“That is why the Christian is in a different position from other people who are trying to be good. They hope, by being good, to please God if there is one; or–if they think there is not–at least they hope to deserve approval from good men. But the Christian thinks any good he does comes from the Christ-life inside him. He does not think God will love us because we are good, but that God will make us good because He loves us; just as the roof of a greenhouse does not attract the sun because it is bright, but becomes bright because the sun shines on it.”
As I’ve stated, the one goal I have for this year (aside from working on remaining “calm”), is to read the entire way through A Year with C.S. Lewis. From time to time, I hope to share with you selections that particularly stand out to me. This quote, from Mere Christianity, is part of a larger selection for January 27, but I think it stands well on its own.
Very little of what we do in this life (Christian or not) is wholly the result of individual actions. Certainly, in America, there is great pride in pulling oneself up by one’s bootstraps and soldiering on through difficult circumstances. When this happens, it is something to be admired and to which we should all aspire. Yet I do not believe that we do anything completely independently. We have had help, if not from human beings, then certainly with the assistance, guidance, and love of our Creator.
As an introvert, I will admit to having some struggles getting involved in activities that require community involvement. Social anxiety is not just something I struggle with currently, but something with which I have tried to fight against since I was very young. Oddly, however, I do not know if I’ve ever felt truly, completely alone, especially when I am physically alone. The times when I have felt most helpless, most utterly abandoned, have frequently been at those large social functions in which I seem to withdraw most into a feeling of uncomfortable awkwardness and complete social ineptitude. As a teen and younger adult, this fact was a source of great sadness for me. It was something to be medicated or counseled through. It was an obstacle to overcome; deficiency or medical issue to be “healed.” As a slightly older adult, this is just a fact about myself I have come to accept.
You see, I now understand that it is not solitude that I seek. In fact, it is when I sit down to do any of my “solitary” activities (writing, reading, reflecting, even watching television programs), that I often feel most connected. Connected to what, you ask? Well, to me, these are the moments I feel most connected to God (yes, often even while watching the boob tube!). I cannot remember so much as a birthday party in my earliest years during which I felt like I belonged. In many ways, I’ve always felt “apart.” Not special, mind you, just apart.
I have often said that, though I am undeniably a product of my parents by appearance (and by certain other traits), I have always felt that my family is much “cooler” than me (depending, of course, upon how you measure “coolness”). I do not say this to get sympathy, it’s just a matter of fact. My parents and brother make friends with such ease and LOVE social functions and so many other things from which I gradually fell away as I grew more independent. My parents, brother, aunt, and grandparents are probably the coolest people I know. I admire their social boldness, but I have ceased aspiring to it. In the words of the wise Willow Rosenberg, “That way leads to madness… and sweaty palms.” People are just different, and I am a person… who is different.
Even as I write this, however, I recognize that God has called me to do great works and some of these works will be done in community, particularly as I get deeper into my work on my graduate degree in seminary and go forward into whatever ministry God intends for me. I cannot sit here and spell out the terms of my future ministry and dictate to God that I will not become a more social being. I may well do that as I age. For the time-being, however, there is a peace in accepting that, while I may not find peace in a crowded room or social gathering, wherever I am, God is with me. As I seek to walk closer with God, I know I will be formed into precisely the kind of being I am meant to be. Right now, that appears to mean pastoral counseling and writing, but I am in no way limiting my options and closing my mind to the possibilities.
I’ll leave you with one final thought from the same selection from Mere Christianity:
“A live body is not one that never gets hurt, but one that can to some extent repair itself. In the same way a Christian is not a man who never goes wrong, but a man who is enabled to repent and pick himself up and begin over again after each stumble–.”