Friday, January 17, 2014

God's Measure of Success

So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless.- 1 Corinthians 15:56

Sometimes we hesitate to do good because we don't see any results. Our standards are earthly, full of the shortcomings of other living creatures like us. It has been said, quite rightly, that we are physical beings having a spiritual experience. If we are able to maintain a heavenly perspective, we have some insight as to the great conundrums of life.

To name but two, Why do bad things happen to good people? Why does effort, education, and good intentions alone not always prevent and successfully address problems? At times, we do not see the great good that results from our efforts and, if we are to be honest with ourselves, we may never. That's a tough pill to swallow.

For the highly motivated healers and fixers among us, this is a difficult lesson to digest. If we truly believe that Christ has won the ultimate victory over death, that fact should keep us grounded. We shouldn't let discouragement over an apparent lack of results keep us from working together towards a much superior goal. By all means, let's do good, use our opportunities, but never forget that worthwhile work will never provide us eternal life. The imperfections and contradictions of our current form will never satisfy anyone, neither seeker, nor firm believer.

Three years of committee service, recently concluded, led me to rely upon a particular saying. I recognized my purpose was to serve God, not to serve other people. Along the way, my models and mentors were sometimes frustratingly unhelpful, and I frequently lost my patience. I looked for tangible results and, at times, found very few of them.

Placing my trust in God means that I swallow my ego and temper my expectations. It requires surrender. What lies before me are the metrics of his plan, not mine. I seek to keep this in mind in difficult times when I crave even a crumb of good news. Each of us longs for a shot in the arm, a confidence boost, and the satisfaction of building something functional and permanent from the ground up.

Looking at things from a Godly perspective means that, unless I correct my attitude, I might well remain mired in what I consider to be obscurity and frustration for the entirety of my life. But to reiterate, as Jesus corrected Peter, if I do this, I am looking at things merely from a human point of view. Let's examine ourselves. We are biological machines. Each of us is given a finite amount of time before we expire and turn back to dust. The clock is running from the moment we are born, and our physical selves will eventually give way and break down. We will all grow old and frail. We will all die.

Liberal Quakers, especially, are uncomfortable with the notion of the afterlife. Critics of organized religion make a case that living only for a heavenly reward means that we ignore the problems of our physical existence. Not so. We shouldn't shirk our responsibility to do good. We are commanded to care for the less fortunate, the poor, the infirm, and those whose plight is routinely ignored.

Heaven has been described by these detractors as a beautiful fantasy, but I beg to differ. Eternal life cannot be measured and comprehended by our finite, limited brains. I've given up imagining what is to follow, refusing to live a life dictated by works, jumping through the hoops in sequence like a trained pony. I'm more concerned now with taking things in stride, even though I'm an impatient person. Each of us has a cross (or two) to bear.

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