of our vocation,” I being one of the lay people. I’ve gotten a lot out of studying those healings. But that’s another conversation.

  4. Eugene M. Riel III Says:

    There is at least one group that thinks weed gets you closer to God – the Rastafari way of life encompasses the spiritual use of cannabis and the rejection of the degenerate society of materialism, oppression, and sensual pleasures, called Babylon. I’ve always felt that weed was a good thing, like any other natural substance, good in balance, bad if overused. Like, recently I really lost my marbles with some medical chocolate – my personality just disintegrated, another great drug experience that scared the livin daylights outa me, but glad I had it. Whatever don’t kill you makes you stronger!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: