A friend's Facebook status popped up on my newsfeed. I asked Bet, "Hey, what's moralism?" She's a pastor's kid, and also a person with a diversified knowledge base, so she fields a lot of these questions from me.
"Hum, it could be like legalism, or like excessive fixation on morals?"
The status said "He's been working to kill my moralism for years. Tonight I saw clearly the huge victory He has won in me!" Snaps to that! I love hearing testimony about His victory. Which is what had prodded my question; victory over what? In my attempt to clarify my understanding of the term, I stumbled across this article by Tim Keller on the Resurgence. "Underneath all of our behavioral sins lies a fundamental refusal to rest in Chr!st's salvation." I was like, oh, huh, right, okay.
Then I started watching Spanglish. As a rule I don't watch Adam Sandler movies, part habit after generally not being allowed to watch them as a teenager, and part snobbery after a professor pointed out what low-brow humor they usually contain. But we're in Kazakhstan, with still a week to go before we start teaching classes, and the movie selection is limited.
There's the part where he goes, "Guilt, you know that word?" -- "Of course!" She says. "We're Catholic!" This movie made me laugh. The way Deb talks, and describes herself: "Laid back, yet, meticulous!" How Flor accidentally throws the ball for the dog. The way John rambles to his staff. Hilarious. But I cried so much, too. The transformation from joy to hurt when Bernie realizes her mom bought her clothes a size too small. When Cristina scorns her mom in public. How John comforts his daughter.
But Deb, oh Deb, this character who tries so hard, who reads all these parenting books and keeps herself busy with events and pampers her housekeeper's daughter and exercises like a mad woman. She tries so hard, but she's just a screw up. And you just kind of pity her because she's so miserable but she doesn't get that trying hard is not going to fix her misery. Hence the zinger her mom dishes out, "Your low self-esteem is just good common sense."
I've been trying so hard this week. Trying hard to be cheerful. Trying hard to work on Russian. Trying hard to be a good roommate. Trying hard to serve my teammates. Trying hard to make the administrators glad that I've come. Trying so hard to prove to myself that this was a good idea and that I will be good at this. (I don't know why it matters to me that I be good at this. Lower those expectations, Hay.) But I feel a little bit like Deb, as in, let me do all these things and then everyone (and Jesus) will love me. I don't know if that's what moralism is, but either way I would appear I've got a tenuous grasp on the joy of my salvation.
Keller writes, "If we aren’t already sure G0d loves us in Chr!st, we will be looking to something else for our foundational significance and self-worth. . . . We are looking to something else to give us what only Jesus can give us. " Hm. You know when you don't expect Him to call to you in an Adam Sandler movie? That's when you've forgotten that He's everywhere!
It rained in Karaganda today. I woke up to a drizzly sky that let the sun through intermittently. The capricious turn of weather reminded me so much of New England. Bet and I walked to Magnum Cash & Carry in the afternoon and it felt glorious. Crisp and blustery air on my arms, ambivalently dark sky overhead, and how fresh everything felt, with the dust and pollution dispelled by water. Five minutes after we arrived back safe in our flat, the floodgates opened. The bus stop fell over. People were blown down the street. The gutter burst in our (third floor) entryway and flooded our front hall. It was like a hurricane outside. And we were safe inside.
Look up at the rain, a beautiful display of power and surrender. What do you do when you realize that your efforts and trying are moralizing idolatry? That you are your own best reason for feeling low? Remember His faithfulness. Great is His faithfulness.