Tuesday, March 19, 2013

My FIRST RULE of Life

I WARNED AT THE BEGINNING OF ONE OF MY EARLIER POSTS THAT IT WAS VERY EPISCOPALIAN-SPECIFIC, SO NON-EPISCOPALIANS WOULD READ IT ONLY AT THE RISK OF BEING BORED TO TEARS. I should give a similar warning for those encountering this post; it is very, let's say, BELIEVER-SPECIFIC. I am not a skeptic or a non-believer, and the following is written from the standpoint of one who has a clear belief and deep faith in a Higher Power.

Before reading this post, I suggest that one read or re-read the post entitled, My FOUR RULES OF LIFE. Clicking on that title in the "Popular Posts" section below those ads on the right will take you to that short post, in which I promised that I'd explain what I mean by each of these Rules. So, here goes:


My First Rule is, I believe, the most complicated one, but it is probably the most important one: To love, trust, and obey God. That seems fairly simple and straightforward until one considers my definition of Love: Concern for happiness and welfare. Obviously, mere humans have no power to enhance or detract from the happiness of God, nor does God need to have any creature be concerned for His welfare. So, my definition of "Love" is either faulty or falls short; I believe it is more the latter than the former. The ancient Greeks had four distinct words for love, depending on how this love was expressed. I think that I have two distinct meanings, but English is flexible enough to include both in one word. I suggest that love of any being other than God is an expression of concern for that being's happiness and welfare, while love of God is a desire to be like and to be with God. 



No matter who loves a creature --- whether it is God or another creature --- that love may be defined as "concern for the creature's happiness and welfare." Please note that I did not say "pleasure" and "comfort." Sometimes, when one is happy, one feels pleasure, but not always; there are way too many examples of people who have been deeply happy even in the midst of physical deprivation and even torture or pain. And, sometimes one is spiritually and emotionally well even though he or she is emphatically not comfortable. So, we must be clear: True love for anyone other than God is concern for that creature's real happiness and welfare.



One of the unique characteristics of Christianity is its insistence that the relationship between God and humans is essentially the same as the relationship between an ideal father and his children. Thus, Jesus repeatedly referred to God as, not just his "Father," but as "our Father." I happen to believe that the core of the Christian Gospel is the two-sided Golden Coin, Divine Paternity/Human Divinity (we'll go more into that idea in later posts, also). Nothing pleases a human father more than his little son's wanting to trail along everywhere his father goes, and when asked what he wants to be when he grows up, to answer, "Just like my daddy." That's a natural, dimmer expression of the love we develop for God; when we have that kind of love, we want to be as much like God as possible, and to spend as much time with Him as we can.


What is God like? First of all, I have to emphasize the fact that I am a finite human being, with finite intelligence, so there's no way I can grasp or understand, let alone describe, God or infinite Truth or Reality. I think that an amoeba can understand the person and ideas of Stephen Hawking far more easily and completely than I can comprehend or describe God, but in my feeble, limited human way, let me say that I happen to believe in a personal God; to me, God is not merely The Ultimate Reality, or some impersonal Infinite Principle. In addition to the fact that I believe God's relationship with His creatures is much like that of a perfect human father (if there were such!) to his children, I believe that the cardinal attributes of God are Love and Order. While this isn't the time or post to get more deeply into this idea, I'll say that I think it's the attribute of divine Love which impels God to create beings who can progress spiritually, and thus grow in spiritual happiness, and since I believe that this Divine Love is the strongest force in the universe, I can't believe that, ultimately, there will be any of God's creatures who will not eventually find perfect happiness in the divine Presence and family --- and yes, that's probably a roundabout way of saying that I'm a universalist. To the degree that we develop and display love and order in our own lives, to that degree are we displaying our innate divinity; to that degree are we being more like God.  

The Person and Love of God are, for want of a better term, magnetic. Thus, the more we become like God, the more we will want to be with Him. So, we spend time in prayer, in other acts of worship, and in service, and all of these acts mold us more into the Image and Likeness of the One Whom we want to be like and be with.

The more I am with God and grow to be like God, the more I will trust God. In other words, the more I love God, the more I will come to trust Him. In this human phase of our spiritual growth, we encounter many problems and obstacles, but we should come to understand that every single one of them has lessons to teach us, and every single one of them plays a part in developing us into the person each one of us should be. In another post, I explain that I believe that each human's very being is made up of three elements: His or her natural talents and abilities; his or her interests; and his or her experiences. No two human beings have the same interplay of those three elements, and as we grow older and experience more, we come to understand that each of those elements is equally important in molding the person. 

A simple example: If we were to look at a single thread, it might seem plain, uninteresting, and maybe even ugly; but if that thread were woven into the design of a tapestry, and we could move back far enough to view the tapestry in its entirety, we might see that what we may have seen as a single unremarkable or ugly thread is actually an important part of a beautiful whole. Each person's life may seem the same; each person may go through really rough, trying times, but as we come to relish the Presence of God in our lives, we come more to trust that even those things which seem most undivine may, actually, be true blessings; we can grow and learn lessons from every experience in our lives. As I say each morning during my First Period of Prayer, I can "trust everything in my life to the loving care of my Father in Heaven, knowing and trusting that His will for me is true happiness, soul unfoldment, and all that is good."

As sort of a personal mantra, I remind myself regularly throughout every day that "God is blessing me now." It is easy to believe that I am being blessed when things seem to be going my way and I am happy with the circumstances of my life. But, I believe that it is especially when things do not seem to be going well that I most need to understand that I am being blessed, because it is through those trying experiences that I can really grow and learn the life lessons that I need to learn.

The final commitment I make in this Divine/human relationship is to obey God. This will be dealt with very quickly, because we've already hinted at what I believe God asks of each of us. I believe it pleases God for us to want to be with Him and like Him. His cardinal attributes are, to use human terms, Love and Order, so it pleases Him for us to display those qualities in every area of our lives, so we should try to develop them. Order would imply balance, so we should seek to develop ourselves in all the four areas of human life --- spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially (according to Luke 2:52, that's exactly how Jesus developed). Most importantly, I believe it pleases God for each of us to examine ourselves thoroughly, to see how our native talents, our interests, and our experiences point toward the path God would have us take, then to pursue that path diligently.

One thing about all this is very striking to me: How each of the three elements of the First Rule of Life leads smoothly and naturally to each of the other two: If I truly love God, I will trust Him and obey Him; if I trust God completely, I will grow steadily in my love for Him and in my desire to please Him; and as I obey God to the best of my ability, my love for Him and trust in Him will grow.

This First Rule of Life is foundational; as I observe it, I find that the other three Rules seem to fall into place.