If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.
My wife is a realist. She looks at a person's behavior, past and present, and sums the person up according to his deeds. One will find very little wiggle room once her determinations have been made and her mind has been set.
Or let's put it this way--If a person has it in mind to redeem himself in her esteem, he will find it an uphill struggle. Straight uphill. I mean the kind of hill that requires climbing gear.
I remember asking her, during one lively discussion of personal philosophies, whether she had ever heard of grace. She answered in such a way as to leave no doubt as to where I might store that notion. Grace for her, as for many people indeed, is something that is earned, not simply given without justifiable cause.
It's funny. Though Sant Louis is a better Christian than I, more outgoing, more involved, kinder, friendlier, cleaner, she knows at the same time almost nothing of the doctrinal basics. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. (Eph 2:8)
Why then God is surely a fool, she might say, but that doesn't mean you have to be one too. But I am. I am.
If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise
--1 Cor 3:18
Well, I poke fun at my wife, and I exaggerate (somewhat); and yet honestly I begin to wonder, after having been a fool for so long, having personally explored so many aspects of foolishness, of both the world and of God, whether maybe she is right after all. Maybe people are much simpler than I make them out to be.
You see, I have tended to see people more in the light of potential than in the light of day. I have believed that there is a pristine goodness into which they may by and by proceed, given patience, faith, encouragement, grace.
I have not yet seen this happen. Why, therefore, do I persist in what may be no more than delusion?
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. --Heb 11:1-2
That's why. It is poetry, it is hope, it is assurance, it is ideal--it is the very sustenance of fools like me.
I once read a book by fellow named Wellington Boone, a Georgia preacher who had a lot of say about compassion, tolerance, self-effacement, and the sacrificial love of Christ. I have not recovered since. The fool thing has ruined my life.
Here's the trouble. Love in this fine old world is commonly pursued for reward. Yes, when we love, we fully expect to be loved in return (and most often with interest). We serve expecting to be served. Acts of unusual kindness and charity, rare things that they are, anticipate a lively acknowledgment at least, and preferably adoration.
It seems a simple enough equation, a foolproof sort of math. I cannot fault Mr. Boone for having made assumptions which must have seemed like no-brainers. I was right there with him, on the very same page, as it were.
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.
So said the Beatles. And what better authority could one desire?
Well, the Beatles were wrong. Wellington Boone was wrong. (Jim Baker was wrong too, but that's a different story).
Charity, love, kindness, generosity, forgiveness, are received not with thankfulness, but with avarice. He who gives freely from the goodness of his heart becomes to others a perpetual bank account, an eternal fountain of compassion from which more is drawn this visit to the next.
And yet no human soul flows eternal. Do they not see that the pool must shrink? Do they not see that what sustains must itself be sustained?
I am reminded of a bubbling cold spring in the mountains I used to go to. When I was young, no more than knee-high to a sapling, the water from the spring poured forth from the ground just as if from a sink faucet. You could cup your hands and draw out the purest sort of refreshment. And yet little by little, over the years, the flow has slackened, becoming finally a trickle, then a drip, and then nothing. I look now for where the water used to be. I tell the story to my children. But of course a story of water falls far short of the water itself.
Wellington Boone was wrong. Or was he?
He had said, in the space of 200 pages or so, that if a man will go out of his way to serve others, then others will acknowledge the effort in like manner, i.e. the natural response to giving is to give in return.
Now, having afforded the theory a trial run of some 10 years' duration, I can say nothing other than that the results have consistently failed to support the hypothesis. Rather, extravagant giving would appear to create in others an extravagant appetite for receiving.
People do not see the force of will behind self-effacement. They simply conclude that you are weak. They do not see the strength in forbearance. They simply conclude that you are foolish. They do not understand that generosity is powered by love, nor that true love elevates the one who is loved above the common elements of personal recompense.
I have become, therefore, the proverbial doormat. Or so they will say, even as they continue to benefit by every property they have deemed foolish, weak, callow, obtuse. What's up with that, Mr. Boone?
The answer, as it happens, is a bit beyond the mere ink that ended up on the page.
This morning I got a phone call from my biological son. Always given to the unusual, he wanted me to know that should he suddenly die, or otherwise simply disappear--not that this was likely, but just in case--I should make it a point of the most pressing urgency to visit his trailer home and retrieve every page and portion of the world shattering research he has been doing for the last few years. I am under no circumstances to let this fall into his mother's hands. I am to personally gather it, protect it with my life, and bring it to the waiting world.
Contained in these pages, or so he tells me, is material of the most profound nature, the secrets of both the earth and the heavens. If used in the proper manner, it can change the world.
Last night he experienced a moment of the purest sort of revelation. Life, he said, society, religion, politics, culture, the whole interweaving of systems, ideas, and resulting practices, is based on hate. Hate is the foundation, corrupting all from the bottom up, a sterile soil at the depth of the garden, an evil from which nothing good can grow.
We must be transformed, he said. By love.
Revelation indeed. Everlasting revelation.
Well, I'm thinking Deja vu, dude. So many of us seem to be on the same page. And though we may be as wrong as Wellington Boone, we shall nonetheless persist, because our particular wrong is right. Where is the reward, where the treasure? It is where the heart is, needing nothing, completely sufficient in and of itself. What is accomplished resides in the doing, what is gained is that which is given.
Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.
In loving, therefore; in patience, in tolerance, in kindness, in forgiveness, we commit our hearts not to what is temporal, but to those things which eternally transform, one soul at a time. The reward is new life, day by day, and one could not ask for a better return.