Monday, January 25, 2016

We start by getting it wrong, but God doesn't.

There is a commonality that we share in our humanity that reveals right from the start that we are born into a lack.  Much as it is true that we are born with nothing and that we return with nothing, this shows up in the way that everything about us that we have in life needs to be learnt, acquired, nurtured and grown.

In just about every dimension in life, we seem to begin by getting it wrong.  We stumble, we fumble, we stagger and often, make many mistakes and errors.  Why is it that we humans, who are made to take care of creation and be stewards over it begin to move first by rolling, then crawling backwards, then forwards.  Then we start by standing very unsteadily, falling many times over, and after about a year begin to finally walk on our two legs?  The animal kingdom, on the other hand, seem to be able to move on their own in a relatively short time after birth, and with much less of a struggle.  It does seem to be ironic. 

And of course, apart from movement, everything else about us begins with a struggle, and we do not always make the correct turns in life’s journey.  Learning something new at any age reveals a need for discipline, effort and training.  We are not (at least not the majority of us) gifted with such skills as to automatically do something well when we start.  I’m only now at age 50 taking up violin lessons, and I’m facing the reality that we begin anything serious by making mistake after mistake, by correcting acquired bad habits and by putting in the discipline of arduous practice.

As I grow in my vocation as a priest of God, counseling and guiding souls, this reality becomes evidently clear too in our spiritual lives.  We love God often by getting it wrong, and most of us do not have the grace to begin by getting it right.

Would that it was that we blast from the spiritual starting blocks by loving God correctly.  Actually our first parents did, but they botched it up soon after that perfect start.  Some would even venture to call that a false start.  And we have all paid the price for that with the need to satisfy the self in so many ways.  We also suffer in the way that our in-born human weaknesses (a.k.a. sin) often cause us to have a stilted notion of God, and many do begin by making him out to be some kind of divine fairy-godfather and wish-granter, or perhaps a protective shield against life’s trials and traumas. 

If our whole lives are a preparation for our final and eternal union with God, where heaven is our shared life’s goal, it necessarily means that we need to nurture a loving heart fit for the kingdom of God.  Any spiritual director of any credibility then has to have this as an aim for anyone coming to him or her for this important guidance in life.

To learn to love as God loves has to be this life-goal for us.  If the ways that we love are so strident when placed alongside God’s love, how could we ever even hope to have heaven, let alone truly be happy there?  For one whose definition of love is contrary to God’s love, heaven itself will be hell. 

John Piper, a Baptist theologian once asked very pointedly this question in one of his talks, and I think he struck gold with it.  He told his listeners to imagine that they were at the end of their lives, and after dying, find themselves in a place where they had every desire and wish fulfilled.  He asked them to imagine that they had the fit and healthy body that they always dreamed of, the intelligence of a Mensa member, the skill to play music instruments at a professional level, wealth and riches beyond imagination and are surrounded by all your loved ones and friends.  But Jesus is not there.  Would you still want to be there?

The answer to this can be terribly disturbing.  If we are honest about it and say that we will choose that place even though Jesus is not there, it may well reveal that in our spiritual quest, we have never really made it of prime importance to have that eternal relationship with God that will see us into everlasting happiness.  It may well reveal that we have gone after the things of God than knowing and loving the God of things.  It may also reveal that we have not even begun to love God at a deep and intrinsic level. 

But to be sure, I have also seen (yes, even in myself) that true growth in love of God is never linear.  Like learning anything, it happens with making mistakes, perhaps even repeating them ad nauseam, till we truly can say that we have made that ‘turn around’, and repented to live and love aright.  Indeed, we have, most of us, started by getting it wrong.  But it should never stop us from trying over and over to get it right. 


  1. Thank you, Father Luke for the encouraging words. I could totally reckon with your words that we gone after the things of God rather then to love the God of things. It is through numerous fumbles and falls then we truly learn. But the truth and loving the God of things and His heavenly intention could be hard to swallow at times. I still at times struggled and wanting to wish our dear Holy Father just wave His hand like that of a Jedi and life obstacles simple clear our way. But I know, this is not always His intention and will...

  2. “............most of us, started by getting it wrong. But it should never stop us from trying over and over to get it right. “

    In the wee hours of morning, it is not easy to engage a congregation in thought-provoking homilies, but at this morning’s mass, the homilist’s take –on the Sower and the Seeds was refreshingly different. He declared that we should look at the Sower instead of being side-tracked by the types of soil or seeds – which I believe, is a stand commonly adopted by most homilists – and we end up unduly stressed and questioning whether the soils of our hearts are pebbly, gravely ,rich and loamy etc. Though much good fruit can and has been reaped by contemplating along these lines, I was honestly amazed at how a shift in this perception can reveal that perhaps we have been ‘wrong’ by being stuck on just one way of looking at things.

    On reflection, I felt that if God (the Sower) broadcasted his seeds of Hope in such sheer and wild abandon-.(regardless of the types of soil) then it not only shows His generosity but also His trust in us –(weak humans as we are) - to choose correctly in the end, even though (like you said) we started by getting it wrong. This brings to mind what Dr Tim Gray said about how sometimes, our perception is askew if we only concentrated on one aspect of Jesus’ mission on earth. We may have got it wrong when we are merely satisfied with the question of “Why did Jesus die?” To prod us on to the truth, he proposed that we should perhaps question “Why did Jesus live?“

    Thank you for this food for thought.

    God bless u, Fr


  3. Music is a great gift from God. Music practise must never be arduous. It must be mindful. And it is not the number of hours we spend practising but the mindful moments we take opportunity to do it. It could be just 10 mins a day or 2 hours. But it is the consistency of fingering our instrument that builds step by step the music we want to play. This has been my own experience where having completed all my 8 grades in my teens, 20 years later I wanted to pursue a music diploma. It took me 7 years to get it. In the process I enriched my ears and appreciated the journey more than the sweet victory of accomplishment. The years of faithful and unfaithful practice built patience and character. It also led me to see how prayer could be like that too. My relationship with God became more personal as I struggled with my own will....wanting something instant but knowing that time was required to shape and improve ourselves. We only need to try and not give up. :)