Happy New Church Year, which began on September 1st. A couple of challenges for us in this new year came from a most unlikely source. On a recent airplane trip, I listened to that classic book, Alice in Wonderland. I was reminded again of some spiritual concepts within it. Please join me in this journey as we Orthodox start our new Ecclesiastical Year.
In that timeless tale, Alice in Wonderland, Alice meets up with two strange characters who have very pointed talks with her. Their words and Alice’s responses give us food for spiritual thought. First, Alice meets up with the Great Caterpillar, sitting on a mushroom, smoking a hookah. “Who…are…you?” he asks Alice. Alice answers, “I…I hardly know, sir, just at the present…at least I know who I was when I got up this morning. But I think I must have been changed several times since then.”
When it comes to our spiritual lives, it would do us all good to look in the mirror and ask: “Who…are…you?” If our answer sounds a great deal like Alice’s, then it should be a warning to us. If we cannot answer this question in a matter-of-fact way, then it would suggest that our spiritual life is not where it ought to be.
We’ve all heard the term “Sunday Christian”. That is someone who has one spiritual identity on Sundays (at Church), another Monday through Friday, and perhaps even another on Saturday night! This sounds like spiritual schizophrenia, yet there are many, many people living just such spiritual lives and thinking that it is normal. It is most definitely not normal, nor is it healthy. Spiritual commitment involves knowing who we are and being that same person (spiritually), seven days a week…24 hours a day. Our outer activities can certainly change moment by moment, but who we are on the inside should remain constant. That spiritual consistency will bring both spiritual growth and contentment.
Another character Alice runs into while in Wonderland is that grinning Cheshire Cat. The Cat’s insights will build right on the previous matter. Alice asks the Cat: “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cat answers: “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where…” replies Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” grins the Cat. Alice adds: “…so long as I get somewhere.” To which the Cat says: “Oh, you’re sure to do that, if you only walk long enough.”
Many people wonder why their spiritual lives seem to be going nowhere. In order to go someplace spiritually (growth-wise), one first must deal with the question of “Who are you?” If one decides to be committed to having a spiritual life and being a spiritual person, then the next question is: “Where do you want to get to?” If we have no spiritual goals, then our path will be an aimless one, wandering here and there. And if we wander long enough, we will get “somewhere” which likely will be “nowhere”, perhaps back where we started, which is the case in for Alice.
Do you want to be a man or woman of God? If so, there is a path laid out for you to follow. It may not be the easiest path; usually aimless wandering is easier. But it will be the best path, a path that will lead you toward your spiritual goals.
Take a close look at yourself, where you are at in different spiritual areas: attending Church, receiving Holy Communion, Confession, daily prayer, fasting, Scripture reading, devotional reading, giving of your time, giving of your money, etc. Set attainable spiritual goals each week in some or all of these areas and then strive to complete them.
Keep in mind that even when we set “attainable” goals, we may not attain them each week…that is okay…things come up…life happens…just do not quit…set your sights on the target for the next week and begin heading in that direction!! As you do this, week after week, you will find the questions of “Who are you?” and “Where do you want to get to?” slowly fading away because you will be on that right path and you will know the answers to those questions!!! And keep in mind that old adage: If you aim at nothing you will surely hit it!!
May our Lord help each of us to know who we are and where we want to get to!! May this coming Ecclesiastical Year in our Lord Jesus Christ be richly blessed for each of us!!