The Endurance of Fear
August 1, 2010
A Second Letter to St. Paul
August 6, 2010

My very dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Surely you know how much I have given up for the sake of Christ. You, yourselves, know the loss which has imperiled friendship, yet you bear no sign of regret. For what is it to give up something that you may gain everything? You know very well how the community of our beloved becomes the entire creation in the instant one is devoted—of all heart, body, and soul—to God. I shall forever be thankful that I was given that opportunity, and that it found its home with you.

But I am unsatisfied with the Spirit, my brothers and sisters. I write you these letters according to the hand of Paul, who is my own inspiration, and Christendom before me. So, too, do I write in the spirit of St. Augustine—that noble bishop of Hippo who kept his full faith in Christ even as the walls crashed down around him. But what were these men, that I should be inspired by them? Prophets? Yes. Preachers? Certainly? Saints? I am sure. But not always these things—not these things from birth. For there was Saul before there was Paul; there was a murderer of Christians and a persecutor of the faith before there came the passionate disciple of Jesus Christ. And who does not paint a grosser picture of licentiousness than Augustine? Patron of the games, of gambling, of whoring. But both came to Christ, and for their conversion, inherited a mission which brought them nigh to the throne of God. They were the very paragons of saintliness and devotion. Who else do we look to for teachings, but to Paul? Whose confessions stir our souls more than those of Augustine?

Where does that leave you and I, my beloved? For I walk sometimes a wilderness of faith that is most barren and unfulfilling. And though I have been tempted to capsize the Truth which is in me, I have always believed where these men did not. How, then, do I earn such a mark as they? Must I first be a demon to be a saint?

If I were so capable, it would trouble me. And if I abandon what good work I do now so that I may play the part of the devil, would the Lord take notice? Would I find my way on the road to Damascus suddenly blinded by divine light?

I think it unlikely. But if marrying my soul to evil is no way to breach the heart of God, to be nearer still, then what? Am I foolish at all in so desiring more of the Spirit than what I am given? Or am I simply foolish for not knowing the immensity of the Spirit that I have already within me?

How pointless these letters often are. Such a summation of questions without answers, questions with no direction, questions marked by anger and fear. But if there is one of you who knows these struggles as well as I, then perhaps they provide some comfort. What greater curse is there than to suffer alone? But to carry the cross as God sees fit, in the company of Christ himself—this is exactly what we are called to do.

Ah, there it is, my beloved: For the difference is not in the devil of the man but the degree to which he must be like other men. So it was with Paul, servant of the Empire. So with Augustine, scholastic and pagan. If there is some originality in me—to the end of suffering or joy—let it shine, O Christ, let it shine!

But I must leave you now. Be as we always have been, my beloved: servants of the least and stewards of all God’s creation.

In peace, I remain your brother in Christ,

Jeff

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