Loving the World

Travelling is a great time to do some soul searching. My wife and I recently had the opportunity to get a way for almost two weeks, to go off the grid. To read, think, and do some self-examination. What I found in myself is something I had felt for a while but had failed to recognize: something called morbidness.

I do not mean morbidness in this instance to mean a fixation on death, or a fetish for strange, Halloween trinkets. What I do mean is an unhealthy pessimism: a skeptical escapism that cares little for people, and just wants to get away. The times that we live in do not do us any favors, and I wonder if anyone else can relate.

Looking at the world, scrolling through social media, observing family and friends--it is hard not to get discouraged. I have seen myself grow somewhat calloused and cold. Bitter. Selfishly waiting for the millennium. My recurring day dream is to go far away on a whale boat like Ishmael in Moby Dick or some isolated fortress in Idaho where I can live out my modernized quasi-monastic ethos (I am married after all, and thoroughly protestant). I want to be alone, unaffected by the profligacy of the world. I want to unplug social media for all the nonsensical egotistical postings; all the people who are unabashedly celebrating their sin.

If you could not tell, I often see myself turning into this old man; yes, an 84 year old with a permanently wrinkled scowl--at 24. Where my forehead is stuck in this twisted contortion of disapproval and disgust. Where I do not laugh much, and worse, I never cry. I look at screaming children with solemn displeasure. I look at youths and I shake my head at their modern clothes and their music which is way too loud (ironic because I have played drums for years when others have done the same). And when I see the decadent masses, I do not look into their eyes and smile, nor do I look at their deeds and frown; I simply turn away, go into my house and lock my door, with the handle AND the bolt. A 12 gauge pump action shotgun dwells in my accessible closet and "no trespassing" signs litter my lawn. What I am becoming is someone who is merely weathering the storm, going through life with gritted teeth; tallying the days in this earthly prison.

"Don't you dare get on my lawn, kids."

That is what I mean by morbidness. And that is a gross misapplication of the Christian life: Where our Savior enters the world as light that expunges the darkness, and likewise calls us to go as and make disciples of all people; where the greatest command is to love God and the second greatest command is to love your neighbor as yourself. Thankfully on this trip I got to pinpoint this coldness within myself and take some medicine for my ills.

The medicine was G. K. Chesterton. In his book Orthodoxy the pre C. S. Lewis thinker addresses the problem I have with brilliance:

For our Titanic purposes of faith and revolution, what we need is not the cold acceptance of the world as a compromise, but some way in which we can heartily hate and heartily love it. We do not want joy and anger to neutralize each other and produce a surly contentment; we want a fiercer delight and a fiercer discontent. We have to feel the universe at once as an ogre's castle, to be stormed, and yet as our own cottage, to which we can return at evening.

Chesterton is quite the romantic. To him the world is not this temporary purgatory from where he is patiently awaiting the deliverance death will bring. Instead, Chesterton loves the world. He desperately loves it, and because he loves it so much, he desperately hates what is wrong with it. He hates the evil, the vileness, the corruption which brings men to death. But he doesn't let such strong opposing emotions counteract each other into this passive neutrality of escapism or pessimism as I described above. As he says at another point: "The point is not that this world is too sad to love or too glad not to love; the point is that when you do love a thing, its gladness is a reason for loving it, and its sadness a reason for loving it more." And when you love something, you cannot help but engage it:

"A man's friend likes him but leaves him as he is: his wife loves him and is always trying to turn him into somebody else."

We need to in a sense become like wives and mothers. If you have one (or are one; or both) you will know that they love us more than anyone else, will defend us before anyone else, will be offended when ill is spoken of us more than anybody else. And yet who are the ones who are constantly asking us to change and reform our ways? Moms and wives. That is what true love looks like. Not passive aggressive escapism. Not cold bitterness and locked doors. Not passive acquiescence through virtue signaling and affirmative Facebook likes. Obviously loving the world as it is at once an ogre's castle to be stormed and my own cottage is very hard work. Painful work, in fact. But that is the kind of love that Christ displayed when he came as light into the darkness. When he came as light into our darkness. It is that same kind of love which he calls us to display as well.

I will be working on it.

"For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16


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