I knew someone who spoke with certitude about the correctness of the Roman Catholic Church and its theology, and who was one of the most self-centered persons that I have ever known. I have no idea how it happened, but he gradually became enamored of Buddhism and his conversations began to be littered with Buddhist theological references. Eventually he officially embraced Buddhism, and where he had once been a self-centered Roman Catholic he became a self-centered Buddhist. So far as I and his friends could tell, having wrapped himself in a more theologically exotic garb had little maturing effect upon the heart encased within.
It seems that no matter how much we grow, in some secret closet of our heart crouches the immature adolescent who simply doesn’t want to grow up. There have been times when the thought of “I don’t want to have to do this” has startled me while in midst of ministering to people. That thought bothers me because, at the heart of it, is the desire to be irresponsible, sort of like wanting to drive without paying for the insurance and the gas and the upkeep of the car.
I suppose that every epoch in the history of humanity has had both good and bad aspects to it. Right now we live in a culture which says that whatever we want we should be able to get quick, easy, and at no cost to ourselves; unfortunately, “growth” must cost us ourselves or it isn’t growth. The basic movement in life is from self-centeredness towards other-centeredness. The sudden realization that no matter how mature I might be in some areas in my inner life there still exists the adolescent who doesn’t want to “have to” makes it clear to me that there is still more work for me to do.
Some months ago I watched a film, the title of which escapes me, in which a guy is dying and says to his friend about their friendship, “It’s been wonderful, it’s been just enough. But it’s gone too fast.” You see, Reality doesn’t care what we don’t want to do. While we are wasting time throwing a tantrum of “No! I won’t! I don’t want to have to!” the sand allotted to our life is still running out. Many theological traditions speak of an eternity in which exists a heaven or a hell, but no matter to which tradition we adhere the fact is that we go into that eternity as prepared for the rest of it as we were… and are… willing to be.