Grace Manifesto

chairAs time goes by, mi relationship with God shifts… like a lava lamp, the colors yield to one another in the Light, bold new shapes are created… they merge, only to split again, in a cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

Here are a couple of things I’ve learned over the last ten years… A creed or a manifesto, if you will.

Because I’ve had a rather difficult earthly pilgrimage, I understand that true joy implies an un-clinging to the things of this life (studies, possessions, accomplishments, people). Joy is grabbing onto the Creator’s heart. Everything else shifts, mutates, changes, is irreparably lost or sometimes had. It is a constant coming and going of experience, people and artifacts. The only thing that rings true, the only thing that rings eternal and grounds my life, the center of it all, the be-all and the “all roads” is God.
And Christ, the image of the living God.

I sometimes nap.

And in the warmth of my bed I like to think God watches me. Smiling, because he knows I’m a lazy head.

This I’ve also learned.

I understand that the faith I have translates into a relationship between two people: God + me, not a philosophical query that is never to be answered and certainly not “God The Psychological Process” (as an Emerging Theologian of some repute once stated).

The relationship shifts and mutates as I shift and change. It follows my rhythm. My own Personal Velocity.

Because God is amazingly good and doesn’t rush things.

I guess there’s a simile in marriage. Marriage gives a certain framework of commitment, a covenant, a safe place from within which the individual evolves, improves and contributes to the formation of that particular universe which only two souls can inhabit. God and I inhabit our own, very real, and very personal space. I thrive within this relationship we’ve formed. I may not know that I’m thriving, especially on those days where everything is hurt, but I believe it.

And I believe I will see that in retrospect, as I have so far.

Each day I experience, to a greater degree, the fact that God is “good”. I probably felt it once, at an intuitive level, but religion made it a point to hide the goodness of the Creator behind human norms and human guilt.

God’s bone marrow is good. He is good all the way from his head to his navel. And then to his toes. Even the stories of Israel, the ones were God is Warrior King and the King of Leviticus or the King of the Flood says something startling about God’s goodness.

While it is true that these stories have to be studied, theologically studied, to scratch the surface of truth (the story of the flood is not as we have been taught to interpret it, for instance), I have to say that in all my meanderings, in all that I’ve lived and breathed, in all I’ve read of Scripture, two things are ever present: God is Good and God wants to interact with Man.

I also understand that the Glory of God (his “Kavod” which in Hebrew means “the essential weight of something” – I am smitten with this word)… The Glory of God is a mystery and I’ve only seen the tip of the tip of the iceberg.

No one holds the absolute truth of the being we call God. YWHW is a personal crusade and no man can tell us how to navigate His waters. There are truths we proclaim, such as Christ, the son of God, the face of the living God and his Resurrection, but the pilgrimage is a matter of God and me. Me and Christ. A table for two.

All scripture point to Christ, our God incarnate.

This is the good news scripture is founded on: that God came to dwell among men in the person of Jesus, that God came to show men a part of his glory in the person of Jesus, that God came to reconcile men to himself through the Son.

Christ did not come to plan out the Vatican, appoint the first Pope, or create the Protestant Church. Christ came to relate to men, one on one. He came to give of himself, and when he went to the Father, he sent a companion to dwell within us, a piece of himself, his heart in ours.

So why do we judge? What do we know of a person’s standing with God through his son? Do we live in our neighbor’s head?

Why do we say a man who attends church every Sunday, who has positions of leadership within his community is more spiritual than the neighbor who drinks wine every now and then, giving thanks to the Creator for the lovely vine -together with anyone who partakes of his hospitality?

What do we know of the inner life of one or the other?

I now understand that Grace does not judge, but seeks to comprehend.

And to give everyone a fair chance at expression. For there is nothing I can know for certain about whomever walks next to me. I may see their actions or I may not.

So really, it is God alone who knows the human heart and mind

I understand that everything is sacred. There is no separation between the sacred and the secular. My life and all I do with it, day after day, tedious bit after tedious bit… all of it is Sacred because God dwells within me. I carry Him everywhere I go. His heart in mine. There are no moments of worship as opposed to moments of secular distension. There are no churches wherein God’s presence dwells as opposed to the outside, where his presence is absent or found to a lesser degree.

