The novelist Walker Percy once observed, “To live in the past and future is easy. To live in the present is like threading a needle.” Think about that statement for a moment. We might think that living with the pain and regret of the past or the uncertainty and fear of the future is our greatest challenge. But in many ways it is more difficult to live in the present moment because of our preoccupation with the past or the future. Preoccupation becomes our enemy, for it causes us to become focused on ourselves. Men as I have mentioned before it is all to easy to live in and from our “control towers.” In a confusing cultural environment, where the voices of so many opinions call for our attention and the need to make our way through the spiritual wasteland of modern life makes God’s presence seem so distant, we can so easily find ourselves living by our own wits. While thinking we are fully engaged, we are in actual fact falling asleep spiritually. We can go through our days as sleepwalkers. George Gurdjieff maintains that the fundamental human problem is that we keep falling asleep.
Scripture warns us about falling asleep. “But make sure that you don’t get so absorbed and exhausted in taking care of all your day-by-day obligations that you lose track of the time and doze off obvivious to God. The night is about over, dawn is about to break. Be up and awake to what God is doing” (Romans 13:11-12 – The Message). Listen to these words from George Gilder who has studied men’s issues for years. “Men lust, but they know not what for; They wander, and lose track of the goal; They fight and compete, but they forget the prize; They chase power and glory, but miss the meaning of life.” All of what Gilder is discribing is all built on our effort and energy. We become preoccupied with our effort to control and understand our lives. In the meantime we go to sleep spiritually.
Mary Oliver has noted the the soul is built entirely out of attentiveness. Attentiveness allows us to live with depth; you could say soulfully. To be inattentive, that is, to be in a spiritual slumber, is to live very shallow lives. Ricard Foster talks about people living on the surface. Richard Rohr describes it as living on the circumference. We deprive our inner life, the life of the soul, from the essential ingredients that is needs to be in alive. To be alive is to live in reality. Reality is living as we truly are in the present moment. Any other posture is an illusion. This was very hard for me to admit to myself, since as a “professional holy man” I was trying so hard to be “good.” Reality become something of my own making. Instead of having depth, I lived a shallow life, operating on “auto pilot,” working hard to maintain some kind of equilbrum, but all the while going to sleep spiritually. I have been learning to wake up, as I pay close attention to my soul. “Let me know you, O God and myself” said Augustine, “that is all.”
The challenge men is the desire to stay awake. Here are a few things I have learned the hard way, so that I might stay awake. First, I have to give up the control. Otherwise, I get stuck in my small, egocentric world, going around sleepwalking. Second I have to surrender to someone bigger who truly loves me as I am. That means Jesus has to be first. Thirdly, I need to allow myself to get touch with all that is going on in my soul, the good, the bad and the ugly. Sometimes it is not very pretty. But remember this; it is reality and not illusion. Fourthly, it is imperative that I spend time with Jesus. That is, I need to get still and listen to His voice speaking to me deep within. Fifth, to recognize his voice I have to spend time meditating on the life of our Lord in Scripture. I can testify that being willing to stay awake, bring freedom, authenticity and grace to for the journey.
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