Wednesday, February 9, 2011

"Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation". II Cor. 6:2 (Decisions: From the Spiritual Writings of Søren Kierkegaard)

Can there be something in life that has power over us which little by little causes us to forget all that is good? And can this ever happen to anyone who has heard the call of eternity quite clearly and strongly? If this can ever be, then one must look for a cure against it. Praise be to God that such a cure exists—namely, to quietly make a decision.

A decision joins us to the eternal. It brings what is eternal into time. A decision raises us with a shock from the slumber of monotony. A decision breaks the magic spell of custom. A decision breaks the long row of weary thoughts, as long as it is a real beginning. Decision is the awakening to the eternal.

One could say that all this is very simple. It is just a matter of moments, make a decision and all is well. Dare like a bold swimmer to plunge into the sea, and dare to believe that the weight of the swimmer will go to the goal against all opposing currents.

Yet, our approach must begin differently from this. First, we must reject evil’s web of deception. Making decisions is often dangerous, or rather, talking about them is. Before you learn to walk you have to crawl on all fours. Certainly there must be great decisions, but even in connection with them the important thing is to get underway with your own decision. But do not fly so high or walk too far that you forget that a decision is but a beginning.

How sad it is to find in a person many good intentions but few good deeds. And there are other dangers as well, dangers of sin. With all your good intentions, you must not forget your duty, neither should you forget to do it with joy. And strive to carry your burdens and responsibilities in a surrendered way. If you don’t, there is a danger of losing your decisiveness; of going through life without courage and fading eventually into death.

So what about the decision, which was after all meant so very well? A road well begun is the battle half won. The important thing is to make a beginning and get under way. There is nothing more harmful for your soul than to hold back and not to get going.

The path of an honest fighter is a difficult one. For whoever remains faithful to his decision will realize that his whole life is a struggle. Such a person does not fall into the temptation of proudly telling others of what he has done with his life. Nor will he talk about the “great decisions” he has made. He knows full well that at decisive moments you have to renew your resolve again and again, and that this alone makes good the decision, and the decision good.

In the end, the archenemy of decision is fear. Fear is constantly at work to break off the agreement decision has made with eternity. A fearful soul, after all, is the most miserable thing one can imagine. Fear settles deep in our souls like the idle mists on stagnant waters. From it arise unhealthy vapors and deceiving phantoms. The thing that fear hates most is decision; for decision always scatters the mists, at least for the moment. Fear thus hides behind the thought it likes best of all: the crutch of time.

Fear and time always find a reason for not hurrying, for saying, “Not today, but tomorrow”, whereas God in heaven and the eternal say, “Do it today. Now is the day of salvation”. The eternal refrain of decision is: “Today, today”. Yet fear holds us back, holds us up. If only fear would appear in all its baseness, one could recognize it for what it is and immediately fight it.

Fear wants to prevent the step of making a decision. To accomplish this it takes to itself a host of glorious names. In the name of caution, fear abhors any over-hastiness. It is against doing anything before the time is ripe. Besides, “is it not best to speak of a continued endeavor, which is by far the superior act, rather than of a sudden decision?” Ah, not decision, but continual striving, that is what fear proposes. Continuous endeavor; what a glorious expression! What a glorious deception! Whereas decision reminds us of the end to come, fear turns us away from our finality. In the end, failure to decide prevents one from doing what is good. It keeps him from doing that great thing to which each of us is bound by virtue of the eternal.

This much is certain, the greatest thing each person can do is to give himself to God utterly and unconditionally—weaknesses, fears, and all. Therefore, dare to decide, and dare to renew your decision every day. Your confidence will lift you up to God, again and again. For God is a spirit of power and love and self-control, and it is before God and for him and before him that every decision must be made. Dare to act therefore on the good that lies buried deep within your heart. “Now is the acceptable time. Not tomorrow; today, today!” Decide therefore, and be not ashamed of it, like someone treading on forbidden ground. If you are ashamed or anxious about your imperfections, then cast your eyes down before God, not men. Or better yet, in your very imperfection and weakness, decide and go forth!

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)