Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What is progress?

I don't want my faith to be founded upon experiences. If I were to sum up the general trajectory that I think God puts us on, I would say that he is fashioning us into beings that know Him completely enough to not need intense experiences to know Him. When I think of many people whom I consider prominent spiritual figures in my own life (St. Francis of Assisi, Mother Teresa, Richard Foster, Oswald Chambers,) they all experienced a certain silence from God that increased as they moved along in their spiritual journey. I believe this is a part of what Paul meant when he called himself "the greatest of all sinners," not merely trying to emphasize his humanity, but revealing what true growth is with God -- that is, characterized by silence. Human relationships move towards this as well, as the people who truly know each other don't need to say anything. This is similar to my thoughts on lowness during my last post. It's so hard to become truly insignificant. Alec put it well in relating it to James, that we should rejoice in suffering, because then God is making progress with us.
I am not implying that God neither shapes us nor reveals Himself to us through intense experiences; indeed, He does for me, and when I think of just how hard this would be, it's pretty scary. However, I hope that I can someday I can take God's silence in exactly the same way I take his intensity.

Thursday, April 24, 2008


Two nights ago, I shaved my face for the first time in almost six months. I had finally gotten sick of my facial hair becoming a new form of doodling within class. Prior to this particular beard, I believe my record sat somewhere in the 3.5 month vicinity. However, as some know, I didn't shave off the whole thing. I left a grotesque combination of a soul patch (I put the soul in soul patch,) a Fu Man Chu (I put the man in Fu Man Chu,) and large, braidable (we tried it) mutton chops (I took the mutton out of mutton chops, cuz im a veggieterrian, c boi?) I always enjoy doing this, because it's sort of like Halloween, except you're the only one dressed up. I had every intention of using Thomas Castle's mustache wax the next day, milking my comedic material for all its worth.
Then, I went to group. Believe it or not, this was my first time at group, my absence up to this point being mostly a consequence of some seeds of snobbery that still have yet to be rooted out. For the most part, I enjoyed the whole thing. I would have liked it more had the Scripture not been explained, because though the music was better than I expected and the passages they chose spoke to me, the way in which they had to give an inadequate explanation of the passage afterward only served to distract me, as it didn't really let the passage speak for itself. On the whole, however, it was worthwhile and I plan to attend at least more regularly.
However, that's not really the point. While I was there, I remembered something I said in passing to a friend of mine. For some reason, he was talking about his struggles with vanity, and how he was trying to work on that. To this I said semi-jokingly that I "struggle" (quotes implied in my sarcasm at the time) far more with reverse vanity. That is to say, I pride myself on being somebody who never buys new clothes, whose cell phone doesn't have a camera, who isn't a germaphobe, and who lets himself smell every once in a while, whether from a lack of shampoo or a lack of laundry (both of which stem from laziness just as much as intention, honestly.) While I had meant it to some extent, I didn't really take it too seriously. Then, while I sat with my facial hair, the attraction of the day for many people, I thought seriously about the reasons for why I do some of these things. They aren't all for attention. In fact, all of the things I mentioned above are rooted in something I believe and take seriously. However, there is a strange sort of flaunting that I can easily tag on, as if to say "look at me, I'm so selfless and not centered on material things, what up!" I really don't want to be that sort of person. It made me think a lot about when Jesus said to only boast in Him, and not in anything else, even good things. It's so hard to understand what the lowness God calls us to really looks like, because lowness with a trumpet or a sombre face is not real humility.