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And the True Way IS . . . Faith AND Good Works
by David Truman
The big question of spiritual life
When it comes to spiritual life, the big question is . . .
"Am I fine and acceptable as I am -- or do I need to work to make myself good and loveable, and to make myself worthy in the sight of the Lord?"
And along with that, once one understands that one is good and loveable, as God made all His children to be, here's the second big question . . .
"If I'm fine and acceptable as I am, then why would I bother to do good works (or make efforts to live a good and righteous life)?"
That makes some sense. And, it's easy to see that "self-work" -- working on oneself, trying to improve oneself -- reinforces the basic assumptions that motivate the work in the first place: low self-image, unworthiness, etc. "Why am I working to improve myself? Oh, I remember: it's because I'm so flawed."
In that respect, self-work tends to contradict our hard-won understanding that we already are fine and acceptable. Wouldn't it be far better than efforting, to simply accept that God made us perfect, and that God always already loves us and accepts us as His beloved, worthy, and perfect children?
Why do good works?
There are many reasons your heart will readily recognize:
For the love of God: A lover of God knows how God would like His children to act, as a general way of life. For example, the scriptures of all religions contain descriptions of right living. The Ten Commandments are but one example.
A lover of God also cares how God would like us to treat His children, not just in general, but in each specific situation. So a lover of God joyfully obeys Divine promptings to do good and loving deeds, moment to moment, in real time.
For the love of humanity: Goodness, and acts of goodness, help and heal our fellows. Goodness makes God happy, makes others happy, and makes oneself happy.
For goodness' sake: Children of God love Good as well as God. And, since we are beautiful children of God, our works will naturally be beautiful works -- good works. Beauty does as beauty is. Therefore, goodness is natural to us, native to us, more compatible with us than wrongdoing.
For our own sake. Goodness liberates our minds and our self-images from the shackles of guilt and shame -- shackles that bind us in misery, causing us to feel separate and distant from our fellow man, and from God. It is not GOD so much that must be satisfied with us; we have our SELVES to please. Let's face it: in our hearts, in our own spirit, we object to error and applaud good works. Therefore, if we are to be at peace, and if we are to have self-esteem sufficient to render us RECEPTIVE to love, we MUST work our way out of sin and into righteousness.
Avoiding the pitfall
However, we still have the problem noted earlier: that if we work to improve in a compensatory spirit, clinging to the idea that we are bad, the work will be ineffective. This reflects the true principle "compensation is wedded to its root." Therefore, our prescription for freedom is this:
1. DO good works.
Accept God's love
Righteous living need not deny God's present love for us, God's present acceptance of us. It is absolutely crucial to understand that.
EXAMPLE: It is beautiful if your spouse gets joy out of pleasing you, because they love you and desire your happiness. And you can easily understand why they would do so.
But what would it be like, and feel like, if your spouse were always working, in a spirit of insecurity and fear, to become WORTHY of your love? That would be, in some sense, a rejection or denial of your love. And it would therefore be sad.
Love is a good reason to please another. Similarly, rightness is a good reason to work. Rightness is a good reason even to work on oneself, you see. But not to work on oneself in order to create oneself, or to make oneself worthy of God's love.
"Working on oneself" is a very dangerous phrase. It would be better to say "working on one's habits." One can ask: "Is this habit helpful to God? Is it helpful to people?" We can work on our ideas and our beliefs. What work we do in the name of improvement, we should do as one who loves God, who loves people, who is in relationship to God and others. Never do it as someone who is trying to work their way into relationship, into acceptance by God, into love, into worthiness for those things.
So much of what this humanity needs, and what Heaven has been trying to teach humanity all these years, is this:
We should get OFF of believing we need to work in order to create who we are, in order to create the relationship to God -- and at the same time we should embrace the need to work for the sake of righteousness and love.
Do you see? The imprisoning tendency is to believe that if we work at all, or if we work in earnest, it must be because we "are bad." That, friends, is an outrageous lie! Note that bad people, or people who think they are bad and need to improve, are not the only ones who work. Many great people, even saints -- indeed, saints most of all -- have worked, and worked hard. But they worked out of goodness, and for goodness' sake, and for love's sake -- not because they thought they were bad, and were trying to earn God's acceptance.
The problem is, under the influence of ego, we miss the mark in one way or the other. Either we become lazy and careless, because we think, "I am good, so why make any effort?" -- or we become active and made efforts, only to reinforce the psychology of being a bad person, needing to earn -- "to become worthy of" -- God's love. And that, friends, is a most terrible trap, taken as a whole. It is a trap we must escape.
The good and beautiful way to live
Here is the way to escape it . . .
1. KNOW THIS:
We do not need to work to create ourselves, to create our relationship to God -- we must leave that mistake behind.
2. AND THIS:
We should not abandon work, not at all, because love and our own heart and our relationship to God ALL motivate us to work quite naturally.
We must curb the bad habit of associating work with penance, with the need to improve oneself, and with the need to earn the love of God, or the love of others. We must be able to do good works and know ourselves to be already good -- yes, all at the same time. That is the True Way, friends.
by David Truman
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