He sat there looking at all his friends. As they stood in their little groups and laughed together. They looked so happy. They’re lives looked so beautiful. But, as he sat there people began to disappear before his eyes. Like a ghost they turned to dust and floated away. He looked toward the door and yet more people walked in. They drew into circles again and laughed and talked. Then he looked to another side of the room and there was a circle of people that had just broken up. They looked angry. He could overhear words filled with anger about things like carpet and orange juice. Then he saw some of them disappear. Then he saw one man slowly fading. He was there, but he was slowly disappearing into the fog.
The man sat quietly and sadly looked down. Here was his life. These people were his friends. But what are friends? Friends become distant. Time passes and horns grow on others. The hate for one another kindles slowly. He felt sadness. He couldn’t tell if he was the one. Was I the cause for the anger and the strife and the goodbyes? He never wanted to say goodbye but people left. “What have I done to wrong them,” he cried in his heart. The pain agonizes him. Every person he sees disappear from his world is like his heart is being wrenched to pieces.
The man groaned in sadness. He got up to talk to his friends. But they didn’t appreciate his love for blue butterflies because they loved red butterflies and left him angrily. He sadly sat down again. He could hear them talking about him, but couldn’t hear the words distinctly as they left the room. He didn’t know what to say or how to say it. No matter what he said hurt him or others around him.
As his life went on he saw the hopelessness of depending on friends. They cheated him and left him.
Nearing the end of his life the man looked around and saw very few people left. But he always questioned their love. He had become a hardened old cynic. Then, all around him began to fade as a light began to pulsate through the room. A man in a white garment entered the room. This man had a light and a smile to him that he had never seen before. His hands looked as if they had been pierced through and through. And he felt as if they had been pierced for him. This shining man looked at him and smiled and said, “Greater love hath no man than this, then that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
At this the man couldn’t contain himself and tears flowed down his face. Too much had he cared all his life that those around him love him. Instead of laying down his life, instead he had wanted to be pleased and taken care of. Instead of moving on when he was offended instead he should have allowed himself to be trodden on and love them more. And then he felt peace.
(Sent to me by my friend, Daniel Swanson)
Let me describe to you five ways of repentance; each is different, but all point toward heaven. The first road is the acknowledgement of sins. If you acknowledge your sins to God, He will forgive you; and this act of acknowledgement will help you stop sinning. Let your conscience be your accuser, so that you will not have to face a far different accuser at the Lord’s tribunal. The second road of repentance is the forgetting of the wrongs of others. This requires you to control your temper and to forgive the sins that others have committed against you. If you forgive others, the Lord will forgive you. The third road is prayer: not perfunctory routine prayer, but fervent, passionate prayer in which you lay yourself wholly before God. The fourth road is generosity, in which by acts of thoughtful love you make amends for the sins you have committed. And the fifth road is humility, whereby you regard yourself as having no virtue, but only sins to offer to God; He will then take the burden of sin form your back. At times it will be right to travel on one of these roads, at other times to travel on another. But ensure that every day you walk along at least one of them.
- St John Chrysostom, from the compilation, On Living Simply