Put It All In

1. How Much of Myself Must I Give?

The ordi­nary idea which we all have before we become Chris­tians is this. We take as the start­ing point our ordi­nary self with its var­i­ous desires and inter­ests. We then admit that some­thing else — call it ​“moral­i­ty” or ​“decent behav­ior,” or ​“the good of soci­ety” — has claims on this self: claims which inter­fere with its own desires. What we mean by ​“being good” is giv­ing in to those claims. Some of the things the ordi­nary self want­ed to do turn out to be what we call ​“wrong”: well, we must give them up. Oth­er things turn out to be what we call ​“right”: well, we shall have to do them. 

But we are hop­ing all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor nat­ur­al self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes. In fact, we are very like an hon­est man pay­ing his tax­es. He pays them all right, but he does hope that there will be enough left over for him to live on. Because we are still tak­ing our nat­ur­al self as the start­ing point. 

2. Two Results 

As long as we are think­ing that way, one or the oth­er of two results is like­ly to fol­low. Either we give up try­ing to be good, or else we become very unhap­py indeed. For, make no mis­take: if you are real­ly going to try to meet all the demands made on the nat­ur­al self, it will not have enough left over to live on. The more you obey your con­science, the more your con­science will demand of you. And your nat­ur­al self, which is thus being starved and ham­pered and wor­ried at every turn, will get angri­er and angrier. 

In the end, you will either give up try­ing to be good, or else become one of those peo­ple who, as they say, ​“live for oth­ers” but always in a dis­con­tent­ed, grum­bling way — always won­der­ing why the oth­ers do not notice it more and always mak­ing a mar­tyr of your­self. And once you have become that you will be a far greater pest to any­one who has to live with you than you would have been if you had remained frankly selfish. 

3. Hard­er and Easier 

The Chris­t­ian way is dif­fer­ent: hard­er, and eas­i­er. Christ says, ​“Give me All. I don’t want so much of your time and so much of your mon­ey and so much of your work: I want You. I have not come to tor­ment your nat­ur­al self, but to kill it. No half-mea­sures are any good. I don’t want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. Hand over the whole nat­ur­al self, all the desires which you think inno­cent as well as the ones you think wicked — the whole out­fit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours.” 

Both hard­er and eas­i­er than what we are all try­ing to do. You have noticed, I expect, that Christ Him­self some­times describes the Chris­t­ian way as very hard, some­times as very easy. He says, ​“Take up your Cross” — in oth­er words, it is like going to be beat­en to death in a con­cen­tra­tion camp. Next minute he says, ​“My yoke is easy and my bur­den light.” He means both. And one can just see why both are true. 

4. The Most Dan­ger­ous Thing 

Teach­ers will tell you that the lazi­est boy in the class is the one who works the hard­est in the end. They mean this. If you give two boys, say, a propo­si­tion in geom­e­try to do, the one who is pre­pared to take trou­ble will try to under­stand it. The lazy boy will learn it by heart because, for the moment, that needs less effort. But six months lat­er, when they are prepar­ing for the exam, that lazy boy is doing hours and hours of mis­er­able drudgery over things the oth­er boy under­stands, and pos­i­tive­ly enjoys, in a few minutes. 

Lazi­ness means more work in the long run. Or look at it this way. In a bat­tle, or in moun­tain climb­ing, there is often one thing which it takes a lot of pluck to do; but it is also, in the long run, the safest thing to do. If you funk it, you will find your­self, hours lat­er, in far worse dan­ger. The cow­ard­ly thing is also the most dan­ger­ous thing. 

5. The Almost Impos­si­ble Thing 

It is like that here. The ter­ri­ble thing, the almost impos­si­ble thing, is to hand over your whole self — all your wish­es and pre­cau­tions — to Christ. But it is far eas­i­er than what we are try­ing to do instead. For what we are try­ing to do is to remain what we call ​“our­selves,” to keep per­son­al hap­pi­ness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ​“good.” We are all try­ing to let our mind and heart go their own way — cen­tered on mon­ey or plea­sure or ambi­tion — and hop­ing, in spite of this, to behave hon­est­ly and chaste­ly and humbly. 

