September 4, 2011

HALF-LIVED LIVES:

My Bright Abyss: I never felt the pain of unbelief until I believed. But belief itself is hardly painless. (Christian Wiman, American Scholar)

ON THE RADIO I hear a famous novelist praising his father for enduring a long, difficult dying without ever "seeking relief in religion." It is clear from the son's description that the father was in absolute despair, and that as those cold waters closed over him he could find nothing to hold on to but his pride, and drowned clutching that nothing. This is to be admired? That we carry our despair stoically into death, that even the utmost anguish of our lives not change us? How astonishing it is, the fierceness with which we cling to beliefs that have made us miserable, or beliefs that prove to be so obviously inadequate when extreme suffering--or extreme joy--come. But the tension here is not simply between belief and disbelief. A Christian who has lived with a steady but essentially shallow form of faith may find himself called to suffer the full human truth of God--which is the absence of God--may find himself finally confronted with the absolute emptiness of the cross. God calls to us at every moment, and God is life, this life. Radical change remains a possibility within us right up until our last breath. The greatest tragedy of human existence is not to live in time, in both senses of that phrase.




Posted by at September 4, 2011 9:40 AM
  

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