In the early 1900’s, the Times Newspaper asked the following question of their readership: What’s Wrong With the World. Purportedly, G.K.Chesterton answered the question in a letter of response which simply said:
Yours, G.K. Chesterton.”
Wonderful insight! Wonderfully Chesterton (if he didn’t say this, it is certainly something he would have said). Disruptive: counter intuitive!! Rarely, do we/I indict the ‘self’ when assessing problems. Too bad. Such lack of ‘self-awareness’ enables us to perpetuate the problems identified.
I suspect Chesterton is correct: I am the problem. I find freedom in his conclusion. A freedom that ignites and encourages what I call ‘soul discovery’; the inner desires that animate my life. This freedom releases me to ask more meaningful and enriching questions. Questions that invite me to deeper more prominent place of desire, such as:
“In what way, or how, am I the problem?” Or,
“How does ‘self’ serve as a consistent and persistent obstacle in Spiritual Formation?”
Words from one of St. Augustine’s (a disruptive voice in his day) well-known prayers (from his classic, Confessions) might ignite our imaginations:
“Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved! You were within me, but I was outside, and it was there that I searched for you. In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. You were with me, but I was not with you.”
Aha! In my unloveliness I plunged into the lovely things which you created. I love wrongly. It’s not that loving is wrong. Desire (love) is a God-given and beautiful gift. Giving and receiving love is unavoidable. In fact, the desire to give and receive love is at the core of what it means to be human; truly, deeply and wonderfully human. I often envision the human heart as a canyon of relentless yearning; aflame with hunger, ignited by desire.
The problem, rather, is that our desires have become distorted. They are as James K.A. Smith says, ‘misaligned.’ As such, we seek to satisfy our hunger through created wonder and beauty that leave us hungering for more. The wonder and beauty of which I speak may well be good and noble; created by God for our enjoyment. These would include such joys as work, family, home and rest. These gifts are wonderful; designed for our enjoyment!
As Augustine said so well, in my distortion (unloveliness) I plunge into the lovely things which God created. As I plunge I deplete. I extract from them that which they can never provide. As such, I remain forever and always hungry. Worse yet, as I thrust my hunger upon the object of my affection, I distort its inherent beauty. In other words, as I enjoy, I consume. I ravage its beauty in the hopes of medicating the screaming emptiness of my soul.
I discover I am the problem! That my ‘plunge’ into these wonders fail to fill the cavernous yearnings of my wounded, restless heart and misaligned heart.
Stay tuned as we together discover how spiritual formation disrupt distorted desires and reignite desire aflame for God.
Disrupting to Renovate,