Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Dangerous Art of Self-Examination

So few people will actually take the time to examine their lives. This is a tragedy. Those who do so, and who leave room for faith, place themselves in a position to escape the viciousness of this world. It is a dark and sinister voice that encouragesus to bludgeon our consciences, sublimate our common sense, and cast off our disposition to absolutes. We all hear such a whisper. Only those who reject it will prosper.

That is quite a claim to make: if you examine your life, and leave room for faith, you will know goodness. If you ignore that twitching instinct within you that pushes you constantly toward excess, you will find happiness. Seems a bit simplistic, doesn’t it? I think it does. I think that’s the great beauty of faith in God. It seems like such a massive undertaking. All these questions to answer, and way too much change required, and—of course—who has the time? The funny thing about faith in Jesus Christ is that it’s actually a very simple matter. The propositions to grasp are quite straightforward, and, when not shouted down by shrillness, quite sensible. They accord with a basic knowledge of our selves. What’s more, the path to faith begins not with some quantum leap of the intellect, or a near-mortifying religious experience that leaves one all sweaty and shivering on the floor, but an honest, calm, almost quiet look at one’s life. There begins the path to faith.

Here, then, is the first question to ask in self-examination: am I living for ill or for good? This question probes the shape of one’s life, and it does so without needing much of a framework. All the framework one needs to begin self-examination is to invite the conscience into one’s thoughts, and to ask it to speak honestly. What does it say? Do you live for ill or for good? Are you living honorably, in a way that your grandmother would smile upon? Do you regularly do things that some part of you knows to be wrong? Do you try to appease guilt by the headlong pursuit of pleasure? How much of life do you regret?

Finally, and most importantly, if God does exist, and He is holy and desires all people to be holy, would He approve of your life?


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