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 look around me at the world today and I am saddened. I am saddened by the direction the American society is headed and indeed the world. I am saddened by the complete confusion and fear that most people are living with these days. I am even more saddened at the behavior of most of the people who claim the name of Christ these days. I cannot remember a time in my life when I saw so many so-called Christians wandering around in confusion and fear, succumbing in such an obvious way to the darkness of this present world.
So many Christians I hear saying things like, “I don’t understand what’s happening,” or lamenting the condition of the world or, even worse, joining in the shame and cancel culture that infects our world today. In fact, if I may digress for a moment…I am ashamed of the Christians who shame other Christians for not choosing to take the so-called Covid-19 vaccine. Most of those Christians who are attacking other Christians for choosing not to be vaccinated say the same crap that’s coming out of the mouths of pagans.
Think about that for a second. If the things you are saying to each other as Christians match what pagans and the world is saying, you are doing it wrong. There are many good reasons to refuse the vaccine, least of which is a lack of actual scientific data that supports the long-term efficacy of said vaccine. By the admission of the very pharmaceutical companies that are dispensing these cocktails, these vaccines are, at this current time, experimental. From a Christian perspective, what happened to loving our brothers and sisters, showing them grace and speaking kindly to one another, whether or not we agree with them? Are our brothers and sisters not allowed to make decisions for themselves and their children without us calling each other names and attacking one another?
If you are one of those, I implore you to stop. Stop attacking your fellow Christians and understand that, just as you took the vaccine for your reasons, they are refusing it for their reasons. Besides, if you have taken the vaccine, why do you care if they do? Aren’t you protected?
Anyways, back to my main point.
There is a pervasive darkness over the world today. If you cannot see that, you are simply not paying attention, or you’ve just fallen asleep at the wheel of life. Over and over I hear Christians say that they don’t understand what’s happening. And I submit to them, you don’t understand what’s happening in the world because you have forgotten the Holy Scriptures. You have forgotten that the real enemies aren’t the Taliban or Al Qaeda or the coronavirus. We have an enemy, for sure. But it ain’t those things.
St. Peter helpfully reminds us of our enemy,
“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.”
St. Peter tells us, first, that we must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and that we are to cast all our cares on Him. Stop being so anxious about a virus; there have been and will continue to be viruses. Humble yourself under the hand of God and take your fears to Him. Be sober, be vigilant he tells us. In other words, to put it in our current context: pay attention and be on your guard against the influences of the world. Stop listening to the talking heads on TV and listen to the Holy Spirit. Spend time in prayer and Holy Scripture, go to Church, spend time with faithful brothers and sisters who aren’t consumed by the world, laugh with your children, play fetch with the dog. St. Peter also clearly tells us who our enemy is.
Our adversary is the devil, not each other. Not a virus, not the Taliban, not the President and Congress (though they sure act like the enemy of the people). At the bottom of all this is a spiritual struggle. The devil hates God and he hates you. He wants to destroy humanity and he will stop at nothing. He will use any means within his power. We must recognize this.
St. Paul also reminds us in Ephesians,
“Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
St. Paul reminds us that our enemies are not each other or a virus or any of this mess we’re in. Our enemy is against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness. Vaccines, masks and lockdowns won’t stop our real enemy. Only the armour of God will do that. Only when we are girded with the truth consuming our heart and mind and soul, only when we have put on the breastplate of righteousness and have shod ourselves with the gospel of peace, the peace of God that has been offered for all on the cross by our Lord Jesus, only when we have taken up the shield of faith and thrown our lives and souls into the care of the All-Holy One, only when we have taken up the helmet of salvation which is our union with Christ, only when we are armed with the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God, only when we pray without ceasing, only when we persevere; then and only then can we see clearly and understand not only who our enemy is but the great power that has been given to us in the Church and our union with Christ to defeat our enemy.
Christ has defeated sin and death! And, if we are in Him, so have we! Let us live without fear. Let us live without vitriol toward our fellow Christians, let us live in the peace that only God can bring through His most precious Son by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Trinity who holds us in the palm of His hand!
Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might! He has overcome and so shall we!
Glory to Thee, our God, glory to Thee!