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Thursday, January 19, 2006

E-mails from a philosopher: Conclusion

Dear Gnu,

Once again I amazed at how your words are most appropriate to my current state. You are always one step ahead of me even as I feel as if I am giving you news.

Yesterday, for example, I had to grade papers and prepare a lesson, from the time I woke up and the time I went to class at 6pm. I taught till 9. When I was walking back from class to the library where Mr. Smith was picking me up, I noticed with shame that all day long I had not once thought of God or Jesus--it was almost like a day from a month ago. I felt terrible. I felt hurt too, in a strange way. (Maybe in a similar way as you would get hurst if your wife wandered away and had lunch on her own on your honeymoon vacation.) But then I was sorry for feeling like this; I thought "surely things must have happened today which are gifts from my Lord, but I need to get accustomed to acknowledging them as such." I thought of a number of things (individuation conditions make it hard to count) to be thankful for. I noticed that I should regularly do this. Your advice, the pointers you gave, the warnings, I am thankful for all of them.

I spoke with Mr. Smith; we do want to pick you up at 9:15 on Sunday and go to church with you. We will do that.

I noticed you did not say anything about my attempt to quit smoking. Maybe because you were skeptical of my over-zealous beginning. Well if that's so you were right. Soon after I wrote you my previous e-mail, in fact, I failed. My failure of course made me feel bad, but also it made me feel even more submissive; it helped me notice the limits imposed on my soul in virtue of being in this body. (I will be using the word "soul" in a Ramsified way; I don't think I must be committed to Cartesian Dualism.--Beside the point right now anyway.) So, I thought that maybe, even as my Lord attends to my soul because I trust in him and pray, there seems to be limits on how much He can attend to me, especially at this stage when I am only beginning to understand. (I don't think that this is a limitation of His powers, but rather a limitation of how much my soul can partake in Him at a given time.)

I also noticed that as I was trying to quit smoking, I was feeling a tad superior in some way, which of course was not right. How thin is the line between humility and letting go of your ego on the one hand, and succumbing into the thought that your ego is part of Him and that because of that you are privileged in some way, as if you deserve praise for it. To put simply, I seem to have fallen into the contradictory idea of being proud that my Lord may have bestowed grace upon me.

So as I was ackonwledging my guilt, I tried to take some lessons from it.

I must admit that it's very hard to feel guilty as one also acknowledges His power--that's something I need to study and try to figure out. I know it's a very old problem and I'm not in search of a philosophical solution; rather I need to figure out the right terms in which I can understand myself as a sinner while not doubting His power to help me not sin.

Maybe (just maybe--I'm not in a position to know this) the purpose of the whole not smoking episode was so that I taste the kind of emotion that comes along with trusting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, but also noticing how fallible I still would be even in that case.

So this is what I ended up thinking about my failure to stop smoking. I then also thought that there are practical reasons for why I should not try again to quit smoking just now. Accepting Christ as my Lord gives me joy of hope. I am not full of a sense of victory or anything like it. I see that this is only the beginning and that I have so much to chew on and struggle with. It may not be the best idea to have this learning period to overlap with a struggle against a physiological addiction when there are even more important (?) sinful habits I should intend to overcome.

The flip side is, addictions always come with a tendency to rationalize. So I would like to hear what you think about the thoughts I laid out above.

I can't wait for Sunday. See you at 9:15.

Love and God bless you,

Mrs. Smith

(This brought to an end to our online exchange and we have been continuing IRL ever since. Mr. and Mrs. Smith decided to visit our church and relatively shortly afterward, Mr. Smith also came to profess faith in Christ.)

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