Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Reading Mother Teresa--XX
There is, within me, more than a smidgen of my grandfather's DNA, more than a pint or two of his dark Calvinist blood. I think of him often really, a man so driven by the depth of his own sinfulness (he was really a good man) that he would take an almost perverse pleasure in recounting the darkness of his soul--as in, "if I had one thing to do with my salvation, I'd burn in hell." That kind of thing. Complete with tears. Lots.
He likely had a family background in the old Dutch conventicle tradition, those hot bed small groups whose intense devotions ran so deep that their house meetings became, in no small measure, the church itself. Some people think house churches the wave of the future. Good night, they have a history, a past. Intense meditations for intense sinners whose long prayers stretched endlessly. Grandpa had a heavy dose of that in him.
Back then, in the early years of the 20th century, I don't think he was unusual. There were more Harry Dirkses per capita, I'm sure. That kind of exhausting, abject confession promised and likely delivered abundant blessings. After all, the finest means by which to glory--seriously!--in the marvelous grace of God almighty was to lie prostrate on the floor in abject selflessness. Grace, for even lowly me!
By all reports, that was my grandpa. It's easy to parody really.
But I'm saying that sometime he's in me, too. Maybe more than sometime. Maybe far more than I care to admit.
My mother, his daughter, has always wished to be Pentecostal, to speak in tongues, to be ever closer to the Lord than she is, no matter that her son thinks she's dang well close enough. Her son thinks it's almost a disease. For someone who talks constantly about the love of God, it sometimes seems to him--to me--as if she's ever a arm's length away, maybe even farther.
She wanted "Blessed Assurance" sung at her husband's funeral because she knew he never shared her tremulous faith. My father never thought much about his salvation, even though he was, as most who know him would say, something of a saint. She's never quite understood his confidence because she was never herself so blessedly assured. If she were, the drama would be over; and I think she likes the drama.
Her son can giggle about all this, but what I'm confessing this morning is that, like it or not, I'm still my mother's son--and my grandpa's grandson. And I feel it most when I read something like this from Mother Teresa: "Why must we give ourselves fully to God? Because God has given Himself to us."
Just blows me away. That logic is so airtight that its undeniable truth makes mincemeat of my feeble attempts at being faithful. She is so absolutely right. Just to be sure, there are no tears here--I'm not my grandfather's clone. But the way Mother Teresa says what she does here casts a long, sickening shadow over my sinfulness. I admit it.
See, there he is--Grandpa Dirkse. In the flesh.
"I live for God and give up my own self, and in this way induce God to live for me," she wrote. "Therefore to possess God we must allow Him to possess our soul."
Wow. Let me tell you, on that one I'm in the cheap seats.
Sometimes I giggle about Grandpa. Then again, sometimes I understand him. Sometimes I am him.