Monday, February 05, 2007

Nice People or New Men

"If you are a nice person--if virtue comes easily to you--beware! Much is expected from those to whom much is given. If you mistake for your own merits what are really God's gifts to you through nature, and if you are contented with simply being nice, you are still a rebel: and all those gifts will only make your fall more terrible, your corruption more complicated, your bad example more disastrous. The Devil was an archangel once; his natural gifts were as far above yours as yours are above those of a chimpanzee.

"But if you are a poor creature--poisoned by a wretched upbringing in some house full of vulgar jealousies and senseless quarrels--saddled, by no choice of your own, with some loathsome sexual perversion--nagged day in and day out by an inferiority complex that makes you snap at your best friends--do not despair. He knows all about it. You are one of the poor whom He blessed. He knows what a wretched machine you are trying to drive. Keep on. Do what you can. One day (perhaps in another world, but perhaps far sooner than that) He will fling it on the scrap-heap and give you a new one. And then you may astonish us all--not least yourself: for you have learned your driving in a hard school. (Some of the last will be first and some of the first will be last.)" Mere Christianity

I used to think of myself as a "nice" person--not a great sinner--just an average one. But it seems the longer I am a Christian the more I see the dark side in myself. Instead of getting better and becoming more like Christ, sometimes I feel I am getting worse.

But this is just where I find C. S. Lewis so encouraging as a spiritual guide. He points out that, in some ways, there is more hope for the "poor creature" than for the "nice person". In one of my favorite quotes from one of Lewis's letters he says:

"I know all about the despair of overcoming chronic temptations. It is not serious provided self-offended petulance, annoyance at breaking records, impatience etc doesn't get the upper hand. No amount of falls will really undo us if we keep on picking ourselves up each time. We shall of course be v. muddy and tattered children by the time we reach home. But the bathrooms are all ready, the towels put out, & the clean clothes are in the airing cupboard. The only fatal thing is to lose one's temper and give it up. It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the v. sign of His presence." (Collected Letters, Volume II, p. 507.)

That's good news for me, and I hope it is for you too: "It is when we notice the dirt that God is most present to us: it is the very sign of his presence."

It is good news for those of us who feel like we are falling all the time and getting muddier and muddier. Lewis says to us: Don't despair and don't give up. Just pick yourself up again by God's grace and keep walking with Christ. He will lead you home in the end.

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