Another blessed year with the Associates in Oregon at Mt. Angel Abby.
From Frederick Beuchner’s The Longing for Home:
…our stories are all stories of searching. We search for a good self to be and for good work to do…And in a world where it's often hard to believe in much of anything, we search to believe in something holy and beautiful and life-transcending, that will give meaning and purpose to the lives we live.
In the Bible it says “there’s nothing new under the sun.” I think that’s true. All the ancient knowledge of the universe, and our place in it, our connection to God, our inter-related-ness… all that resides within us. But we are dense bodies… made of the stuff of the earth. The irony is that because we are made of matter, we forget that we do matter.
Somewhere in our subconscious is the belief that while grace is lavish and unconditional, it is also limited. Cross God one too many times, fail too often, sin too much… and God will decide to take His love back.
God may love us, but He might not like us, so we have to worry that someday His love will run out.
For some reason, we aren’t wired for grace. We need to prove something. It’s all wrapped up in our value being tied to our performance. How do we greet each other?
"What do you do for a living? What did you do today? What have you done for me lately?
Too often religion means we have to clean up our act, sit up straight, earn something… while all the time worrying that we’re fooling everyone. Public opinion is a big deal in our culture, and it’s too easy to believe our own press, good or bad.
But I think Jesus came to teach us to let go of the need to appear good. Instead, slow down enough to listen to the Word within us, to live in the mystery of who we are. If we’re preoccupied with protecting our image, being model Christians, excellent parents… then all that does is lead us into the “look at me” behavior that is just another form of bondage.
We have to quit trying to be saints. Faith isn’t about believing the right things. It’s about love. And grace. So how do we tap into that knowing? How do we quiet down enough to hear God whisper “I’ll never take away my love?"
What we bring to God is deeper than we realize. But it’s frustrating not to be able to name it. There’s an inkling… it’s about that same yearning, that same longing Beuchner speaks about, but we get stuck. So maybe we need to bring to God our search for the name… the name of our empty place, the name of our despair, the name of what would heal us.
We certainly bring our worries to God: get me a job (especially in this economy;) save my marriage; fix my car; help my children succeed. And we help God out by providing the answer, as if God needs reminding.
And when the problem doesn’t go away we blame God. Or someone else for getting in God’s way.
So if we ask God for a name… what is my fear? What is my pain? What is my emptiness? Then instead of waging war on everyone else, maybe we can see God calm the storm.
It’s not magic. And trusting in magic is another way to escape. Things change because of long, slow and small increments. Countless hours of prayer, countless times of saying “yes” to God, countless instances of kindness, or forgiveness. One day at a time. One day at a time to win the battle over fear. Fear is the enemy: fear of change, fear of failure, fear of losing control, fear of losing out… fear of praying and hearing nothing but silence, fear of death.
Faith is only small steps toward courage.