I read this quote earlier this week in Frost & Hirsch’s book, “The Faith of Leap”. I figured it would make for a decent Saturday pondering:
In his classic novel The Shoes of the Fisherman, Australian author Morris West writes: It costs so much to be a full human being that there are very few who have the enlightenment or the courage to pay the price. One has to abandon altogether the search for security and reach out to the risk of living with both arms outstretched. One has to embrace the world like a lover. One has to accept pain as a condition of existence. One has to court doubt at the cost of knowing. One needs a will stubborn in conflict but apt always to total acceptance of every consequence of living and dying.
So much of life, of truly living, comes down to our willingness to live in the places of tension. It’s a frustrating reality some days, and an adventurous truth other days. I don’t fully understand why this is the case, but I do know that anytime I find myself slipping to either side of the “road” on most issues, I am dangerously close to error.
I think mountain climbing may be the best illustration I can conjure. To feel the soaring ascent of summiting a peak it requires managing two things: 1. making sure you aren’t allowing excitement to cause you to completely throw caution to the wind and do something reckless because being at the top feels so good…2. making sure you aren’t allowing fear to dictate your course, your purpose, or your determination. It is only in the place of tension between looking up and looking down that we find success. If your focus slips off of the rope in front of your face, or the immediate dangers in your sphere of contact, there will be no need for excitement or fear, there will be only gravity.
When Jesus said things like, “love your enemies”, He knew fully the implications of His command. The tension there is startling. Kindness, which is naturally reserved for our friends, being applied to enemies, who are usually the recipients of our hostility, is a curious and somewhat maddening tension. And truly, to become overly concerned with either what happens in the end to mean people who are treated well, or to our reputation for treating them as such, is like paying too much attention to the peak or the ground. We must glance at both in order to keep our bearings, but our true task is much nearer to us, it has more flesh on it than philosophy. We will never “love our enemies” by worrying about what may come of it, only by showing them kindness right now.
It is this way in many things. Perspective is vitally important, but focus is equally necessary. In doing this, we ascend the hill of humanity, which is to say that we, step by step, become more like Jesus. For it was Him who displayed the prototype for all humanity. He was the human that history can say was most “fully alive”. And He is also the one who gave His very life for His enemies. The tension wasn’t something He merely taught about, but something He lived within and embraced.
May we strive for this kind of “full humanity”.