For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me will save it. Luke 9:24 (NIVScripture quotations marked (NIV) are taken from the HOLY BIBLE NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by Biblica, Inc.™. All rights reserved.)
I have a tendency to oversimplify things. Some people say I’m a compulsive summarizer. So with those two confessions out of the way, I want to—no, I have to—summarize a couple of things that relate to this issue of Conversations.
First, I believe that a primary reason for one of the darkest times in Church history (the first church split—1054 A.D.; over one thousand years after Jesus prayed, “May they be one, Father . . .”) was the two competing operating systems that dominated Christian thought at the time: the Greek East and the Latin West.
While I’m aware that geographic, political, and linguistic strains had been fraying the connective tissue of the body of Christ for centuries; I believe the Great Schism was also a result of two very different approaches for processing theology. The Eastern mind-set seems more like a Mac computer. The West used PCs.
Now of course, they didn’t really use computers; neither Steve Jobs nor Bill Gates had been invented yet. What I am trying to say is that the Eastern way of viewing God seemed more at home with user-friendly icons and featured a simpler, big-picture focus. Not to mention, the color graphics pack-age was out of this world.
By contrast, the MS-DOS system of the West had a penchant for capturing spiritual things using an Excel spreadsheet type of approach. The Western church seemed to employ more of a logical, left-brain method for systematizing God. The tragedy—it occurs to me as I type these words using Microsoft software for my Apple computer—is that putting both together would have been much better.
What does that have to do with this issue of Conversations? I recently discovered that I have a major problem with the operating system of my soul—and now I’m talking about something much more fundamental than Mac vs. PC. In spite of all the spiritual reading, thinking, and writing I’ve been doing for more than two decades, it recently became painfully clear that I continue to run much of my life using an “egoic” operating system (EOS), instead of a “unitive” operating system (UOS). Let me explain.
A couple of months ago, as part of a course I’m taking on Ignatian Spirituality, I traveled to Mobile, Alabama, and checked into the dormitory of a Jesuit college for a five-day, mostly silent retreat. The first morning I met with my spiritual director. He is a very likable fellow who speaks five languages—mercifully not at the same time—and has a Ph.D. in theology from the University of Rome.
After some pleasantries were exchanged, he announced that the theme for the first day was “gratitude,” to which I thought—but did not say—Oh, great. This is right up there with “self-esteem” on my list of ten truisms I believe to be important but not worth any of my waking moments—not to mention a whole day—for reflection.