Old monk ‘Fr Makarios’ was asked, “Do you still wrestle with the devil, Father Makarios?” Pondering, he answered, “Not any longer, my child, I have grown old now, and he has grown old with me. He doesn’t have the strength … I wrestle with God.”

“With God!” came the gobsmacked questioner, “And you hope to win!?”

“I hope to lose, my child.” Replied the mature mystic.

When someone you respect (JM Comer) tells you in a podcast that he reads a favourite book twice a year, you order it immediately. Thus ‘Sacred Fire’ by (RC) Ronald Rolheiser is now firing my soul with a framework for my (eternal) lifelong journey with Jesus.

Rolheiser describes 3 stages in life, characterised by Nikos Kazantzakis’ 3 soul prayers:

  1. Essential Discipleship: the struggle to get our lives together – “I am a bow in your hands, Lord, draw me, lest I rot.”
  2. Mature Discipleship: the struggle to give our lives away – “Do not overdraw me, Lord, I shall break.”
  3. Radical Discipleship: the struggle to give our deaths away – “Overdraw me, Lord, and who cares if I break!”

The first stage is about ‘leaving home’, and the familiar, to find oneself. Alas, our western cultures struggle to provide adolescents with challenging initiation rites able to mature us into adulthood. An increasing number escape ‘growing up’ in numerous ways, by chasing pleasure, career, vanity, etc, some tragically choosing death rather than wrestle to find a way through depression, discomfort & disorientation to find a new identity. The desire to stay ‘forever young’, promoted by movies, music & advertising, also produces waves of Peter Pans & Tinker Bells, never ready to take on the responsibilities of godly generous living, and sacrificial service to family, friends, neighbours, colleagues and even enemies.

Constant throughout our lifetime is the Father heart of God and His ever-open door to our return from wandering & squandering. If, in adolescence and early adulthood, like prodigal, our temptation is to leave God’s House to try and find yourself, in middle and later years our tendency can be, like the elder brother, to grudgingly step outside God’s House, embittered by pain, and blinded by pride, unable to humbly recognise and receive God’s Rich Grace. But if we can process all of life in the light of God’s Forgiveness and Love in Christ, we can grow up into bighearted people who positively ‘struggle to give our lives away’ in blessing others. They say you ‘can’t teach old dogs new tricks’, but of course you can! It’s our self-centred pride, envy, jealousy, sloth, greed, gluttony & lust which clog our arteries and prevent the selfless love and blood of Christ to flow through our veins.

My maturer monthly mentor encourages me! He has to pee almost as many times as me in the night and his most fruitful time in life started at the age of 60. So, I press on into many challenges with faith, hope & love ‘struggling to give my life away’. I journey towards a maturer soul, heart and mindset of ‘struggling to give my death away’. It’s good to see oneself in a bigger picture that takes the whole of life and death seriously, nothing wasted. When I grow up, I want to be like You Brother Jesus, like You Gracious Father, like You Giving Spirit! Lead each of us into our next stretch with You.