People sometimes describe themselves as either living at the center or living on the edge.
Viewed from one perspective, neither is conducive to human growth or sensitivity to God. Living at the center can mean that a person is self-centered, complacent, very comfortable. The one who lives at the center may have a few lazy thoughts about God and may ‘live by the rules” just enough not to get into trouble with God or other people. But living at the center involves no compelling or driving force. It is safe there, and renders one a veritable couch-potato, who cannot be bothered with others but grasps every bit of the good life for himself or herself.
Living on the edge can be no better. Sometimes living on the edge is synonymous with restlessness, a devil-may-care attitude that thrives on dangerous activities and destructive impulses. Life on the edge can mean addiction. It can mean abusing oneself or others through promiscuous sexual activity.
Life at the center and life on the edge, understood in these terms, have nothing to do with being a Christian. Yet, in another sense, the Gospel calls us to live both at the center and at the edge.
Jesus, in the Gospel, tells us to take up our cross daily and follow him (MT.10.38). Elsewhere, he tells us that in order to follow him, we may have to choose contrary to the wishes of family and friends (Luke 14.26-27). We may even choose contrary to the accepted wisdom of the day because we believe that God is calling us to do so. The pressure can become so great that we become fragile, weighed down, burned out. Now that’s living on the edge.
At this point, the Wisdom of God, the Spirit of God beckons us to the center – a place of sustenance, the regrouping of strength in the face of family tragedy, economic disaster, the unravelling of a relationship or an illness. Recall the moments when Jesus took his overwhelmed disciples of to pray, and how Jesus sought the solitude of Gethsemane as his passion and death loomed near. Remember how the disciples of Christ went off after the Ascension to pray, their hearts open to the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The courage needed at the edge is gathered at the center, and as we live the Christian life, we need to move between the center and the edge.
Commitment to Christ is not a grim denial of life, as it might seem from the seriousness of these thoughts. Rather, commitment to Christ is life lived in recognition that we are never alone. “In every age, O Lord, You have been our refuge,” we sing in Psalm 90.
Christ is with us when we totter on the edge, when we rejoice and regroup at the center… Christ in whom there is victory, resolution, sadness and misery overcome, and joy to the full experienced.
However stable or changing our lives, whether we find ourselves on the edge or in the center, Jesus, our Brother and Savior, is with us.
Good thoughts during the relentlessness of winter!
~Sister Joan Sobala