Raising righteousness

A man is born into this world with only a tiny spark of goodness in him. The spark is God, it is the soul; the rest is ugliness and evil, a shell. The spark must be guarded like a treasure, it must be nurtured, it must be fanned into flame. It must learn to seek out other sparks, it must dominate the shell. Anything can be a shell, Reuven. Anything. Indifference, laziness, brutality, and genius. Yes, even a great mind can be a shell and choke the spark. …

I went away and cried to the Master of the Universe, ‘What have you done to me? A mind like this I need for a son? A heart I need for a son, a soul I need for a son, compassion I want from my son, righteousness, mercy, strength to suffer and carry pain, that I want from my son, not a mind without a soul!’ …

One learns of the pain of others by suffering one’s own pain, he would say, by turning inside oneself, by finding one’s own soul. And it is important to know of pain, he said. It destroys our self-pride, our arrogance, our indifference towards others. It makes us aware of how frail and tiny we are and of how much we must depend upon the Master of the Universe.

From The Chosen by Chaim Potok (New York: Ballantine, 1967)

One reason I love this book so much is this final scene about the heart of a father for his son. I felt as though I’d caught a glimpse of God’s heart for us, and I was greatly moved — that a father’s plans and purposes for his child would centre on the condition of his soul; that our Father God could be actively seeking the good of our souls. How futile it seems, then, to be anxious about how high you fly or how low you go, when the true and final assessment is not about such success or failure; when you have a God who cares about you, genuinely cares, and beckons you to a hope and a future.

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