Isn't that the problem? That women have been swindled for centuries into substituting adornment for love, fashion (as it were) for passion? All the cosmetics names seemed obscenely obvious to me in their promises of sexual bliss. They were all firming or uplifting or invigorating. They made you tingle. Or glow. Or feel young. They were prepared with hormones or placentas or royal jelly. All the juice and joy missing in the lives of these women were to be supplied by the contents of jars and bottles. No wonder they would spend twenty dollars for an ounce of face makeup or thirty for a half-ounce of hormone cream. What price bliss? What price sexual ecstasy?
I often found myself prefering the company of people outside my congregation, men and women who did not follow Jesus. Or worse, preferring the company of my sovereign self. But soon I found that my preferences were honored by neither Scripture nor Jesus. I didn't come to the conviction easily, but finally there was no getting around it: there can be no maturity in the spiritual life, no obedience in following Jesus, no wholeness in the Christian life apart from immersion and embrace of community. I am not myself by myself. Community, not the highly vaunted individualism of our culture, is the setting in which Christ is at play.
We need to reach the millions who live in cities, the hundreds of thousands in industrial centers, the tens of thousands in medium-sized towns, the thousands in small towns, and the hundreds in villages -- all these at once. Like a volcanic eruption, a spiritual revolution needs to spread through the country, to spur people to crucial decisions. People have to recognize the futility of splitting life up into politics, economics, the humanities, and religion. We must be awakened to a life in which all of these things are completely integrated.
The church has been brought into the same value system as the world: fame, success, materialism and celebrity. We watch the leading churches and the leading Christians for our cues. We want to emulate the best known preachers with the biggest sanctuaries and the grandest edifices. Preoccupation with these values has perverted the church's message.
Failed experiments in ecumenism and social politics suggest that unity is not to be found in mass movements of like-minded people sharing common perspectives and policies. ... Experience suggests that unity embraces the multitude of our differences, that community is often far from cozy, and that conversion does not mean changing others to our point of view but perhaps just the opposite -- weaning each and every person and institution from the arrogant exclusivism that prevents genuine conversation. ... God comes to us, to rescue us not only from our enemies but also from our friends, not only from strangers but also from familiars, that we might see beyond these discriminating distinctions to a new way of relating.
Let us not underestimate how hard it is to be compassionate. Compassion is hard because it requires the inner disposition to go with others to the place where they are weak, vulnerable, lonely, and broken. But this is not our spontaneous response to suffering. What we desire most is to do away with suffering by fleeing from it or finding a quick cure for it. As busy, active, relevant ministers, we want to earn our bread by making a real contribution. This means first and foremost doing something to show that our presence makes a difference. And so we ignore our greatest gift, which is our ability to enter into solidarity with those who suffer. Those who can sit in silence with their fellowman, not knowing what to say but knowing that they should be there, can bring new life in a dying heart. Those who are not afraid to hold a hand in gratitude, to shed tears in grief and to let a sigh of distress arise straight from the heart can break through paralyzing boundaries and witness the birth of a new fellowship, the fellowship of the broken.
When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.
To pray, I think, does not mean to think about God in contrast to thinking about other things, or to spend time with God instead of spending time with other people. Rather, it means to think and live in the presence of God. As soon as we begin to divide our thoughts about God and thoughts about people and events, we remove God from our daily life and put him into a pious little niche where we can think pious thoughts and experience pious feelings. ... Although it is important and even indispensable for the spiritual life to set apart time for God and God alone, prayer can only become unceasing prayer when all our thoughts -- beautiful or ugly, high or low, proud or shameful, sorrowful or joyful -- can be thought in the presence of God. ... Thus, converting our unceasing thinking into unceasing prayer moves us from a self-centred monologue to a God-centred dialogue.
Playing the part of a charitable soul was only for those who were afraid of taking a stand in life. It is always far easier to have faith in your own goodness than to confront others and fight for your rights. It is always easier to hear an insult and not retaliate than have the courage to fight back against someone stronger than yourself; we can always say we're not hurt by the stones others throw at us, and it's only at night - when we're alone and our wife or our husband or our school friend is asleep - that we can silently grieve over our own cowardice.
Prayer is first of all listening to God. It's openness. God is always speaking; he's always doing something. Prayer is to enter into that activity. ... Convert your thoughts into prayer. As we are involved in unceasing thinking, so we are called to unceasing prayer. The difference is not that prayer is thinking about other things, but that prayer is thinking in dialogue, ... a conversation with God.
You must realize that it is the ordinary way of God's dealings with us that our ideas do not work out speedily and efficiently as we would like them to. The reason for this is not only the loving wisdom of God, but also the fact that our acts have to fit into a great complex pattern that we cannot possibly understand. I have learned over the years that Providence is always a whole lot wiser than any of us, and that there are always not only good reasons, but the very best reasons for the delays and blocks that often seem to us so frustrating and absurd.
You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth of falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you. It is easy to say you believe a rope to be strong and sound as long as you are merely using it to cord a box. But suppose you had to hang by that rope over a precipice. Wouldn't you then first discover how much you really trusted it?