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Guilt is just a pale copy of repentance, but it brings no comfort.
I live above my studio and getting there takes me barely 5 seconds. I did notice that if I stepped on my laces and stumbled on the stairs I even got there twice as quickly! However, I have found an even more effective shortcut: I go via the forest!
All the way to work, I speak with God. I don’t look at the time much, but it must take me half an hour (or even more when I get lost)... and yet I actually gain time!
Object lesson: hunting buffaloes
I remember a time when I would sometimes say: ‘I’ve got too much work to do, I’ll speak to God later!’... At that same time in my life, scarcely had I walked through the door of the studio, than my head was already entangled in a muddle of sh… truggles (phew, a little longer and I would have said it!)...
I can see myself again, trying to hunt the buffalo of Eastern Mesopotamia using a wilting daisy (yes, apparently a rifle with a telescopic sight is better)... Translation: me trying to fix a computer bug all by myself, when I had been struggling for 6 months unable to connect to the internet (THE thing that did my head in the most)!
I tinker about pointlessly with hazardous thoughts, time would go by so quickly that night would already be rolling up along with her companion, fatigue. They would take a few turns in my head and I, like a resigned zombie, would follow them in the direction of my bed... The prospect of a shortened night would, at the same time, ruin my arrangement to meet ‘the next day’, which had become one that was ‘in a little while’...
In short, I was getting nowhere, with guilt thrown in as a bonus...
Ha, Alain, you’re such a loser for not spending time with God...
I would equate this type of remorse with a kind of virtue. Guilt, a virtue!?? But the simple fact that I was having these sorts of thoughts could only mean one thing: my knowledge of God had become distorted because I hadn’t been relating to Him! In fact, guilt is just a pale copy of repentance, but it brings no comfort.
Repentance = oops, I screwed up, oh no, I am sorry, a thousand apologies: help me to change and I change! (cool!)
Guilt = oops, I screwed up, oh no, I am sorry, but hey, I’ll start again and I still take the blame! (so idiotic!)
Swift horse versus cute kitten
But one morning, just as I was about to repeat my routine line of reasoning, prompted by I don’t know what flash of clarity, I decided to breach my daily failing (nonetheless full of common sense) and made a detour through the forest to unload my heart before the Father*: ‘Anyway, it’s not the amount of work I have that should decide whether I fill up with heavenly fuel or not!’...
And boom! What do you know! God answers me on my heavenly walkie-talkie (er... the Bible, if you prefer): “Only in returning to me and resting in me will you be saved. In quietness and confidence is your strength... ”.
I had already read this verse on a poster depicting some cute little kittens with pink silk ribbons tied around their heads (we all agree: there’s no connection!)... Strangely, the housebound little old lady who had probably come up with the idea for this poster had omitted the next part of the passage:
“...but you would have none of it! You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses. We will ride off on swift horses. Therefore, your pursuers will be swift! A thousand will flee at the threat of one. You will all flee away, till you are left like a flagstaff on a mountaintop, like a banner on a hill.” Isaiah 30: 15-17
A banner on a hill!... You are speaking about a great end to someone’s career...
I have barely emerged from my thoughts than I realise that my legs have brought me back to my office. A letter from a friend is waiting there for me:
‘Hi Alain, it’s Alain (another one!) I know, its ages since we last saw each other, but I’ve been given a text for you: it’s ... Isaiah 30: 15-17.’ (the same text)!!
Okay Lord, I’ve got the message and from now on I will come to see You every day, no matter what.
Room for me?
In the days that followed, a friend came to see me to ask if he could set himself up in a corner of my studio, creating an office for himself there.
Well, I can’t see any reason why not (we have to help one another, don’t we?)... Also, it’ll give me a bit of company.
So he set himself up and, in the process, as he needed the internet, he solved the problem with the connection!