Wednesday, May 09, 2007

For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened

The ability to work with women in crisis, to allow them to voice their fears, grief, and weaknesses is a true gift. not every one could do what we do. and i say that not to brag about what we do, but rather in humility that we were given this ability to "walk with women and men in their darkest hours". we do not judge, we do not run away, we do not fear to hear the unspeakable. this is the work we do. some divine power has allowed us to be present in others' lives and bear their burdens for a bit, yet still have our own lives, our own joys. it can not have been an accident that we were granted this ability.

Diogenes at CWNews pulled this from an abortion clinic blog. He goes on to quote Hannah Arendt talking about how the rank and file Nazis were empowered to commit atrocities by self-pity. They were the victims for having to endure witnessing the suffering. This is the same shift in personal focus that was at the heart of Satan's first temptation of Christ in the desert.

Matthew 4
1: Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
2: And he fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterward he was hungry.
3: And the tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."
4: But he answered, "It is written, `Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'"

Jesus is hungry. Satan wants Jesus to focus on how he is hungry, and that it is not fair for him to be hungry. After all, he's the Son of God. This is completely true. It was unjust for Christ to endure suffering of any degree. But that inequity is suffered intentionally out of love for us. As Christ said even about his own crucifixion.

John 10
17: For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again.
18: No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again; this charge I have received from my Father."

There is no self-pity in those words. Though they describe what is an ultimate, unapproachable degree of injustice, there is not a hint of "woe is me". Were Christ to have felt a smidgen of self-pity, we would all be dust once more. Love perseveres through slights and burdens upon our person. That is why Jesus directed Satan to the source of his ability to elude the temptation to self-pity - obedience to the will of the Father:

Deuteronomy 8
1: "All the commandment which I command you this day you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the LORD swore to give to your fathers. 2: And you shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments, or not.
3: And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but that man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD.
4: Your clothing did not wear out upon you, and your foot did not swell, these forty years.
5: Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. 6: So you shall keep the commandments of the LORD your God, by walking in his ways and by fearing him.
7: For the LORD your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing forth in valleys and hills,
8: a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey,
9: a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.

It is a simple decision to make. Self or God. Good or Evil. Beauty or Perversion. Truth or Lie. But once the wrong decision is made, the poisoning evil of self-pity wraps us up like a spider, and smothered in its numbing cocoon of death, our intoxication can present us with a reality where doing evil is doing good, slaughtering the innocent is harsh but noble burden, and glorifying our pathetic selves is actually doing the will of God.

The book Ordinary Men, by historian Christopher Browning, is another revealing study of how quick and completely we can surrender our humanity by making that one terrible decision and giving into the self-pity which transforms our evil undertaking into first a thankless necessity, and finally a divine charge.

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