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I used to smoke a lot of cigarettes. It’s days like this I wish I still did. Instead I am overindulging in cheap wine, dark chocolate, and Sex and the City. My current roommate owns the box set. Why is it so much easier to check out than to actually live? Why is the real world so hard and so sad that it drives us to stuff ourselves with tv, food, smokes, drinks, exercise, facebook, blogs, and so on and so forth? Right now I keep telling myself, “Things will be better when…. [fill in the blank]” but there will always be chores and hard work and loneliness and disappointment. No vacation will ever be satisfying enough, no house or car or ring or person perfect enough, August will always be too long and too hot, and there will always be alternatives that seem more fulfilling. Or at least easier.

Which makes me think. I’ve always loved the story of Paul and the shipwreck in Acts 27. They cut off the lifeboats, against all good sense. It appeared to be their only way out. But they chose to stay in the storm and fight it out.  They finally shipwreck on Malta. Everyone makes it safely to shore, and there they are greeted with a warm fire and a feast. It’s a lovely story, and I find myself longing for Malta and distracting and numbing myself when my arms ache from holding on, to paraphrase a very good over the rhine song. But can I be brave enough to hold out for the Real Malta? Do I believe that there IS a feast? That the table is laid, that my cup runneth over? Or will I keep walking back to the tv and another square of 70% dark chocolate? My ethics professor, in talking about Thomas Aquinas, used to say that the cardinal virtues (justice, courage, wisdom, and temperance) can only be truly possessed by (and expected of!) those who believe in Christ. That is, we can’t expect bravery, for example, from people who aren’t secured in the everlasting arms. Temperance can only be found in the hearts of those who are filled to the brim His love (see the book of Hosea; Isaiah 55; Ezekiel 16; John 6). But why do I still feel so empty sometimes? Why does Malta seem like little more than a childish vision? Even so, come Lord Jesus.

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