No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.
Words like this are haunting. But who among us has begun to plow? We can’t make ourselves into plowmen, can we, or are all of us called to the field?
Theoretical questions like this have made a mess of my life. Of course, God doesn’t mind a mess. He does, of course, mind irresponsibility. The awareness itself that I am now in a financial hole so deep that I cannot wait any longer is—it appears to me—the helicopter of the Lord, sent to save me. And so many people have been so generous to me, but these people have also aided in my confusion. Their support implies that my mission is from God, or so I have taken it. And, God doesn’t mind if we are confused. I think He has little time for those who would never allow themselves to think at all, to contemplate ‘the path less travelled,’ for His sake, to never fall into confusion.
And some have told me, “Don’t give up your dream. Just put it on pause until you can pursue it again.” That looks like what I’ll have to do.
God, make me so faithful to You that I will do anything You want, including what You can’t possibly want.
Sometimes God wants what He does not want for sake of what He wants. Illnesses are like this. Of course, even straight paths, regardless of how uncomfortable they are, objectively speaking, can become, because of their familiarity, more comfortable than they should be for sake of our moral improvement. This is the ‘devil you know.’ I am about to finish C. S. Lewis’ relatively neglected, The Pilgrim’s Regress. It’s a relatively long book – and that’s my point. The Eerdman’s edition I have is 243 pages long. It is the story of Lewis’ conversion, but told as an allegory. Certainly, I can—and have—told my conversion story much more succinctly. But have I told it well? My conversion, clearly, is still ongoing. My point is, why does God have to be succinct with us? He doesn’t and He isn’t.
Are you comfortable? A friend of mine said something quite profound recently (though he probably was unaware of the profundity of his words). He said, “We should leave some self-care until we get to heaven.” Between the view of the saints and that of most modern day secular gurus there is great disparity. Ultimately, comfort is an obstacle, say the former; to the latter it is the goal. This does not, I should emphasize, mean that we should be miserable. Another book that I have just finished—of which I cannot say enough good—St. John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent, spends an admirable amount of time differentiating between good suffering and bad suffering, for lack of a better word.
My point is this: I don’t want to do X, therefore I am called to do X.
I don’t want to get and do a job that I don’t really want, therefore, it seems at least conceivable, ceteris paribus, that I should.
People have been so good to me. On the one hand, I want to continue to fulfill their wish for me to continue on my work. On the other hand, they have to work at jobs they don’t want to work at, so why should I exempt myself from that?
Most of them do not have the degree of financial ruin I have, but then again, I bet they don’t enjoy their jobs as much as I enjoy writing.
I cannot make an idol of my schedule, my plan, my time-line. I am so close, I believe, to becoming a self-sufficient writer with my books and with the Catholic Review of Books that I feel it is a shame to get side-tracked. But that is my feeling, and my feeling is no more infallible than anyone else’s who strives to do the will of God.
But let me say two more things and then go away.
1) I will still, no matter what, continue on with my writing. I have a friend editing the book I just finished. I hope a publisher will pick it up and it will make some money. I am working on other books. You know about my Job book. It is a big project so I have realized that I should do some smaller ones first for sake of financial considerations. Right now I am working on a book on Jesus. I realized I have so much knowledge of Christology (not to mention a relationship with the guy) that I can and should put to use. This books won’t take much more than another month to write, depending on how much time I get. I like to tell people these details so they can know what I am up to and what their financial assistance would produce. I know that it is God’s will that I continue to teach what He has taught me. How this happens is another—lesser—matter, and that was the main point of this blog post.
This is what I say about why I am writing this Christology book in the introduction. I think it will help to give you an idea of the good I feel called to do:
“In the second section you will see a guy who loves Jesus ‘responding’ to the intellectual horizon in which we dwell. He knows about this horizon better than many because he has made a study of it for a long time. I said there are lots of wonderful works of systematic Christology out there. There are also lots of ‘love poems’ about Jesus like the one I attempt in the first section. However, many of the love poems have been written by authors who might not necessarily have the intellectual background to make their insights timely and communicable to people living today. I don’t believe that what I write will be just what every possible reader needs, but I pray it will be of some use to many. The many I have in mind are the types of people I hear about everyday – the type of person I once was (still am?). I mean the twenty-something-year-olds parents tell me about who don’t have much use for God and the Church anymore.
To be honest, I don’t have much use for the God and Church that many people believe in. When I was about seventeen, I suppose, I realized that to make a difference as a Christian I would have to bring something more to the table. There is lots of faith out there – good faith and bad faith. It seemed to me though that what the world needed was not more unthinking faith, but faith—active loving faith—that “has reasons.” Intellectualized faith is not better necessarily. But strong faith intellectualized is. That is, understanding that does not compromise passionate attachment to Christ one bit…”
2) We are in a very bad way financially. Faith, hope and credit cards have made this so. So, I need your assistance now almost more than ever. Even if I get a job tomorrow, full time at minimum wage that won’t solve the problem Please consider supporting me! If you are able to give to one last good cause this year, consider my work for the Gospel! Consider subscribing to the Review, for instance, and buy copies of my books as they come out! (Cheques can be sent to The Catholic Review of Books, Box 207, Barry’s Bay, ON, K0J 1B0 or use Pay Pal on the website.)
The Lord has given me a lot and I do not believe that I have squandered it. But He requires that my will is pliable to His and that I do not set up obstacles to Him. I firmly believe that most people are selfish when it comes to following the Lord. Our vocations crisis proves this. This whole ‘vocation to the single life’ business proves it. I have always said that the single life is often—more often than we think—a failure to answer the Lord’s call to follow a religious rule, where you do not get to call the shots! We are all selfish. I am selfish. But I cannot think that even my poverty is an end willed for itself. God doesn’t want me destitute, my family destitute—nor does He want us rich. But between the two, who know what God wants!
Thanks for listening and praying!
The tent thing in the title, by the way, as regular readers of my blogs know, refers to St. Paul who had to periodically support his ministry by making tents. If I do what Paul did, I will explain myself to Christ that way.
I was discussing these thoughts with friends the other day and they reminded me of the fact that St. Pio was suspended from his priestly ministry for many years because of his stigmata. It was his vocation, but he was not allowed to pursue it. All the saints had experiences like this. It didn’t mean that their lives were not right with God.