When I learned to see God In Everything that surrounded me, I saw life in all its mysticism.

A mystical life, agreed, but not a life of aestheticism nor a life of separation. On the contrary, a life that is involved, a life that is humorous, a life of peace, a life of benevolence… a life of shortcomings and Grace.

As the years go by I see that God has become that inseparable friend that has seen me in my pajamas, in the shower, napping and waking up, sleepy-eyed and confused. God has become a cozy blanket of love and goodness, the sea breeze I can smell every morning and the steps that lead me home at night.

Again I return to the idea of sacredness in everything and God in all things.

Today, I have a much more conciliatory nature when it comes to me, myself and I.

I see that God has more Grace towards me than I could ever give him credit for, which is why forgiving myself has become easier. Not asking myself for more than I can give at any random moment – this has turned into a mantra that I go by.

The same mantra applies to those who surround me. I cannot ask them for more than they are capable of.

And that is a beautiful thing.

A relationship with God, as well as life itself, is a journey that is carried out one foot in front of the other. One ring of the alarm and one night’s sleep at a time. We’re all struggling with our humanity here, which is why Grace and Benevolence are required for all and especially for ourselves. Every day.

I understand that I am afraid.

I’m afraid of never living the dream – the dream of being an author who is read, who can make a living off her writing.  Not a writing superstar, but a writer who can live off her work.

I’m afraid of aging in a job that just doesn’t suit my heart’s desires.

I’m afraid of aging alone.

And I’m afraid of wasting my years being afraid.

But, after years of fright, I’ve come to see the twofold purpose of fear: to consume my thoughts and energy… and to drive them away from God-the Center.

I refuse to fall in the trap.

And so I go about my days, making a conscious effort to steer my mind clear of the fright. As Paul says, “you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.” (Philippians 4.8)

I now know of all that which is hope-filled. And hope is the engine of the human soul. I don’t ask for the glitter of life: only someone to love and wed, work that is meaningful, the financial resources to always help my family.

I choose hope consciously… I pray I live life in love, with people who will remember (not my accomplishments) but the sweetness I may have brought into their lives. And if this moved their hearts and brought them closer to the Creator, I know I did right. I did well. That is my hope.

But I still dream of Paris. Napa Valley. I am certain God has seen my dreams and knows the wide eyes of the little girl I once was, eyes filled with wonder, as I browsed through magazines decorated with photos of Europe. A Europe that is mine in the realms of fairy-dust.

All this makes up the bundle of hope I carry around with me. Big enough to fill universes, small enough to put in my pocket.

I understand compassion and kindness.

We are the hands of God, the embrace of God and the compassionate words of God. We are not meant to be judgment or harshness. A loving action always prevails over religious messages of fire and brimstone.

I accept that there are people that will wound me. And I will have to let them go. This is not lack of compassion, it is compassion towards me.

I know and embrace the fact that I will weep. I will bury loved ones, I will age, I will see things that make no sense and I will feel alienated from the world. But I also know that God holds every single tear of mine in a bottle. Every last one (Psalm 56:8). He knows them all and He is the Last Comfort. He is also kind. He will be responsible for all those times I smile.

I have finally realized, deep within my bones, that God likes me. He reads my Twitter updates and smiles. He likes to be around me. He enjoys lying by my side as I watch Woody Allen films. He cheers me on as I write through my lunch break. He understands that I do it because Writing makes me feel Alive. It is fuel for my heart and nourishment for my mind.

He ensures I have the mojo it takes to plough through page after page.

I don’t know how my faith will keep shifting in the coming years, because I do not know how I will change. This play-dough that I am, what forms will it take? How will the God-The-Artist twist and turn me in his hands? Not with the roughness of fascist whims, but with gentleness and mercy, bringing about greater knowledge, greater growth, emotions more in-tune with those around me. A life lived onto others.

What will my dusk know, that my dawn never suspected?

Yet I am sure and ever sure of something: No shift or circumstance can separate me from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Not now, not ever.

That’s Grace.  The Ultimate and Greatest Shift.

(Romans 8:38-29; John 10:27-30)