Saturday, March 3, 2012

for no other reason

The boys were asleep; the house was quiet. All I could hear was the soft murmur of the air purifier and Hans' fingers on the keyboard. I sat on the bed and watched my husband. His back was facing me.

For a brief moment, I was there. I did not need to be seen or heard. I was not waiting for him. I did not have something to discuss with him, or ask him. I had no reason to sit in the room, except to be near my best friend.

Disinterested love. So this is what it feels like.
And then, as Hanan would say at the end of every prayer,
The End. (eeeeeeeeeee-aow!)
I was distracted. I was all interested in being disinterested.
A rare, fleeting moment.

I asked the boys to share a bowl of pasta the other day. Emeth quickly said, "I want to share the pasta." Not a bad response, I thought. And then he said, "Hanan doesn't have to share the pasta. I want to be kind. Hanan doesn't have to be kind."

My child did not want to share his act of kindness.

In so many ways, these little people instruct me to understand my own heart. My feeble attempts at love and kindness are each plagued with self-seeking thoughts. What is in it for me? What would I receive in return? Experience? Comfort? Recognition? Righteousness? A temporally appeased guilty conscience? Finishing your food, sleeping through the night, and everlasting gratitude would be nice.

My acts of kindness are rarely, if ever, joyfully disinterested.

Moulin Rouge got it all wrong. The greatest thing we will ever learn is not to love and to be loved in return. No. The greatest thing we will ever learn is to love, and not expecting to be loved in return.

God loved us in this way -- with a self-forgetting, self-sacrificial love. While we crucified him, rejected him, abandoned him -- Christ died for us. Greater love has no one than this, that we too may lay down our lives for our friends. With no regard for whether or not they will love us back. For no other reason, except to offer our love as an act of worship and obedience to Christ.

At the end of the day, there remains two kinds of worship. The worship of the supreme God, or the worship of self.

The worship of self is utterly invested and interested in the self. I offer these sacrifices to this deity because I want my crops to be plentiful next year. I worship my ancestors because I want protection. I want wealth. I want to get something out of the sermon. I want God to fix my life. I want to be healed. I want to feel loved. I want to feel something, anything. I want to go to heaven after I die.

I want. I want. I want.

True worship is never self-seeking. Because the worship of the supreme God is a response -- to everything he has already done, everything he is doing, everything he promised he will do. It is possible for worship to be disinterested because there is nothing left to want; Christ has provided everything. Or, as the Psalmist sings, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want." We worship for no other reason, except to be in his presence.

Among the exercises of worship, fasting is not my favorite. It gives no pleasure, it severely restricts, and our hunger makes us uncomfortably aware of our humanity. It is like prayer, except harder. Its discomfort and lack of immediate gain (if we follow the rules) is precisely what makes fasting a most suitable posture to offer to God worship that is not self-seeking.

When we fast, we wean our bodies from the need to satisfy our bodily hunger. We become living sacrifices, the living dead. We throw ourselves at mercy's path. We engage in the battle against our flesh.

We gain nothing, except the delight of communing with God. We fast for no other reason, except to be near God.


Doria Tai said...

I love your posts and much encouraged each time I read them. I don't blog as keenly as you, perhaps, I should.

The first kind of worshiper you described is really like Cats Theology persons ! It begins with 'I' .... and end with 'I' too !

The true worshiper is after the heart of God, the Dog Theology persons !

Ruth@GraceLaced said...

The amazing truth about God's love is that it PLEASED himself to give sacrificially, to serve humbly, to love unconditionally. We are not Eastern worshipers, who seek to empty ourselves of all longing for need or desire, but we are those who learn that all need and desire is met fully in Christ alone. The freedom and pleasure we have, then, in loving with no visible return...for we have EVERYTHING our hearts truly desire in return. Thanks so much for your thoughtful post.

hannah singer said...

wow. this is beautiful.
AND most timely for me.
so grateful you shared such rich truth today.

Nelle said...

This made me think. I'm so guilty of ulterior motives and trade-offs. I'm so grateful for the things you've pointed out - that God's love is so unconditional, freely given and to just Be with freeing.

Seda said...

Doria -- Hi! Thank you for the encouragement. I didn't know that about cats and dogs! :)

Ruth jie jie -- Yes! You summed it up so well. By grace, may we continue to learn that all our needs and desires are fulfilled in Christ alone.

Hannah -- Thank you for dropping by, and for your encouragement here, and through your blog.

Nelle -- Yes! Ulterior motives and trade-offs are part of my days as a mom of two young ones. Now that I am aware of them, I am frankly scared by how my own heart and mind operate. It is helpful for me to remember that of all that I do and say, and how I love others, are all part of my response to God's grace, and not as a way to manipulate those around me. Thanks for reading!

thetoddlerwhisperer said...

painfully true post. you get to the true heart of it all. thank you. He amazes me everytime I think of how He loves us even when we are so unloveable!