The “Don’t tell me” generation goes back a long way. In fact, it is recorded in the Book of Genesis, Chapters 2-3. The classic archetype of humans is one with fundamental flaws yet whose nature is good. Individually, not so much so. We have reason and free choices, but the choices are sometimes destructive to our purpose. Such is the conflict in the human mind that, when someone tells us to do something we don’t want, we either avoid them completely or just ignore them.
There is a dynamic at work in how the individual human chooses anything. Rights are confused with the choices that are right for me or destructive. Freedom to choose what is good has morphed into anything I choose for me is good, and no one can tell me differently.
There are essentially two approaches to making choices in this flotsam jetsom of competing values we inherit.
The first choice is that all morals and values come from within me. Actually, that is essentially correct. When we are born, we are born of the human species with the capability to reason and make choices. What we choose depends on our capacity to search around us and see what is good or bad for us. No one can tell me what to do if I don’t want to hear it. I may have no choice in the matter, such as getting a job or paying taxes, but all things equal, I can say NO to anything. Of course, all choices come with the consequences resulting from that choice. If I choose to rob a bank, then get caught, I must pay the price that society imposes on this action, which we call a crime. If I choose to attend Florida State University, granted that I am accepted, I must follow their rules, which I agree to do. If I do so and make the grade, I am graduated with some kind of degree (consequences).
The second choice is that, although all morals and values come from within me, I freely accept that what I choose comes from a power outside of myself. Knowing that I am the center of all reality (for my seventy or eighty years, if I am lucky), I realize that what is good for me, in terms of my purpose, can only be fulfilled by going outside of myself with a power that is beyond my capability.
Put another way, I recognize that I must live in three universes (physical, mental, and spiritual) to reach the fulfillment of my species as a human, rather than relying on what the world has to offer me (the physical and mental universes alone). The problem comes when I realize that all spiritual approaches to life won’t lead me to fulfill my purpose in life and my individual purpose within that set of assumptions. I am trying to say that it is only when we give away our precious gift of choice to make God’s choices based on how I view the reality that we actually fulfill what it means to be human.
When I say to God, “For Thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory….forever,” I pledge my obedience to a way of life that contradicts what the world says is its purpose (power, money, fame, fortune, sex without love, control). That doesn’t make sense to the world, hence the dissonance I feel. The dissonance this causes to my human penchant for control is strong, yet, it is denying that self in favor of gaining something transcendent that I become more human.
In Baptism, I receive citizenship as the Father’s adopted son (daughter). That means I pledge to obey God’s word in my heart and serve others with love as Christ did for us. Because of the dissonance of Original Sin, my life is a battle between the citizenship of the world (until I die) on top of my dual citizenship as a member of the Body of Christ, which restores me to resonance with all that is, as it should be.
The tension that I feel when I try to do Lectio Divina go to Eucharist, pray the Divine Office, and Read Holy Scriptures, is between my false self trying to reassert power over my movement to my true self. The tension itself is a prayer and makes my conquering or dying to self all the more a gift from me to God in thanksgiving for the energy of the Holy Spirit to lift me up to a new level of humanity, one loved by Love itself.
Rather than denying my resistance to moving from my false self to my true self, paradoxically, it is when I accept that the gift I offer to the Father through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit is the one that he doesn’t already possess. Obedience is conversio morae every day. Just as the weeds in your front yard will grow, and you can’t stop that natural process, your belief also needs nourishment and re-centering each day to keep from spiritual atrophy. As a Lay Cistercian, I have promised to use the Rule of St. Benedict as interpreted by the statues and policies of the Cistercians (Trappists in particular). I must constantly pray that I do not enter into temptation. Some days are better than others.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.”
What thoughts should you have about obedience and the freedom to choose?