I’ve been reading Romans lately because a few weeks back, I think there was a Romans reading at Mass, and I just remembered how amazing the letter had seemed to me in my first days as a Christian. I’m not going to quote a lot, and I’ll be honest: I often mix up parts of Romans and 1 or 2 Corinthians. I’m betting on God wanting me to get the concepts, if not the indexing, correct.
Anyway, yes, I’ve been reading Romans particularly. Reading a little here and there about saints. Reading the daily readings some weekdays. One thing I have prayed in recent weeks is for what I guess my Baptist brothers and sisters might even call a Revival. When I actually was a Baptist, I didn’t really get the whole Revival idea of refreshing and making the faith more real again, etc., because I was so new to the fold that everything was always fresh and real and exciting and–COME LORD, JESUS!
Catholics have their seasons too, of course, but I’m not even really talking about those seasons we all observe in one way or another together. I’m getting off topic because I used the word “Revival,” when I wasn’t even talking about that.
Let me put it this way. You know how sometimes the romance isn’t there — he’s peeing with the door open, and you’re not wearing makeup anymore? You still love each other, but maybe you really need to go on a date or something. Stoke the fire. Rev the engine. Whatever. Well, I don’t know about other people, but for, it’s similar with God. It’s not like I don’t love God, want to please him, want him in my life, etc. I do. Why the hell else would I live the way I do? I’m no saint, so to speak, but on a daily basis, I make decisions according to what I believe is right in the eyes of God — even when I really would prefer to do something else. This isn’t trivial. Every time I want to tell someone to eat shit.Every time I catch myself in my head judging someone else. Every time I don’t want to share my money. Every time I want to ignore someone.
I don’t make the right decision every time, but the fact that I don’t behave more selfishly is evidence that I do care about God. Part of caring about God is caring about people. I’ve told him so many times, “Lord, I think so-and-so is an asshole!!!!!!!! — Pardon my French, Lord — but anyway, I know that you made him. I know that you love him. I know that there is a fundamental good, a beauty, in this person. Who am I to ignore that? Who am I to hate someone that you love? Help me see what you see in him.”
Sometimes caring about people is remembering that “your neighbor” isn’t just “your friends and family.” In the Bible is says sometimes you minister to angels without knowing it. It says what you do to the weak is what you do to Jesus. It says if you visit prisoners, feed the hungry, etc. — you serve Jesus (this much I know is from Matthew chapter 25). So whether this means I give to the homeless, stop and chit-chat with one of my awkward classmates, or even challenge myself to be polite to one of those damned Green Peace people asking me for my money when I’m trying to get to class, I believe God can see I’m trying.
So what am I getting at? Even though I do these things, believe in God, love God, doesn’t mean that I feel as passionate as I have in the past. If my passion were graphed as a function of time, it wouldn’t show only a decrease. It would show ups and downs. I assume that’s normal. But anyway, for whatever reason, I’ve thought of those really early days when I felt the most passionate. I felt zealous. I loved God, and it was easy to hate the world too, because at the time my circumstances were such that I really kind of hated the world even without anybody telling me too. I wanted to give up everything, and if I could do that for God, then that was amazing. The way I wrote back then, the intensity I felt, the profundity inside the New Testament…
Well, I haven’t been feeling that lately. Life is so different, and I have so many questions that are different from the questions I had then. I already mentioned “hating the world,” and that’s something I wonder about. What does “the world” mean? Surely the Scripture doesn’t mean to tell me to hate the physical world which God created and made? One day I was hiking, a few months ago, and I was really struck by the beauty around me. I thanked God for the magnificence he had created. But I wondered — am I wrong? Am I being distracted by the appearance of the physical world, when really I should have my eyes on heaven? And to borrow from Eastern thought, could I go so far as to regard this physical world as an illusion that once I look past, I will see what is real and eternal and… important? There are so many questions one can ask even assuming “the world” to refer to the physical world. But really, I don’t think that’s what the Scripture is even referring to. Anyway, the questions multiply, and thinking is all very stimulating (or frustrating), but…
At the same time I have been praying to God to bring me back to him in the deep emotional sense, I have been asking for true wisdom. What’s important? All these years I have been a Christian, I have been trying to more or less destroy my ego and pride, without getting to the point that I always feel badly about myself. To talk about ego and pride is difficult, and not really necessary here. Anyway, suffice to say, I really am trying to do what is right, not what is impressive to people, or what will make me feel good about myself. A major example is, well, my college major. If I say I want to major in Physics, is it because I want people to be impressed by the difficult-ass stuff I’ve studied?
Well, actually, I don’t think so. When I first chose a major, I went for Electrical Engineering, which in my mind, is right up there with Physics, in terms of being difficult and semi-impressive. Half way through the year, I was afraid that I was just going with something scientific because I didn’t want people to think I was impractical (Art degree) or just had a bullshit education (not giving an example because I don’t want to offend anyone who might read this). I remembered how much I got out of my high school humanities classes, and how much I have loved art history ever since. I thought about the fact that of all the places I’d visited around the globe, I always made it into the art museums, but I often ignored the natural history museums and the like. So I said, “Okay! I turn away from you, ego! I’m majoring in Art History!”
And… two semesters later, I do love art history. I will keep my art history books, and read them whenever I have time to read again! I do well on art history Jeopardy questions. I still love art museums, and judge cities on the quality of their art museums! But what else do I love? FUCKING CALCULUS! It’s so cool. And chemistry. And physics. And what do I hate?! Well, in terms of taking classes for 4+ years? I hate art history. As soon as I got into my college art history class, I remembered high school better…
Yeah, I loved art history, the subject — but I actually hated the classes when I was taking them. I did, but I had forgotten that! In high school and in college, I hated my art history classes because they were so subjective, and discussion-driven. I like discussion and all, don’t get me wrong. I even acknowledge that you can learn a lot by listening to other people SOMETIMES. But the thing is with that sort of class, there are people whose opinions might help you or enlighten you. But there are those who get wildly off topic. There are those who are absolutely simply 100% full of shit because they try to BS analysis instead of actually studying cultures, history, etc. There are those who are so long winded that you just wish it were over. I can’t take that for four years, and probably more, if I ever actually wanted to be an art historian. I can’t.
So I learned is that I wasn’t going with a science major because of ego. I proved that by willingly changing to an art major. And that wasn’t “me.” Now I just encourage my friends to learn about art, so I have someone to talk to about it.
Here’s where I get to the wisdom of this world part. So now I’m in physics. I’m learning about the physical world. I’m dealing with people who either don’t care about God, or really have a problem with him, even though they supposedly don’t believe in him. I’m “superstitious” to them. I don’t think outside the box. I’m limited by words written on stone tablets thousands of years ago. Whatever. I actually get to hear things like that.
But the Bible has some provocative things to say about “the wisdom of the wise,” which touched me all those years ago when, as a high school science student, I came to believe in Christ. Now I am looking at them as a college science student, and —
I shall write more about that soon. At the moment, wise or not, the responsible thing for me to do is get cracking on homework.