Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I'm Muddling Along. Isn't That Good Enough?

A sick "selfie"! Do I look attracted to Infinity? Well, the palm tree looks nice...

I've spent the past half hour mentally zoning out in front of the screen. I'm not going to complain about being sick. Sunday was a good day. Now I'm mostly back in bed. But there will be other good days.

They're all good days. Some of them are just difficult.

I must bear the difficulties, "carry the cross," and offer it up. Right?

But the problem is, I don't want to bear difficulties. I can't stand it! I'm not good at "offering up" stuff. I'd rather grumble and feel sorry for myself, darn it!

But there are Eileen and the kids, these people who are inescapably "in my face" every day. We've got to have some order, and some effort to get along, so I raise myself up with all my energy and I manage to muddle along.

That doesn't seem like a very Christian attitude, but I'm a bad Christian; really, I do the whole thing badly. I'm not good at trusting, or praying, or loving my neighbor, or taking care of the poor. I'm selfish, lazy, and foolish. I'm the Rich Man (or, at least, I would like to be the Rich Man, feasting splendidly... but in any case I do have the riches of the First World, a table with plenty of scraps falling carelessly all over the place).

I do see Lazarus at the door. Perhaps I'm not so bad. I'm sorry for Lazarus, and I don't want to ignore him. I'll gather some of my scraps and give them to charity. Lazarus is hungry. I'm glad we have "people-who-deal-with-that-sort-of-thing." Trained people. Professionals. Other people.

Of course, the real problem for me is not that I don't want Lazarus to have a nice, happy, well-fed life. The problem is that Lazarus is a weirdo. Lazarus has all these problems, he's difficult, and so darn demanding. Lazarus is "another person," and I'm too tired to be bothered with him!

Feed him. Give him a full plate. In fact he can have the whole dinner. Just keep him outside. Or, forget it, he can have the house. I'll go outside!

What I don't want is for Lazarus and I to get involved in each other's lives. I don't want to love Lazarus, because that would mean recognizing his deeper hunger. It's a hunger that I don't understand, and don't know how to fill. Let him go to a psychologist or a priest or "somebody else." His hunger is too much like my own hunger, and I don't want to feel my own hunger!

What has always struck me most in the parable of "Lazarus and the Rich Man" is the fact that, when the Rich Man is in torment, he asks Abraham to "send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue" (Luke 16:24). He says, "send Lazarus...."

So he knew Lazarus by name. How did he know him? Who was Lazarus? His friend? His brother? His son? Or perhaps just someone from the neighborhood. Still, he knew him by name. He recognized his face.

It is terrible to let a stranger starve at our gate. But the people starving at our gates are people we know by name. Lazarus is our friends, our brothers and sisters, our parents, our children, our spouse.

Our Lazarus lives in the house. Is he starved for our love?

I know what this means for me. It means that "muddling along" is not good enough. We are all too hungry. I must face my hunger and live it and cry out from it and beg to be fed. Then, I will have something to offer.