Friday, April 1, 2011

“A Lack of One-Eyedness”

One of my favorite authors is the Catholic priest, Henry J. M. Nouwen…and one of my favorite books by him is The Genesee Diary.  While there are many really good lines and impacting passages in this book, one paragraph in particular managed to force me to see myself—it was a mirror for me to see my own life:
“Now I see that I was all mixed up, that I had fragmented my life into many sections that did not really form a unity.  The question is not, ‘Do I have time to prepare?’ but, ‘Do I live in a state of preparedness?’  When God is my only concern, when God is the center of my interests, when all my prayers, my reading, my studying, my speaking, and writing serve only to know God better and to make him known better, then there is no basis for anxiety or stage fright.  Then I can live in such a state of preparedness and trust that speaking from the heart is also speaking to the heart.  My fears and my resulting fatigue over the last three years might well be diagnosed as a lack of single-mindedness, as a lack of one-eyedness, as a lack of simplicity.  Indeed, how divided my heart has been and still is!  I want to love God, but also to make a career.  I want to be a good Christian, but also have my successes as a teacher, preacher, or speaker.  I want to be a saint, but also enjoy the sensations of the sinner.  I want to be close to Christ but also popular and liked by many people.  No wonder that living becomes a tiring enterprise.  The characteristic of a saint is, to borrow Kierkegaard’s words, ‘To will on thing.’  Well, I will more than one thing, am double-hearted, double-minded, and have a very divided loyalty.”  (Nouwen, Henry J.M. The Genesee Diary. New York: Doubleday, 1989. p.76.)
How many of us has Nouwen captured in these words?!?  Oh, to have that “single-mindedness,” that “one-eyedness,” that “simplicity"!! 
During my morning walk today (which has become the best therapy, quiet-time, source of ideas in addition to keeping me physically healthy!), I realized that much of my own sense of unease of late has been a lack of clarity.  Rather, I have this tendency to lose the clarity that comes from time to time.  Why do I lose that clarity??
Well, certainly for all the reasons that Nouwen mentions—my own egotistical and selfish desires for career, success, popularity…and in my case, a variation on this last theme—popularity.  I have in me that wonderful, ingrained, Southern desire…to please others.  I want to do what makes others happy!  And, I’ll add quickly that bringing others joy and happiness to others is not a bad thing…but it becomes bad 1) if we allow it rob us of our own happiness and 2) if we allow it to derail us from following Christ.  I plead guilty—I often lose sight of my call, my goal, my mission in life in my attempts to please others, in my attempts to make everyone happy, in my desire for every situation to be a “win-win” situation.
So, my prayer and focus this day is to name again my own passion and call—I am a Christian pastor/teacher—and my hope is to firmly place a mental post-it note in the front of my brain that I see day in and day out, reminding me of who I am, what I am to be about, what I am to strive for.  Perhaps, I will someday, by God’s grace, develop that “one-eyedness” that will allow me to serve God faithfully, to minister to others from my strengths…and to avoid a life that is “double-hearted…double-minded” and of “divided loyalty.”  Amen.

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