The contemporary situation is fundamentally marked by that same tension between opposite tendencies which runs through the whole of history. On the one side, there is the interior opening up of the human soul to God; but on the other side, there is the stronger attraction of our needs and our immediate experience. Man is the battlefield where these two contend with each other.
Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures, 100
Reflection – I think we can all easily identify with this passage. There is God, and then there is ‘what I want right now.’ Which will I choose this time? There is God and the infinite eternal reality He opens up for us, and then there is the maelstrom of immediate concrete life pulling us in all sorts of directions. Can any of us say we are never pulled of course? There is God and His constant call to us to ground our life in the depths of charity, justice, and goodness—and then there is the persistent desire to just do whatever will yield us immediate pleasure or satisfaction. The broad and easy way—and oh, that narrow and steep path is hard to stay on all the time!
Yep, it’s a battlefield. And it is right and proper to experience it as such. As one of our wise holy priests used to say here, “If you don’t know you’re in a battle, you’re probably losing.” The only way we wholly escape the ‘battle’ of life is if we capitulate entirely to the downward tug of self-seeking and shallow pursuit of the immediate and the easy. And this is a wretched state beyond wretchedness.
We are made to be more than what we are. This is the glory of humanity. We are made to transcend ourselves, a self-transcendence achieved not by our own powers (which would be a contradiction in terms anyhow), but by the gracious gift of Another. Our human nature is found and fulfilled when we open up to a Nature that is not ours, that pulls us up, broadens us out, deepens and expands us until we can embrace in Love the whole of reality.
Because it is a question of surpassing ourselves, there is always the matter of the Self, and the option always open to us to refuse the invitation. As Chesterton put it, selfishness is the necessary possibility opened up to us by virtue of the fact that we have a self. We can always close in, close up, curl into a ball, grab the prize we want and wrap ourselves around it like our life depended on it. Actually, our death depends on it.
Our life depends on the opposite. Opening up wide, letting go of everything, allowing God full scope in us to live and love and move—this is the path of freedom and life. A constant movement of opening, of holding ourselves open before God, and of detachment and dispossession from all other things. Holding them lightly, and tossing them up to God for Him to do what He likes with them.
This is the perennial battle of man in the world, and all the immediate battles, personal and cultural, are at heart expressions of this battle. Will we let God have His way with us? Or are we going to have our way? Lewis says in the end there are only two kinds of people: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, with great sorrow, ‘Thy will be done.’Which will it be, today? For you, for me? Just for today, since that’s all we have.