Again and I again I find myself drawn to read The Imitation of Christ as part of my devotion time. Originally written by Thomas à Kempis between 1420 and 1427 and now translated into modern English recently by William C. Creasy, it remains the most published Christian book, second only to the Bible. Much like George McDonald’s writing stirred C.S. Lewis’ spiritual imagination, The Imitation has stirred my mind and heart for some time now (since the mid 1990’s). Here’s a sample of my reading today, which fits well with the sermon series on Philippians that we have just begun.
In a powerful section of prayerful dialogues between the disciple and Jesus, à Kempis writes as a disciple (one who follows Christ) speaking/praying to His Lord:
When you are present, Lord, everything is joyful; when you are missing, everything is dreary. You make the heart calm and full of great peace and gladness. You make us think well of all things and praise you in all things. Nothing can give any lasting pleasure without you, for if anything is to be pleasant and appetizing, your grace must be with it, seasoned with the spice of your wisdom. To the person who delights in you, what will not taste right? And what can give any joy to someone who does not delight in you? Those who love the world apart from you know nothing of your wisdom, and those who love others for their own selfish reasons know even less. Loving the world under such terms smacks of vanity; selfishly loving others plants a doomed vine. (p. 125)
As the Christmas season is again upon us, it doesn’t take much for us to reflect on the vastness of our material blessings. These are wonderful gifts from God since none of us asked to be born into such abundance. Yet, as à Kempis reminds us that disconnected from God, such abundance is not only destructive to our souls but it is a foolish pursuit. The entirety of it is God’s grace to be enjoyed with Him, not apart from Him.
While Black Fridays and Cyber Mondays can be fun (I’m certainly feeling challenged to find good deals like everyone else), the over-fascination with consuming can rule my thinking and time, pointing to my heart attitude of disconnecting the good gift from God. Think about this… how do you express daily thanks in the midst of plenty? How easy is it to forget God’s goodness and grace and then begin to crave apart from Him? Have you ever thought about what the presence of so much does to the human heart? Thomas à Kempis gives us a timely reminder that while all of it are good gifts from Him, none of this can fill an eternal hole in our heart. Only an eternal person can.