You have heard me talk about this before but so many layers keep getting peeled back and so I keep talking about it. But, my journey into the historic Church and the practice of our faith as it has been once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 1:3) has brought tremendous change to my life. But not just my life but my heart, my mind, my worship, my prayer; all aspects of my life.
But that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? I mean, if we truly believe in the Lord Jesus and have decided to walk in “the Way” (Acts 9:2), our lives and everything about us should be different. If not, then we should seriously start to question whether we truly believe. As I have walked in this Way and delved further back and deeper into the historic Faith, I discovered two primary pillars of Orthodox spirituality. These are hesychia and nepsis.
Let me define these really quickly. Hesychia is the practice of contemplative prayer. The word is Greek and means simply “stillness.” Nepsis means “wakefulness or watchfulness.” The practice of hesychia and neptic theology is as old as the Church itself. I was surprised at the number of the Fathers that talked about this, either directly or indirectly. A friend of mine, when I brought this up in conversation, sarcastically called this prayer practice “navel gazing.” Aside from being rather disrespectful, that idea completely misses the point. The point is deeper communion with Christ.
Anyways, as I have walked in this, the Holy Spirit has revealed some things to me that I really don’t like about myself and that I really didn’t want to face. This all relates directly to why I’ve been so silent for so long on this blog site so I’m going somewhere with this.
I always question motives, my own and others. That’s probably not a super healthy way to look at things but that’s where I am. So, the question of why always comes up in my mind. Why am I doing something, why are you doing something? For example, why pray or go to church? Do we do that to get something from God as if He were a cosmic slot machine? We put our “money” in, and we expect a return; that He will do good things for us if we perform or “be a good person.” Or do we do those things to look good before others? Why do we do the things we do?
I ran into this headfirst vis a vie blogging. As I have gotten more and more still before the Lord and have become more watchful over my own heart, I began to see some things. Why was I blogging? As I examined this for myself and asked the Spirit to show me where the dark places needed Light, I came to a place that was very unpleasant.
In His great love for me and because He doesn’t want to leave me in my flesh, He has shown to me that my motives for blogging were not very pure. Even as I say this, I recognize the irony of blogging about my motive for blogging. Anyways, I’ll make this part short. I realized that my primary reason for blogging was validation. I wanted to be recognized and seen and validated as someone who was wise or holy or whatever. The point is, my blogging, at the heart of it all and even perhaps as helpful as it may have been for others, was about me.
This has been hard to take for me. I was confronted by my own darkness and my own desperate but unseen grasping for recognition. I had to and am still repenting of this. That is why I haven’t been blogging and honestly don’t know how long it may be (if ever) that I do this again.
Something that relates to this for me (and maybe this will resonate with you as well) is stillness. Let me be more specific. There is so much noise in my life, so much noise in all our lives. I don’t necessarily mean actual sounds, but it includes that. I’m talking about the clutter of our lives, the busyness of things and the distractions of the world. Most of us have the attention span of a gnat. There is so much clutter going on in the world and our lives that we find it incredibly difficult to focus. Our souls are at stake.
A good friend of mine has recently done something that I’ve been wanting to do for awhile but spending the initial money has been resisted. He got a “dumb phone.” I want this in my life. I want freedom from the clutter of the world that so quickly distracts me from Christ, so quickly turns me inward so that I truly “navel gaze” and get wrapped up in myself rather that consumed by Christ.
Anyways, I know this has kind of jumped around. I will not be blogging on a regular basis until I can deal with this sin issue in my own heart. I may not ever blog again; I really don’t know. I have to unclutter my heart and life. In fact, if anyone wants to donate a “dumb phone” to me, I’ll happily take it! (I’m mostly kidding)
I want for us, brothers and sisters, a lived experience with the risen Lord Jesus. For me, I’m not super confident that I can have that and still be engaged in the noise of the world. Maybe you’re stronger than me and you can pull that off. If so, please share that strength with others and help them. If not, maybe you should consider how to unclutter your own heart so that you may be watchful in prayer.
Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy on us. Amen!
