On the edge of eternal bliss, and the precipice of damnation we perch like sickly birds seeking rest.
Should our foot find this landing, and our wings settle beside us, we find hope in complacency: that we may sit on our lees for a while, and tell ourselves ‘it is rest.’
I once thought that life was a pursuit for glorious objective, and strove long hours that I may obtain it. Either we did, or we didn’t; we obtained or we failed, but in the end it didn’t matter: it ended. What is next? For the victor, or for the failure, another pursuit must be made, and we wend the cycle of pursuit, obtaining, or failing again and again. Wherefore it is written: ‘…all is vanity, and vexation of spirit.’
I once thought life was in relationships. I’ve hoped, and longed for grace from my fellow man, not to burn my bridges. But here I am, still the same – or rather far different, but still not compatible, and I see that our desire for relationship, going unheeded becomes strivings for acceptance. We seek and prowl, then, for acceptance, and like rain on a pane of glass wonder if we have any effect in corrosion; is it to shout for days at a stone wall, hoping our voice will break it? Will not our voice grow hoarse before any damage could ever be made on the rock?
I once thought life was a journey, but so often is it interrupted. I am not that master waiter who can balance all these things on a silver tray and walk with inconspicuous dignity as I do it.
Life is a series of deaths, and rebirths, and we all are like caterpillars – worms of the earth, seeking to be heavenly creatures of flight.
Do you hear the dawn when it rises in your heart? It is to be born again, but the bands of the lower worm tie their threads upon our minds, and we seek our cocoon.
The man on the watchtower shouted below, but the people ignored him. “There is no imminent danger!” He said, but the people ran here and there in fear; trying to prepare themselves for the battle they knew was incumbent; when they paused, they felt guilty for taking no action; when they wrought with all their might they always wondered if they were doing enough.
The man on the watchtower shouted below, but the people ignored him. “Listen: Learn how to prepare yourselves for the battle to come! Make ready, for though it delay, the battle shall come!” He cried, but the people settled them down, and readied for bed, singing lullabies to one-another, fell soundly asleep.
A lone wayfarer having entered the city beheld these things, and climbed the steps to the city wall to speak with the watchman. “What has happened here? Why is the city thus?” The watchman replied:
“A thief has ravaged the city of its will, has blinded the wise, and deafened those that should be listening.”
“What thief has such power?” The wayfarer asked him.
“The thief is in our midst, and always has been. It lulls our people into complacency for it is always sounding the trumpet to some battle of insignificance. When the true battle, therefore shall come, I fear for our people so blinded by the thief.” The watchman replied.
“But pray, do you know the name of this thief? Who is it, that it may be avoided?” The wayfarer asked.
“I shall tell you its name, but it will make little difference, for its power is in the fear of man, and these had rather listen to humans outside themselves, rather than the Divine Spirit that was planted within them. And that, alone, my friend is the problem – what gives power to the thief, and closes their eyes to it. Though I declare its name, still it goes un-perceived for the fear of man – for all these on their journey seek first the approval of man. Howbeit, they think they seek the approval of God, or of Truth, or of Virtue, or the best good for humanity because their first fear is the fear of man, and not of God.”
“Say on,” said the wayfarer, “Tell, I pray thee the name of the thief so that I at the least can be spared from it.”
The watchman frowned thoughtfully, looking at the wayfarer. “I can only hope that you will take heed, for if the fear of man is in you at all, then like a leaven it will obscure to you even the name of the thief, and the knowledge of it. The Master, the King of all things once said:
‘If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.’
“So, before I tell you, I ask: do you hate your father, and mother, and wife and children, and brethren and sisters?”
“That is an hard question.” The wayfarer replied. “But I think what is meant is that I ought to be willing to forsake these things.” For a long moment the wayfarer considered the question, before he finally answered: “I am not sufficient for the strength of my emotions, but I choose to be willing to forsake my own should I be called on to do so.”
The watchman nodded. Was the answer sufficient? It was truthful. But then the watchman inquired further: “Do you despise every earthly organization, every group and creed that gives you security? Will you abandon every earthly obligation put on you by government, or employer, or church organization, or ministry? Do you hate even your own life?”
The wayfarer looked on at the watchman baffled. “Surely this would not be required? These questions are hypothetical, are they not? Surely we must submit to authority, for no authority exists but what was instituted by God. Though we must be willing to abandon family, surely some earthly governance… some church is owed our allegiance.”
The watchman stared at the wayfarer but said nothing. He waited for the stranger’s answer.
The wayfarer looked over the wall, staring into the distance for a long while. Finally, he spoke: “Should I ever be called upon…” he stopped, realizing creating such a qualifier in his answer was, itself, a dodge of the question. The more he contemplated it, the more he knew, this was not a matter of whether or not he would if once called upon, but whether or not he would unequivocally.
Would he hate even his own life, and those allegiances which he felt made it up? Was humanity, itself, an idol to him? His own sense of purpose, of destiny? His own hope? The more he considered it, the more the question wounded him; he was afraid to continue contemplating it. But he also saw the wisdom of the watchman; this question was, indeed at the root of the fear of man.
Would he despise everything he had ever known? Could he lay every relationship on the altar, and take it or leave it that he may follow Christ?
“Yes.” He said finally with resolve. “I pray it is not as Peter’s promise, who swore never to forsake the Lord, but in the moment of trail denied His name. Yes, and may the Lord help me to do so.”
The watchman nodded. “Now that you have committed so, and truly contemplated it, you doubtless know the thief’s name. It is ‘Partisanship,’ and all the people of the land follow this thief, even many who think they don’t. When they hear me speak, they think that I, too, follow the thief, and that they don’t. Therefore, they will not listen, and such as I speak, they reject. It is the power of the fear of man. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.”