Several years ago, Daniel Berrigan wrote a book entitled Ten Commandments for the Long Haul. It offered advice on how to sustain us until Christ returns. Here, with the help of various authors, I, too, offer a few commandments designed to help us during the long haul:
1) Be grateful…never look a gift universe in the mouth!
To be a saint is nothing less than to be warmed and vitalized by gratitude. We owe it to our Creator to appreciate things, to be as happy as we can. Pay for a lovely moment by enjoying it. Resist pessimism and false guilt. Add this section to the Lord’s Prayer: “Give us today our daily bread, and help us to enjoy it without guilt.” Keep God central in all.
2) Don’t be naive about God…S/He will settle for not less than everything!
Distrust all talk about the consolation of religion. Religion puts a belt around you and takes you to where you would rather not be. Get used to virtue; it gives you a constant reminder of what you have missed out on. Know that God will settle for not less than everything. Demands from God always seem unreasonable. Learn to wrestle with God; you can win, by losing.
3) Walk forward when possible…when impossible, try to get one foot in front of the next!
Expect long periods of darkness and confusion. Take to wonder. Take consolation in the fact that Jesus cried, saints sinned, Peter betrayed. See what you see, it’s enough to walk by. Be stubborn as a mule; the only thing that shatters dreams is compromise. Let ordinary life be enough. Start over often.
4) Pray…that God will hang on to you!
Distrust Gallup polls. Trust prayer. Prayer is an enlargement. Be willing to die a little to be with God. He is dying to be with us. Let your heart, as Henri Nouwen puts it, become the place where the tears of God and the tears of God’s children merge and become the tears of hope.
5) Love…if a life is large enough for love it is large enough!
Create a space for love in your life. Accept that nothing can be loved too much, though all things can be loved in the wrong way. Make love your eye. Say to those you love: “You, at least, shall not die!” Know that there are only two potential tragedies to life: Not to love and not to tell those whom we love that we love them.
6) Accept what you are…fear not – you are inadequate!
Be just sufficiently fallible to be human. If you are weak, alone, without confidence and without answers…say so, then listen. Accept the torture of a life that is inadequate. Understand your own brand of martyrdom. If you die for a good reason, it’s something you can live with!
7) Don’t mummify…let go, so as not to be pushed!
Accept daily deaths. Do not hold on to life as a possession. Possessiveness kills enjoyment. Let go of life gracefully. The greatest strength of life is the power to resign it. Death-corruption-resurrection, that’s the true rhythm. Keep in mind that it is difficult to distinguish a moment of dying from a moment of birth.
8) Refuse to take things seriously…call yourself a fool regularly!
Laugh and play and give yourself over to silliness; these are (as C.S. Lewis pointed out) a disgusting and direct insult to the realism, dignity and austerity of hell. Don’t confuse sneering with laughter. Keep in mind that it is easy to be heavy; hard to be light.
9) Stay with the folks…you are on a group outing!
Do not journey alone. Be “born again” more fully into community. Accept that there are strings attached. To go anywhere in life we have to take along the family, the church, the country and the human race. Don’t be seduced by the false lure of absolute freedom. Learn obedience to community… it humbles, deflates the ego, puts you into purgatory and then into heaven.
10) Don’t be afraid to go soft…redemption lies in tears!
Resist the macho impulse; the person who will not have a softening of the heart will eventually have a softening of the brain. As G.K. Chesterton put it: “The swiftest things are the softest things. A bird is active because a bird is soft. A stone is helpless because a stone is hard. The stone by its nature goes downward, because hardness is weakness. A bird can of its nature go upwards; fragility is force.” Know that there are two kinds of darkness one can enter: the fearful darkness of paranoia, which brings sadness, and the fetal darkness of conversion, which brings life.