I’m not sure if you’ve noticed or not but, recently, in our country and around the world, there is a push for what has been called “cancel culture.” Don’t you just love how the media labels things? Anyways, this whole cancel culture thing is really kind of scary and utterly ridiculous. It’s honestly like watching a bunch of 6-year-old children on the playground arguing.
“You’re not playing the game right.”
“Nuh-uh, you’re not playing the game right.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“I don’t want to play with you anymore.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you.”
“You’re mean and I don’t want to be around you!”
“I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore.”
“Nuh-uh, I’m taking my toys and going home because you’re not my friend anymore!”
I mean, really, isn’t this was it mostly sounds like? What a bunch of weak people we’ve become. We can no longer have a disagreement with each other without trying to completely humiliate and destroy one another and we act like, if we can just pretend like it never happened, all the bad things people do will just go away. It’s silly. This goes for all ends of the political spectrum. But, sadly, we see this in our own lives, don’t we? I mean, if we’re being honest with ourselves. I heard a priest preach a homily about something like this recently and it got me thinking and digging into Holy Scripture.
I think I have a solution to this whole problem. Let’s cancel ourselves.
Seriously, let’s cancel ourselves. Before you get all triggered, let me explain what I mean. As a race (the human race), we have gotten really full of ourselves. Our hubris is at an all time high, I feel like. I could be wrong. Humans have been pretty full of themselves for a long time. Maybe I’m just seeing it more because I’m paying attention or because this is the era of history in which I currently live.
We could use a strong dose of humility in our world today. But let’s not be too quick to just say, “Oh the world is so sick, and those people are so whatever.” In truth, it’s not just the world that is suffering from pride or the people you disagree with or don’t like. It’s us too. We could use a strong dose of humility in our own hearts as well. We could certainly use a big slice of humble pie in the Church today.
I dare say that, if the world is ever to value humility, the Church must illustrate it and live it first. Sadly, even in the Church today and indeed in our own hearts, self reigns. I mean, if we’re being honest. Unless I’m the only one…
If we truly understood who we really are and would spend more time praying and confessing our own sins, we’d have a lot less time to be prideful. I want us to consider a text on this one. St. Paul, who was perhaps the greatest missionary and theological mind that has ever lived, knew a thing or two about pride. And, he knew how poisonous it is to life in the Spirit. Consider that he called himself the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15). So, in light of our discussion about pride, let’s consider part of St. Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church.
We find, in Colossians 3:1-17 the following,
“If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the sons of disobedience, in which you yourselves once walked when you lived in them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language out of your mouth. Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all. Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”
St. Paul starts off by saying if then you were raised with Christ; this is important. If you’ve not been raised with Christ or don’t know what I’m talking about, I urge you to go and find the nearest priest or pastor and ask them what it means to be in Christ. He tells us to set our minds on things above, not on things of the earth. I want to be clear here. St. Paul is not talking about stuff. There is nothing wrong with stuff, per se. The problem is that our minds and hearts get attached to the stuff of this world and we lose our eternal perspective. You and I will live forever, body and soul. The only question is, will we live forever under the blessed gaze of our Lord Jesus in His presence or will we live forever in Hell. This stuff that you’re so attached to now and that attracts so much of your attention will one day be gone. But you will live forever. Choose wisely.
Then he tells us why. He tells us that we are dead. If you are in Christ, the old man is literally dead and your life, my life is hidden in Christ. If nothing else will kill pride (well, should kill pride), meditate on that fact. The only reason you and I have life is because of Christ. The truth about who we are apart from Christ should keep us humble. But who we are in Christ kills self. The only confidence we can have is in the grace of God given to us in our Lord Jesus.
Verse 5, St. Paul says it flat out, “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth.” That is aggressive. If we are honest with ourselves, the reason we suffer from pride is because we want to. We don’t want to put our flesh and our desires to death. We are quite comfortable with ourselves.
Therein lies the problem.
We would rather have our own idea of comfort here than put ourselves to death in order to live in and with Christ.
Brothers and sisters, we will not progress in our spiritual lives unless we cancel ourselves. Unless we put to death our own selfishness and pride, Christ cannot reign in our hearts. Put on tender mercy, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, forgiveness, and love. Let the peace of God rule in our hearts and the word of Christ dwell in us richly. Give glory to God alone for who He is making you in Christ Jesus!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!