Wednesday, October 27, 2010

God is Good. Believe It.

Our first experience of God is so important; we either experience Him as the police guard that wants to punish or as Creative Love that awaits. Pope Benedict XVI
It seems to me that there are two different ways, perpendicular ways I'd call them, by which we can grieve the heart of our God. I mean, there are many of course, but maybe most of them can be lumped into one of these categories.

First, we can see God as "the hard man," the "demanding person" that Mt. 25:24 mentions. We can see him as the police guard who notices our every fault and who measures us against a standard of behaviour that proves us weak, miserable, flawed. Moreover it can seem that God's role in our lives is to rub our noses in it, to never let us forget that we essentially suck, that we are intrinsically disgusting and revolting, completely incompatible with the Good and the Holy.

This grieves the heart of our God because it neglects the truth that the entire Old Testament set out to teach us: that despite our sin, God's entire intention toward man is to establish relationship. He is burning with love for us and has wooed humanity for thousands of years. He doesn't just want to just excuse His people or pardon us, He wants to marry us. "Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death, but helped all men to seek and find you. Again and again you offered a covenant to man, and through the prophets taught him to hope for salvation" (Eucharistic Prayer IV).

The other way, it seems, we can grieve God, is to accept this idea that God's intention is to establish a covenant with us, but to check the reality of it at the door. This is where we "make a pretense of religion but deny its power" (2 Tim. 3:5). This is where we refuse to meet God as He is, not because He seems so terrible but because He seems too good. I can't accept His goodness to me. I don't deserve it.

Perhaps this is where the two errors cross in their perpendicularity. Truth is, we know we are flawed. We know that there is that about us which is not God. We are limited, creatures. We can either beat ourselves up over this fact, or we can embrace it as reality and grasp what it is to mean for us.

I think this is where the faulty thinking arises: When God pours out His riches, and He does, an individual can get a fear like a child being called in the front of the class for a special honor. There's a fear in being singled out. We are never meant to be "singled out," even though this idea can run cross-grain to our American individualism. (In Japan, people instinctively understand this!) There is something horrible that flashes in our intuition when we consider God bestowing some special blessing on just one person. "It's too much; I don't deserve it!" or "What's so freaking special about HER that she gets that?!" if you are the witness rather than the recipient.

God does deal with us as individuals, but everything, everything He gives is for all. What He gives is Himself, and no single creature, nor all of the created universe of time and space together, is equal to Him nor has the capacity to receive His entirety. However, we do not become ourselves fully until we receive Him to the capacity with which we were created. The Church, in fact, is called "the fullness of the one who fills all things in every way" (Eph. 1:23).

The blessings God gives to each one of us are designed to transform us into His own giving image. In other words, to use a sort of lame cliche, we are blessed to become a blessing. This eliminates any "need" for jealousy, because a gift given to one is really given to all. The amazing part is that God trusts us enough to allow us to be custodians of His gifts for others.

Instead of getting all flustered when we see how God has blessed us (this indicates we are self-focused), we need to open our eyes and look about us to see who it is that God has given this blessing for. And then get busy with the joyful work of passing along that which God enables us to give.

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