In an attempt to discover the depths of God, a young man set off in search of an elderly monk who was said to possess all spiritual truth. He eventually discovered the wise old man kneeling in a cave and asked him how he could come to know God in all His glory.
Without speaking a word the monk stood up and beckoned the young man to follow. Full of excitement he walked along a path to a small stream, where the silent monk motioned for him to kneel at the edge and look closely into the water.
The young seeker of truth enthusiastically obeyed, peering intently into the depths.
Suddenly the old man pushed his head under the water and held him there. The young man was frantic and began to struggle, but the monk continued to hold him down.
Finally he released him and the blue-faced student gasped desperately for air, his eyes wide with horror. While he was still sucking in the air the old monk whispered softly in his ear, “When you desire to seek God as passionately as you desired that next breath … only then will you discover His fulness and beauty”.
It is a story I regularly contemplate when analysing my relationship with God and it always reminds me of how short I fall.
Throughout history there have been many holy men and women who seemed to have lived every waking moment desiring to fulfil God’s will in their lives, yet my first thought for each day is usually focused on my own wants and worries.
Perhaps these holy people also wrestled with such episodes of self-absorption, but the difference is that they eventually chose to surrender their day to God, whereas I am only willing to share it with Him.
One of the greatest enemies in this battle is my willingness to succumb to one of the most liberally interpreted words of our time – “balance”.
It is a concept I usually find myself embracing when I’m looking for an excuse to channel my time and energy into what I want to do. I can’t get too spiritual I will tell myself – “I need to have balance”. I will allow God to have an influence in certain aspects of my life, or to a certain degree, but I will justify and rationalise why I should maintain some semblance of control.
But, according to the wisdom of the old monk, I will never discover the fulness of God because His revelation is dependent on the zeal in which I seek Him. If His will is my sole desire and I seek Him as I seek my next breath, then I will receive the fulness of His love, but if I decide to seek a more “balanced” approach, then God will also honour that choice.
Jesus should be our barometer, but just how “balanced” was he? His passion and zeal to fulfil the will of His Father were in his every breath, including his last. His desire to implant the message of unconditional love into the hearts of those he met was total and unwavering.
He lived in a family-oriented culture yet he preached that those who do the will of his Father in heaven were his mother and brother. He was part of a society that taught an eye for an eye yet he encouraged people to turn the other cheek. He reached out to those in society considered unworthy and vehemently condemned the attitudes of those in authority. A simple denial could have saved him from a violent savage death. No, this does not appear to be a “balanced” man.
Although the Gospels only provide us with snippets of Jesus’ life on earth, those who recorded it focused solely on his single-minded zeal to live out his Father’s will. Only Peter questioned his blinkered approach – when he insisted that Jesus should not have to suffer – and he was reminded in no uncertain terms that such questioning was not from God – “Get behind me Satan”. After that no one else told him to take it easy, put his feet up, pamper himself …or find some “balance”.
But the Gospel writers did make it clear that every one of Jesus’ deeds, words and thoughts was anchored in his Father’s love. God was the very essence of his existence and everything he did was motivated by this relationship.
Jesus may well have savoured some of the delights the world had to offer, but the desire to fulfil his Father’s will would never have been compromised by self-satisfaction.
This was a man who lived out the wisdom of the old monk … he yearned for His Father as he yearned for his very next breath.
I think it’s time I found a little less “balance” in my life.