I am trying to write a book at the moment. These are some notes I scrawled out last night in a book called The Practice of Godliness by a man called Jerry Bridges. It’s a good book but I want to write something much more universal because the author and I think differently about what it means to be a good person. I think he thinks it’s not enough; I think it’s all I know that is real. He writes for a purely Christian audience and I am trying to write something that anyone can agree with. Strangely enough, the author of that book , Mr Bridges, probably would disagree with me on many things. He does come across as a humble man, even though he believes that believing in Jesus is the only way to heaven. I suspect, non-Christians will have a pretty tough time getting through the author’s narrow gate. My gate is pretty wide. I believe in universalism. I don’t believe my faith in God is necessarily true, but I do think it helps me through my own particular life. For the reader: I am sorry for any God-bothering you find me guilty of. I write to make sense of my own life and spirituality is a part of me.
I have given up on trying to be perfect. I no longer want to be a perfect person because I never will be. I just want to be a good Christian because I like good people and I like God and I think God likes me. I think that God is good and human beings have the capacity to be good, too.
Being good is about being love; manifesting a way of love within the world. There are three foundational steps
1) the wonder of life
2) the love of life
3) the desire to live.
I see the these steps as sequential. Without a true sense of the wonder of life, it’s difficult to love life, and it can even be difficult to desire life. Such has been my experience. When we feel most alive, we are full of wonder at the miracle of life, and we fall in love with living which leads naturally to a fierce desire to live. In my life, I know all three could use a big boost, and so in my upcoming book, I aim to introduce the reader to ways in which to heighten our capacity to feel truly alive.
Being good emanates from our desire to live a life that matters, a life where we love and, hence, we become good.
We often try to be good to please God or to please our parents or our partner or our friends or even ourselves. We want so much for others to be happy with us because we are in pain. We have wounds that have not healed. One of my favourite spiritual writers is a Catholic priest, Henri Nouwen. One of Nouwen’s greatest books is called The Inner Voice of Love. Some passages of this book speak to me the truth about myself as deeply as any writing I have ever read. It’s an exquisitely vulnerable book. As Father Nouwen tells us about letting go of your need to please others, one can feel him crying out for love. I believe we all live in that tension- the tension between independence and dependence, solitude and belonging. It’s getting the balance right that makes life such a challenge.
Here is a passage that spoke to me
Stop Being a Pleaser
You have to let your father and father figures go. You must stop seeing yourself through their eyes and trying to make them proud of you.
For as long as you can remember, you have been a pleaser, depending on others to give you an identity. You need not look at that only in a negative way. You wanted to give your heart to others and you did so quickly and easily. But now you are being asked to let go of all these self-made props and trust that god is enough for you. You must stop being a pleaser and reclaim your identity as a free self.
This is an exacting process: to come off the cross. Sometimes, we suffer all of these terrible internal agonies and pains as a result of our longing for acceptance and love. The mystics tell us that our hungry looking for love is like being a fish in the ocean and wondering what water is. We are told that we are surrounded by it when so often our heart tells us something completely different. When you read some of those things the tendency is not to believe it because I suspect a lot of us for too long have been stranded on the shore. Some great wave has cast us out of the sea and upon the hot and sandy shore. This book (if I ever write it) will suggest ways of getting back in the ocean, learning not to drown and maybe even go a little deeper. Don’t you love overworked metaphors and clichés. I do. They make sense to me, but a better writer would edit them out. Maybe I am not that writer and I have to be okay with that as with many things in life. I don’t aim to be perfect; I just want to be good enough for me.
Sometimes a lot of my suffering seems self-created. I would like to write some things that reflect my desire to stop suffering in the wrong way; I want to write something for the person who wants to give something back to themselves because they are exhausted from all of the giving out to others. That’s how I felt about two months ago, and largely, I am still a little bit like that.