Thursday, October 23, 2014

Please or Thank You

Every once in awhile, you have this holy moment where you are something other than you've always been. You see something new in  yourself. It feels natural, yet surreal. And it leads you to the place where you start to ask this question:

How was I created? And how have I been made?

(That was yesterday's discussion.) There's certainly an answer to this that says you can never really know, for as much as you know of yourself, you have been made. The world has shaped you by the time you have enough consciousness to ask such a question and it may be impossible at this point to separate the created from the made. 

Which doesn't make it any less important of a question. And here's why. Or at least, here's what I find my heart running up against in situations like these.

If this holy moment is the way I was created, if at my core I am who this holy moment declares me to be, then this person I see so briefly looking back at me in the mirror becomes a goal. I have to turn my life's course to try to capture her. I have to set myself to the disciplines of cultivating her. If she is more patient than I, then I owe it to the God who created me to work on my patience. If she is more generous, to work on my generosity. If she is more bold, to embrace my courage. If she is more reserved, to work on my restraint. She becomes the standard for my living, and I would...and I think, rightfully should...spend my days in pursuit of her. In her shadow, I pray, Please. Please, Lord, make me this woman.

But if this holy moment is not a revelation of the way I was created, it requires something else entirely. And it's not that if it does not reveal my creation, it reveals my making; a holy moment will never center on what this world has made you. Rather, it would be a reflection of who God has made me for this moment. If that's the case, this woman is no longer the goal; she is the gift. She is an outpouring of grace, the very generosity of God. She is given only as I have given myself to God to be available for the work, to be present for such a moment. I could spend my life in pursuit of her and never get there, never even come close, because this woman could never be found in me; she could only be found in God. So my life must become praise. It must become thankfulness. It must become coming closer, giving myself again and again to God. In her glow, I pray, Thank You. Thank You, Lord.

To be honest, both of these sound pretty good, right? Isn't this precisely what life is? It's working toward a better version of ourselves in accordance with God's design by living a life of praise and thankfulness and drawing near to Him in faithful surrender. Sounds pretty good to me. 

On the one hand, yes. On the other, it's a lot deeper than this. If I take this woman as a goal when she has only ever been a gift, two things are bound to happen. First, I'm likely to become frustrated, if not angry and hateful, with myself for being unable to become her. Or to even come close. Second, as a result of the first, I'm likely to become frustrated, if not angry and hateful, with God for giving me such a high standard that I could never live up to. 

If I take this woman as a gift and she was meant to be the goal, I miss out on becoming the woman God has intended for me to be. I miss out on the chance to make myself a little more every day. I miss the chance to uncover what God has hidden in her for me. If I miss the chance to be her, then I miss the chance to know God as fully as she does. 

So these are hard questions that come out of holy moments. It's hard to know whether to pray Please... or Thank You. It's hard to know when you're looking in the mirror which is the goal and which is the gift.

Thank God it's all grace.

But I still think it matters to me. I know it does. How was I created? And how have I been made?

Where is God? And who...who am I?

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