This is my endlessly recurrent temptation: to go down to that Sea (I think St. John of the Cross called God a sea) and there neither dive nor swim nor float, but only dabble and splash, careful not to get out of my depth and holding on to the lifeline which connects me with my things temporal. It is different from the temptations that met us at the beginning of the Christian life. Then we fought against admitting the claims of the eternal at all. And when we had fought, and been beaten, and surrendered, we supposed that all would be fairly plain sailing. This temptation comes later. It is addressed to those who have already admitted the claim in principle and are even making some sort of effort to meet it. Our temptation is too look eagerly for the minimum that will be accepted. We are in fact very like honest but reluctant taxpayers. We approve of an income tax in principle. We make our returns truthfully. But we dread a rise in the tax. We are very careful to pay no more than is necessary. And we hope– we very ardently hope –that after we have paid it there will still be enough left to live on. The lie consists in the suggestion that our best protection is a prudent regard for the safety of our pocket, our habitual indulgences, and our ambitions. But that is quite false. Our real protection is to be sought elsewhere: in common Christian usage, in moral theology, in steady rational thinking, in the advice of good friends and good books.. Swimming lessons are better than a lifeline to the shore. For of course that lifeline is really a death line. There is no parallel to paying taxes and living on the remainder. For it is not so much of our time and so much of our attention that God demands; it is not even all our time and all our attention; it is ourselves. For each of us the Baptist’s words are true: “He must increase and I decrease.” He will be infinitely merciful to our repeated failures; I know no promise that He will accept a deliberate compromise. For He has, in the last resort, nothing to give us but Himself; and He can give that only insofar as our self-affirming will retires and makes room for Him in our souls. Let us make up our minds to it; there will be nothing “of our own” left over to live on, no “ordinary” life. I do not mean that each of us will necessarily be called to be a martyr or even an ascetic. That’s as may be. For some the Christian life will include much leisure, many occupations we naturally like. But these will be received from God’s hands. In a perfect Christian they would be as much part of his “religion,” his “service,” as his hardest duties, and his feasts would be as Christian as his fasts. What cannot be admitted–what must exist only as an undefeated but daily resisted enemy–is the idea of something that is “our own,” some area in which we are to be “out of school,” on which God has no claim… When we try to keep within us an area of our own, we try to keep an area of death… Thomas More said, “If ye make indentures with God how much ye will serve Him, ye shall find ye have signed both of them yourself.” Law.. said “If you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will make in the end no difference what you have chosen instead.” Those are hard words to take. Will it really make no difference whether it was women or patriotism, cocaine or art, whisky or a seat in the Cabinet, money or science? Well, surely no difference that matters. We shall have missed the end for which we are formed and rejected the only thing that satisfies. Does it matter to a man dying in a desert by which choice of route he missed the only well?
The C.S. Lewis Institute sent their newsletter called "Reflections" back in March. They included an excerpt from one of C.S. Lewis' sermons called "The Slip Of The Tongue." To the left is copied part of that message, actually the introduction. Below are some of my own musings based on this passage and what I am experiencing in life.
Why do we dabble with God? Why do we not want more of God, especially when he offers himself to us? Stuart Briscoe wrote, "God will meet man on the level of his desires; man can have as much of God as he desires." How much do I/we want him?
Why do we dabble with God?
Some of the answers include that we like our sin or sinful habits too much. The addicting power of them grasps us. And obviously, we grasp it.
Why do we dabble with God?
We are afraid of getting out of our comfort zones. To do something different, to go beyond "our box" prevents us from experiencing more of God. We've always done it that way before. How can we break that tradition? That fear ensnares us.
Why do we dabble with God?
Where are our godly examples? Where are our role models? I look in the mirror and see a person who has grown in faith, but I still see a long journey ahead. I am to be a role model, yet I don't have many, if any, role models I espouse. So, how can you attain something you don't see? Yes, I and we have Jesus, but it would be great to know and relate with men and women of God who are fully surrendered to God.
My heart breaks for the church, mine and those I hear about. We love the pleasures of the world. We love to please ourselves. And God, we have him in a small box we carry around in our pocket. He wants so much more of us. He doesn't force himself on us. He only draws us or invites us.
Lord, open up my box and may I and we experience more of you. May we treasure and delight in you more than any of these temporary pleasures all around us. Lord, have mercy on us.
John Melhorn is first and foremost a follower of Jesus Christ, but he is also a husband, father, and pastor. Watch out on the road, for you will often find him bicycling somewhere.