“That extraordinary virtue”

Most of us turn away from the desire to be simple. That’s because simplicity in our minds has to do with “ordinariness.” We have an aversion to being and sounding  ordinary, because it does not attract attention. And yet simplicity is not ordinary at all. A  truly simple person is not self-conscious but is at ease with himself. And that requires greatness of a kind that is far from ordinary.

And yet it is this extraordinary virtue of simplicity that deep inside we desire for ourselves and envy in others. The reason we don’t cultivate simplicity is that we think the price  to be paid would  be too high. We think it would be too risky, and may involve a great loss of some kind.

In the spiritual world especially, simplicity is married to profundity. Simplicity and profundity are a made-for-each-other couple. Deep insights have come to those who have cultivated simplicity in their spiritual lives. G.K Chesterton is an example of someone who was simple and profound at the same time. He expressed a simple and profound spiritual truth  when he once said,  “A man is tallest when he kneels.”

Another simple and profound statement comes from that spiritual giant, Thomas Kempis. “Truth speaks from within without the noise of words.”

In the New Testament, John the Baptist, when reflecting on his role of merely being  the forerunner to the Messiah, said, when Jesus appeared on the scene, that now “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

As we grow in grace in the spiritual life, we develop a deep admiration for those who “risk” simplicity as a way of life. But the great thing about simplicity is that it is accessible to all, and the benefits far exceed the cost. Provided we are willing to be honest and humble enough to admit our need for it.

          ***********************

Advertisements

“Of small things”

We have heard of the expression, “the bigger it is the better it is.”It is this idea which we have in our minds when we think of expanding our business empires or sphere of effectiveness or influence.

Whereas humans are more awed by size and strength, God necessarily is not intimidated by these. God often uses small things to accomplish his purposes. And how mistaken we are when we assume that small things cannot have value in their own right.

Jesus used many parables to illustrate the nature of the kingdom of God. And he often used the example of the power of a “seed”  in his parables. The small or tiny seed had the potential to multiply and grow beyond its capacity so as to bear much fruit. But it is imperative to remember that it is God who determines the growth of the seed. And multiplication is possible only if the seed dies.

And so we are called to die to ourselves and our selfish ambitions and in the process sow seeds in the world, which might include a good deed or a good word in the lives of others. And without our being aware of it, a lifetime of such sowing may yield an unusually big harvest.  Therefore,  it is encouraging to remember, as someone said, that “Little is much when God is in it.”

Similarly, our weakness, (something that makes us look small in the eyes of others ) can become  a source of divine strength and power when we surrender it to God. When the Apostle Paul wanted his weakness removed and prayed persistently for it, God refused him and told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”Power in weakness. What a revolutionary idea !

To conclude, if we follow Jesus most of us are not going “to hit it big” in terms of worldly wealth, fame, or importance.  But if we  “do not despise the day of small things” we can live a life of significance. And make a difference !

            ************************

‘Looking good’ or ‘seeing well’?

A few years back I read a quote which stopped me in my tracks.

“Looking good is not as important as seeing well.”

Let’s admit it. Everyone wants to look good. And I am no exception. But we know that as far as our physical appearance is concerned, there’s little we can do about changing it. Even if we are armed with the latest creams and lotions.

Of course, the idea of “looking good” need not be confined to physical appearance alone. It could also include our deep desire to “create a good impression” on people in other areas of life.

But what really is meant by “seeing well”? I think it means accepting the truth about ourselves and the world around us.

Recently, I heard a sermon by Chuck Swindoll, who captured the essence of what it means for us to “see well” as individuals. Which for most of us is the greatest of struggles, often the journey of a lifetime. Swindoll said that there are three aspects to it.

Know who you are.”

“In the process accept who you are.”

“Then spend the rest of your life being who you are.”

But, just to remind us, how many of us would give up “looking good time” for “seeing well time” ?

We all know the answer to that.

                  ************************

True treasure- is within

When you have lived long enough you realise that peace is “an inside job” and that the true treasure we seem to be chasing all the time is really within us. The world outside us offers the stimulus that directs us to look within for the answers.

How blind we seem to be when we don’t see this. Instead we keep looking for new experiences outside us to satisfy our needs. Paul Coelho’s popular novel “The “Alchemist”seems to strike a universal chord in his readers.  The boy Santiago, on his journey in his quest for treasure in  the world, ultimately returns to the very place where he began. He finds  that the treasure is really buried in the chapel where he had started on his journey.  The boy has gained enough experience in the world outside to realise that  “Alchemy” is a pseudo-science which cannot really turn base metals to gold.That implies that the temporal world and everything in it cannot meet our real need which is spiritual. Chasing after the so-called treasure in the world is futile.

This is why Jesus made it clear when he said that “the kingdom of God is within you.”Jesus was suggesting that the key to finding lasting treasure is to discover the vast spiritual riches within you.

So, in a sense, we too as individuals set out on our journeys only to find that after much wandering and misadventure we need to return and focus within us. Then our human nature would speak for itself. We would be convinced of our own depravity  and look for a solution for it. When we repent of our depravity or sinfulness  Jesus offers his divine life within us. This life is characterised by a close and intimate relationship with him as well as  his guidance and direction in the events of our lives. And last but not least it offers the promise of eternal life with him. The ultimate treasure.

********************