Sourpuss or Spirited
The Rev. Geoffrey Butcher, Priest-in-Charge Trinity Episcopal Church, Russellville
My brother used to say that a sad saint is a sorry saint. His experience and that of multiple mystics is that there is joy in one’s relationship with God even if one endures suffering. Just as one knows happiness with a family member or friend in a close relationship, so too is that the experience of those who enter into the process of union with the divine Mystery.
As Richard Rohr has written, “Mystics are happy people. In fact, if they’re not happy, they’re not mystics. If he or she is a ‘sourpuss’ (Pope Francis’ word!), you know that person is still playing the moral game, which is mostly about willpower, leading to constant failure and disappointment with the self.”
The spiritual life is not just about living up to high moral standards. God loves us whether or not we achieve Eagle Scout in the realm of righteousness. God loves us as we are and is more interested in having a personal relationship of love with us than for us attempting to climb a ladder leading to heaven achieved through moral purity. Any neurotic attempt to become perfect will only frustrate us and guarantee failure. Sadness will be our reward. Such an attempt is a result of believing that God only loves us when we follow strict rules, some of which we invent ourselves. That’s not the way loving parents care for their children. They love them in good times and difficult times. Certainly our love does not supersede God’s love.
The alternative is to accept ourselves as God accepts us, and then move into a relationship of love with the Source of creation and to enjoy with thanksgiving the gifts of the Spirit. This is a joy that goes deep — a discovery of God dwelling within us. Missteps are forgiven allowing us to go forward to perceive and enjoy the wonders of the world and eventual union with God. A spirited life is certainly preferable to a sourpuss faith.
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