Some Thoughts on Ponies and Puritans
Yesterday I turned the last page of C.S. Lewis', Miracles. Maybe it's an English major thing, but trudging through Lewis' spiritual musings just gets me going, tickles my fancy, turns my crank if you would.
Here's one I dog-eared (which is only acceptable in books of this nature: I'd NEVER do it to a novel):
"But behind all asceticism (*basically just severe self-denial—think puritans*) the thought should be . . . Who will trust me with a spiritual body if I cannot control even an earthly body? These small and perishable bodies we now have were given to us as ponies are given to schoolboys."
Once I looked up what "asceticism" means, I found myself in the word. See, it shouldn't surprise you to learn that I don't consider myself brave. And spiritually speaking, that means I tend to shy from things—anything—that may possibly/maybe/potentially generate guilt down the road. My aversion isn't always logical or even right—God never intended for us to live constipated lives without enjoying some of the good pleasures He creates for us—but it causes me to be very hard on myself sometimes. To make sweeping denials (I will never do this; all of these are bad; avoid that at all costs) that God didn't ask for, just out of fear.
The thing is, using arbitrary rules as a spiritual crutch doesn't only flow from fear, or even a desire to be pure. It's immaturity as well. I am speaking for myself when I say that if I never learn to discipline myself but instead just hide from everything, I will never graduate from the schoolboy to the experienced rider. I will never become a well-rounded, spiritually mature creature who can fully and vibrantly live in the world God has made without being corrupted by it. Hiding is not a learning experience. I can say that because I've wasted years of my life doing just that in a plethora of different ways—hiding from social situations, hiding from risks, hiding from triggers of mental illness instead of facing them head-on.
No more hiding. If we can't learn to master our bodies the way schoolboys master their ponies, how will we ever take on the glorious new bodies God has prepared for us? As Lewis says, "We must learn to manage: not that we may someday be free of horses altogether but that someday we may ride bare-back, confident and rejoicing, those great mounts, those winged, shining and world-shaking horses which perhaps even now expect us with impatience, pawing and snorting in the King's stables."
We don't need to be afraid of the bodies (or metaphorical horses) God has given us, unruly and fallen as they are. Our life's goal shouldn't be just to get through life, to get through to the point when we can ditch these awful bodies, "be free of [them] altogether." No, this is our training. This is when we learn, with God's help and the discernment of the Spirit, to navigate temptations while also living life in the fullest joy and spiritual freedom, mastering our sinful bodies little by little. Bringing them into submission the way an expert horseman brings his mount into submission beneath him and rides on to exhilarating, God-honouring life.
Flee temptation, avoid sin at all costs, but remember to grow as well. Remember to see every temptation as a chance to conquer our sinfulness just a little more and by it to grow—through the grace and guidance of our glorious God!