And that is exact­ly what Christ warned us you could not do. As He said, a this­tle can­not pro­duce figs. If I am a field that con­tains noth­ing but grass-seed, I can­not pro­duce wheat. Cut­ting the grass may keep it short: but I shall still pro­duce grass and no wheat. If I want to pro­duce wheat, the change must go deep­er than the sur­face. I must be ploughed up and re-sown. 

6. Lis­ten­ing to That Oth­er Voice 

That is why the real prob­lem of the Chris­t­ian life comes where peo­ple do not usu­al­ly look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morn­ing. All your wish­es and hopes for the day rush at you like wild ani­mals. And the first job each morn­ing con­sists sim­ply in shov­ing them all back; in lis­ten­ing to that oth­er voice, tak­ing that oth­er point of view, let­ting that oth­er larg­er, stronger, qui­eter life come flow­ing in. And so on, all day. Stand­ing back from all your nat­ur­al fuss­ings and fret­tings; com­ing in out of the wind. 

We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spread­ing through our sys­tem: because now we are let­ting Him work at the right part of us. It is the dif­fer­ence between paint, which is mere­ly laid on the sur­face, and a dye or stain which soaks right through. 

He nev­er talked vague, ide­al­is­tic gas. When He said, ​“Be per­fect,” He meant it. He meant that we must go in for the full treat­ment. It is hard; but the sort of com­pro­mise we are all han­ker­ing after is hard­er — in fact, it is impos­si­ble. It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jol­ly sight hard­er for it to learn to fly while remain­ing an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you can­not go on indef­i­nite­ly being just an ordi­nary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. 

7. The Rea­son the Church Exists 

May I come back to what I said before? This is the whole of Chris­tian­i­ty. There is noth­ing else. It is so easy to get mud­dled about that. It is easy to think that the Church has a lot of dif­fer­ent objects — edu­ca­tion, build­ing, mis­sions, hold­ing ser­vices. Just as it is easy to think the State has a lot of dif­fer­ent objects — mil­i­tary, polit­i­cal, eco­nom­ic, and what not. 

But in a way things are much sim­pler than that. The State exists sim­ply to pro­mote and to pro­tect the ordi­nary hap­pi­ness of human beings in this life. A hus­band and wife chat­ting over a fire, a cou­ple of friends hav­ing a game of darts in a pub, a man read­ing a book in his own room or dig­ging in his own gar­den — that is what the State is there for. And unless they are help­ing to increase and pro­long and pro­tect such moments, all the laws, par­lia­ments, armies, courts, police, eco­nom­ics, etc., are sim­ply a waste of time. 

In the same way the Church exists for noth­ing else but to draw men into Christ, to make them lit­tle Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathe­drals, cler­gy, mis­sions, ser­mons, even the Bible itself, are sim­ply a waste of time. God became Man for no oth­er pur­pose. It is even doubt­ful, you know, whether the whole uni­verse was cre­at­ed for any oth­er pur­pose. It says in the Bible that the whole uni­verse was made for Christ and that every­thing is to be gath­ered togeth­er in Him. 

8. Becom­ing a Part of the Plan 

I do not sup­pose any of us can under­stand how this will hap­pen as regards the whole uni­verse. We do not know what (if any­thing) lives in the parts of it that are mil­lions of miles from this Earth. Even on this Earth we do not know how it applies to things oth­er than men. After all, that is what you would expect. We have been shown the plan only in so far as it con­cerns ourselves. 

What we have been told is how we can be drawn into Christ — can become part of that won­der­ful present which the young Prince of the uni­verse wants to offer his Father — that present which is Him­self and there­fore us in Him. It is the only thing we were made for. And there are strange, excit­ing hints in the Bible that when we are drawn in, a great many oth­er things in Nature will begin to come right. The bad dream will be over: it will be morning.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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