The Best Seats in the House

I’m not a big fan of baseball. I rarely watch a game on television. However, I did have the chance to attend two live games, one in Atlanta and one in Baltimore. I have to admit that I did enjoy the live games. I suppose that if I lived in a big city and could afford it, I would go to live games. I did learn another important truth – how much you enjoy the game depends upon where you sit. In Atlanta, we sat in the cheap seats, but in Baltimore, we had better seats. Still, as I looked up at the VIP boxes around the stadium, I knew that they had the best seats in the house.

St. Paul said that we are in the VIP box and have the best seats in the house. “[God]…has raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.”(Ephesians 2:6) In all my years of reading this passage, I never quite understood it. I understand that St. Paul is filling out the meaning of the death and resurrection of Christ. We are buried with Him in baptism, and with Christ we are raised to a new life. Since Christ ascended to the Father and sits at His right hand, we too have been taken up to sit in heavenly places. The problem for me is that St. Paul talks as if this is supposed to be a present reality and not something that will happen when we die. Well I don’t think that I’ve ever felt like I was sitting that high. It would be wonderful to sit in a heavenly place and see life from a different point of view, but most of time I see life from the cheap seats.

Here’s how life looks from the cheap seats: I don’t deserve this; why am I sick; this is not right; this is not fair; I deserve better; I can’t believe that this is happening to me; why did my loved one die; and so on. In the cheap seats you find people filled with anger, fear, resentment, and there is little peace there. “But the man who is discontent with his lot and murmurs against his fate, or against those who cause him offence, should realize that his spirit is in a state of pride, which has taken from him his sense of gratitude towards God.”

St. Silouan tells us what it is like to sit in the best seats: “Life is much easier for the man who is given over to the will of God, since in illness, in poverty, in persecution he reflects thus: “Such is God’s pleasure, and I must endure on account of my sins.” So, sitting in a heavenly place doesn’t mean that you are free from suffering; it means that you see it from a different angle. “The proud man does not want to live according to God’s will: he likes to be his own master and does not see that man has not wisdom enough to guide himself without God.” Because we do not submit to the will of God in much and rely on our own understanding, we see life from the cheap seats and it’s hard to enjoy the game.

We might be tempted to think that St. Silouan is being a bit cavalier about this. Listen to his witness: “Thus for many years have I suffered violent headaches, which are hard to bear but salutary because the soul is humbled through sickness. My soul longs to pray and keep vigil, but sickness hinders me because of my body’s demand for rest and quiet; and I besought the Lord to heal me, and the Lord hearkened not unto me. So, therefore, it would not have been salutary for me to have been cured.” We find it hard to understand how having migraine headaches could be salutary. Lest you think that Silouan is just resigned to his affliction because he lacks faith, he tells of many times when the Lord healed him. He did not doubt the healing power of God. If some ailment remained, he believed that God deemed it necessary for the ailment to remain for the sake of his salvation. This is seeing life from a heavenly place.

Imagine what it would be like if we submitted to the will of God and could sit in the VIP seats. “The soul that has come to … submit to His will, will live before Him in awe and love: in love, because the Lord is love; in awe, because we must go in fear of grieving God by some evil thought.” I get this, but how do you know if you are submitted to the will of God?

“Here is a sign: if you are distressed over anything it means that you have not fully surrendered to God’s will, although it may seem to you that you live according to His will. He who lives according to God’s will has no cares. If he has need of something, he offers himself and the thing he wants to God, and if he does not receive it, he remains as tranquil as if he had got what he wanted. The soul that is given over to the will of God fears nothing, neither thunder nor thieves nor any other thing. Whatever may come, ‘Such is God’s pleasure,’ she says. If she falls sick she thinks, ‘This means that I need sickness, or God would not have sent it…and in this wise is peace preserved in soul and body…The best thing of all is to surrender to God’s will and bear affliction having confidence in God. The Lord, seeing our affliction, will never give us too much to bear. If we seem to ourselves to be greatly afflicted, it means that we have not surrendered to the will of God.”

No matter where you sit, or what point of view you have, the game is the same. Sometimes you can tolerate the game of life from the cheap seats, but it’s better to sit in the VIP box. Christ has prepared a seat there for you and for me and He invites us to come and sit with Him in His Kingdom. It’s a matter of surrender and submission to the will of God. What was it that the Master said? “Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” How did St. Silouan say it? “Keep thy mind in hell, and despair not.” Obviously, St. Siloan is sitting in the VIP box.

What’s your “point of view?”  The invitation to the VIP box has been given to you. Its up to you to come up or not, or stay in the cheap seats. Either way, its “Batter Up and Play Ball.”

The sayings of St. Silouan were taken from the website http://www.orthodoxinfo.com/praxis/willofgod.aspx

One Response to “The Best Seats in the House”

  1. Cristina Says:

    Father, I want to let you know that about a week ago, I have stumbled upon St Silouan’s teachings (the quotes you include in your essay). I thought I took notice of them but I guess I did not. I forgot and got pulled back in life’s everyday wishes and hardship. Today especially was a hard day for my family and without any particular thought in mind, I checked your blog, which I haven’t checked in a long time. I was surprised to see St Silouan’s teachings “staring back at me.” It must be that they are really important, especially “keep your mind in hell, and dispair not.” I felt some relief in this sentence, because today it actually had a different meaning to me, a real meaning. Like giving me a roadmap.

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