Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Struggle for Love: What Do You Live For?

"What if what we long hoped for, does not come? Willingness to risk for a better day"

Continuing in the book Bold Love, Dan Allender, Christian minister and clinical psychologist, observes many things, most especially that love as the Judeo-Christian tradition writes of it, is a "bold love, a harsh mistress, because there's nothing redeeming about a love that just blindly accepts."

In so many ways we are robbed of our birthright, of our natural beauty, present within us from infancy onward. In the Bible from Genesis chapter 3 onward, we read that God has been in a struggle against evil within our midst.
He vexes the serpent, saying, "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." Gen.3:15

The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name. Ex. 15:3

This phrase is a part of the Tanakh or Old Testament story about the parting of the Red Sea. Did the sea part? Perhaps, but its symbolism of courage and determination are certainly powerful. It is this same courage and determination needed by each of us as we move forward into our lives--and our loves.
God, as the Bible amply recounts, is not willing to accept any old thing. He wishes, desires, demands us to be the creations of his heart, one with his being. In this, we are called to a love, eternal, cosmic, and nearly unfathomable.

While our perspective may be simply as small as living a better life, his desire for us is a more radical one, that we learn the love of a Creator for his creation.
No small order, and far and away from the notion of "unconditional" love, popularly bandied about these days.

Are we then to be set to fail? The task is so large. No wonder when many think of notions of God, they think of God, the enemy. The one who shows us both what we long for, and what we rather not see at all. Allender writes, "...we will be either lulled into thinking that what we currently enjoy in this life is enough, or lapse into fury for this life not being enough."

Seeking his face, we seek our own. What we love when we are with him is what we fail to see as our own. Love is between he and I; it is not either he or I.
Rather, it is he and I, what exists between us, is made freely and durable, created as the love we realize.

The light in the darkness, brilliantly shown of a love that God has known. He has held his hand for us to steady our climb, he has waited patiently as we fall; our anticipation of what is to come has at times deepened our disappointment. Yet as a kind father, his love remains our own. His love, unconditional continues to be offered and we may continue to seek.

Yet the heart deferred, makes hope a sadness. Admitting that I do not yet see clearly, that I do not yet know, makes way for the greater development of truth in clarity and freedom. I see the reason for my existence and behave accordingly.

What am I living for? Living for the joy of acquisition and power is self serving; living for the good of others is perhaps more in the Way. Yet we can seem to think ourselves to be living in the Way and yet we are not. There are those who convince themselves they are right; their ego has the answer, it is good--for me.

Do you live for freedom? In one sense freedom is the absence of restraint. There is nothing to hinder me to act as I choose. Suppose, however, that you live in a universe that for every choice I might make, the world has already determined the response, responses for which I have no control. I may remain physically free, no one has tied me down or locked me up, but I seem to lack freedom in a more durable and possible sense. While I am free to act as I choose, my choices are not free.

There is another type of freedom says the Christian philosopher and theologian, Augustine of Hippo. In the book, On Free Choice of the Will, translated by Thomas Williams, Augustine writes, "I have freedom to choose in a way that is not determined by any thing outside my control, what Augustine called metaphysical freedom. The view that human beings have metaphysical freedom is also known as libertarianism."

Augustine is one of the great defenders of libertarianism. He says that human beings are endowed with a power called the will. A person can direct his will to go in seemingly limitless directions. His own freedom of direction, then, can be thought of as free choice.

A person may choose for himself money, power, influence, sex, excesses of all types; these choices so mentioned have all been external choices, made by factors outside the person. If so, then a person could not be entirely responsible for them.
But it is not external factors that determine our choices. Rather it is internal states: beliefs, desires, hopes and fears. Since it is the desire, the will of a person and the character which determines one's choices, freedom therefore is not threatened.

Yet a libertarian like Augustine would not be swayed by this. He says that in fact, human beings are rational thinking, and free choice makes them therefore responsible. Because persons have metaphysical freedom in this view, they are capable of making a real difference in the world. We may write our own "scripts." We may be truly in the image of God, the Creator, bringing something into the world that previously did not exist before us.

He says further, "that without metaphysical freedom, there would be no evil, because evil is also a choice, but then the world might be nothing more than a divine puppet show in the absence of free choice.

If there is to be any real goodness, any new and creative acts of love, then there must be metaphysical freedom. This freedom cannot ever be taken; it is of your own free will. What do you live for?

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