I thought this morning, “I’m thankful for this day.” I say I thought that, but it was really a thoughtless moment, a sort of reflex action of gratitude I say to myself on any given day. I determined to think more carefully about my thankfulness for the day.
Was I thankful that I have work, a family, and time to enjoy leisure? Nice those things may be, but are those the purpose of my life? I have time to ponder the words of God in scripture, but is that all I am here to do, ponder when the mood strikes me? Preach those words, perhaps, but what is the best way to preach?
It is said that the word of God brings peace and comfort. But I know too many people who are complacent in thinking that peace and comfort is enough. They make no effort to better themselves. They do not examine their lives – ironically, an activity that does not bring peace and comfort, yet which is consistent with the word of God.
God asks that we repent. The word means literally to rethink. It is not enough for me to do the good that I know to do. I need to rethink what I am doing, to scrutinize my assumptions and ask myself what mental baggage do I need to set aside. The word of God brings peace and comfort only after the storm and struggle. Ibsen is right – I must war with trolls if I am to live, and the trolls exist within my heart and mind.
That’s easy enough to say: I declare that I’m working on my inner issues and everyone can assume that I’m succeeding in that effort. If I don’t pressure others, there’s no “what about you?” accusation that could come back to force my own self-judgment into the consideration, somehow exempting the target of that pressure from a similar activity. And if I say I’m not successful, I get pity or sympathy from a potential audience, not a hoped-for self-examination of their own efforts.
It’s just too easy, when trying to preach the word of God, to be told to mind one’s own business if the words are harsh or to face complacent smiles if the words are too easy. There are those who want to hear a message of self-examination, but their numbers are miniscule compared to those who have no intention of changing who they are in order to become a better person. How do I reach such people with a message of Godly wisdom and enlightenment?
And if I do not reach another with that message, what have I to be thankful for in that day? And the answer here is not in reassuring me or telling me that I had good words to say, but in pondering about one’s own life, in searching for that deeper meaning to existence.