Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living It Out

I'm Anglican.  I use this instead of "Episcopalian" because I want to convey that I am traditional and orthodox in my beliefs.  The divisions in the Anglican Communion are no secret.  Because my husband and I believe that the Nicene Creed is more than a pretty document, we fall into a group that gets called uneducated (not really), legalistic (but we like Dr. Who!), unloving (is it unloving to point out that they've fallen off the path of Life?), and--my favorite!--arrogant (considering St. Paul, I take it as a compliment).


Even during our ten year sabbatical from the Episcopal Church I found myself grappling with questions such as, "What is legalism?  What of Common Grace?  What of justification and sanctification?  How much is effort; how much is choice?  What is the definition of Biblical love?  What is true humility?" 

I read A Slip Of The Tongue, an essay by C. S. Lewis, earlier this year.  How comforting to find that this hero of orthodoxy also struggled with how to apply the Gospel to his life without becoming legalistic or becoming lawless:

I say my prayers, I read a book of devotion, I prepare for, or receive, the Sacrament.  But while I do these things, there is, so to speak, a voice inside me that urges caution.  It tells me to be careful, to keep my head, not to go too far, not to burn my boats.  I come into the presence of God with a great fear lest anything should happen to me within that presence which will prove too intolerably inconvenient when I have come out again into my "ordinary" life.

. . . .

We can become scrupulous or fanatical; we can, in what seems zeal but is really presumption, embrace tasks never intended for us.  That is the truth in the temptation.  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, and (if need be) in a skilled spiritual director.  Swimming lessons are better than a lifeline to the shore.

. . . .

At this point I become what some would call very Evangelical; at any rate very un-Pelagian.  I do not think any efforts of my own will can end once and for all this craving for limited liabilities, this fatal reservation.  Only God can.  I have good faith and hope He will.  Of course, I don't mean that I can therefore, as they say, "sit back."  What God does for us, He does in us.  The process of doing it will appear to me (and not falsely) to be the daily or hourly repeated exercises of my own will in renouncing this attitude, especially each morning, for it grows all over me like a new shell each night.  Failures will be forgiven; it is acquiescence that is fatal, the permitted, regularised presence of an area in ourselves which we still claim for own.  We may never, this side of death, drive the invader out of our territory, but we must be in the Resistance, not in the Vichy government.

--excerpts from A Slip Of The Tongue  in the collection of essays by C. S. Lewis, The Weight Of Glory, published by HarperCollins.

2 comments:

  1. It's a real struggle. Isn't this why Paul said that he dies daily? Stepping away from self-control, and yet not sitting idle. "What God does for us, He does in us." He helps me to choose right, and already I see the danger of wanting to claim that gift as mine. Ah, the struggle! I am looking toward the day of righteousness (not flippantly) when all our struggles will finally be over! Great excerpt of a great essay! Blessings!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, Petra! You are a blessing to me! :)

    ReplyDelete