I’m a keeper of journals. For as long as I can recall I have written my way through life. In copious notebooks I’ve documented and reflected on what’s been a mostly unremarkable story. Regardless, the earliest of these are drenched with angst. As I scan them now, I cringe. They read like an endless and urgent ‘quest’ for improvement or for reality different to the one I knew.
My religious upbringing did not help. The journey to Christian devotion — a quest of the most noble kind — was fueled by a dim view of the human heart and of the world in which we’re ‘entrapped’. The narrow road out and toward God was paved with words of obligation: repent, give up, let go, deny, quench, resist. It was an urgent business. Honestly, I felt more failure than progress as I trudged along, but the drive to ‘press on’ remained.
With the benefit of age, I wish now I could go back to that ernest young man and others like him. While he sits hunched over his journal I would stand behind him, my hands on his shoulders, and speak words of peace. “Go easy,” I would say, “this world is good and precious, and so are you.”
It is the psalmist who affirms all creation as filled with the beauty and majesty of God and St Paul who marvels at that all-encompassing love that leaves no peak or crevice of this life untouched. The Franciscan Richard Rohr describes true religion as “always a deep intuition that we are already participating in something very good, in spite of our best efforts to deny it or avoid it.” Indeed, this world declared ‘good’ and ‘very good’ in the creation story continues to be so. The great privilege of the Christian faith is not that we are on a journey toward God, but that we are in God and the life of God is in us.
Yes, I am still journaling and still questing. I still seek meaning in what I do. I still aspire to goodness in who I am and justice for those around me. But the urgency of it and the self-criticism, they are less. Rather than being driven by a rejection of the world’s darkness and a desire for improvement in myself, I find myself inspired by the beauty of all that’s around and even within me. Today there is less drive for personal progress and more longing for the grandeur, kindness and grace that fills this world of ours.