Less of me and more of Him

You hear people saying it quite often. We hear it in worship songs all the time: “less of me, more of You”.

A friend of mine recently made a beautiful casserole dish in pottery. She was so proud of it. While she was taking pictures of it to send to her mom, I went up to her and said “less of this dish and more of you”. She looked at me confused. What an odd thing to say. Her very act of creating the casserole dish was saying rather loudly “more of the dish”.

Further the dish is an expression of her creativity. That means “more of the dish”, is in some sense actually “more of her”. Everything that is good about the dish, originated inside her. The dish’s glory is her glory.

But what about John the Baptist?

He must become greater; I must become less. – John 3:30

Context is important. When John the Baptist spoke these words, Jesus first started his ministry and people didn’t know about Him, but John was quite famous. So John is talking about relative fame in this verse. Even then John’s ministry was about preparing the way for Jesus, so his fame wasn’t actually detracting from Jesus’, but adding to it.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. – Matthew 5:15

As St Irenaeus rightly said: “the glory of God is man fully alive”.

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Suffering Part 2: Dealing with our suffering

Previously I wrote a post dealing with suffering in an intellectual way, particularly why would God, being good, allow suffering. But understanding suffering and dealing with it are two different things. This post is more about how to cope with suffering.

Once again I need to give a warning. I am deeply, deeply unqualified to write this post, but I still think I should share, because I believe that even though I don’t understand healing perfectly, I know God does not require perfect understanding to touch people.

Why?

A big part of suffering is the great “Why?” of it all. Why would God allow it? My previous post goes into this idea. But there is a more poisonous version of this question: “What did I do wrong?”

Understanding that God does not hold our sins against us is very important in this. I find my mind drifting back to my sins of the past two weeks if something bad happens in my life. Luckily I have a reference point for God’s grace. The cross. At the cross we did the absolute worst to God. We murdered Him. In that moment, not only did He forgive us, but He glorified us. Your porn addiction or flipping the bird to someone on the highway is not the reason for your suffering.

Perfection is a lie

In the charismatic church (read a young church, with young theology and young members) we have a culture of perfection*. Perfection is the standard we uphold, like in Eden. Everybody is waiting for a breakthrough, for our next season. This is especially true while we are still young and naive.

I find it curious that the Hebrew doesn’t have a word for perfect and the closest counter part, the word translated as “very, very good” is not used to describe paradise or anything in it.

We can embrace life as good, even when it is not perfect.

Kyle Morton, the lead singer of Typhoon, contracted Lyme disease at an early age. He put this same idea into different words:

It was more of a psychological shift that happened when I got sick. And I see this perspective in a lot of people, even so-called healthy people. And that is you start questioning ideas of health or even knowing ‘how do I empower myself to a sense of being alive and healthy’ because, life is filled with sorrow and pain and you can’t consider these things a sickness just because they hurt.

*Perfection is obviously an illusion. So it is less of a culture of perfection and more a culture of pretending to be perfect.

It is okay not to be okay

A lot of people not only hate the suffering, but hate themselves in the suffering. They resist their pain and at best it only buries the suffering deep in the psyche, but more probably it extends the suffering. Your emotions are not your enemy in suffering. It is okay not to be okay. Although your emotions might not be entirely justified, they are there. They are real and they are hurting.

I once heard a midwife say that society is afraid of pain and lost all respect for it. Pain is uncomfortable, but it is not truly the enemy.

Facing your suffering

You can accept or reject the way you are treated by other people, but until you heal the wounds of your past, you will continue to bleed. You can bandage the bleeding with food, with alcohol, with drugs, with work, with cigarettes, with sex, but eventually, it will all ooze through and stain your life. You must find the strength to open the wounds, stick your hands inside, pull out the core of the pain that is holding you in your past, the memories, and make peace with them. – Iyanla Vanzant, Yesterday, I Cried

Have you ever sat in silence and you start to feel an ache inside you. You don’t know where it came from and you don’t know what to do with it. It feels like a endless black hole in your psyche.

You cannot touch it. There isn’t words you can connect to it. And if you are like me, the fact that someone mentioned it gave you a fright. You were trying to ignore it, jou were trying to distract yourself from it.

You believe it is a place truly devoid of God. It feels like “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here”, it feels like Hell.

In truth God has entered our Hell. Like in the book The Shack, the Trinity has already made a home there and is waiting for us to meet Them there. Because only God can bring us healing.

For me this meant that when my pain surfaces, that is to say something triggers it, I see it as an opportunity to meet God there.

I pray about it and bring it to God. “I know You are there inside my suffering, with me, but I don’t feel it. I don’t truly believe it. Please show me.” I then sit in silence for half an hour or so and feel the pain a bit. I allow myself to be hurt, to be sad, to be scared.

I need to make clear that this is not a formula to follow. This is how I am experiencing healing. Facing your suffering can be traumatic, so some sort of counselling is highly recommended.

That said, my triggers are slowly becoming less.

A story

I want to share a story of such an encounter with God in your hurt. It is probably going to offend a couple of people, but I think it will mean a lot to some people as well.

It is a story of a women who, while people were praying for her, regressed in her mind to a memory where she was abused as a child. In her memory she was choking on her neighbour’s penis.

“In that moment Jesus was there. He came over and kissed my eyes. I opened them and I could see Him. He them took the penis from my mouth and kissed my lips. I felt clean. Almost like in Isaiah when the angel touches Isaiah’s mouth with a burning coal and cleanses him.

But I still had the trauma of the event. Jesus then took the penis and put it in his own mouth and carried my trauma.”

Surely He has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows…

Forgiving God

After all is said and done it still hurts like hell. My great suffering came with expectation and disappointment. At the end of the ordeal I had a long list of unfulfilled prophecies. Prophecies that coincided so well with each other that I told my friend “If I believe God can speak to me, I better believe He is doing so now.”

Afterwards, as I made peace with the fact that things aren’t turning out as planned, I was in a meeting where the preacher mentioned that he feels that some people need to forgive God. The idea offended me and I remember driving away thinking “Surely I don’t need to forgive God. He is for me, He loves me. Even with the unfulfilled prophecies He is good to me.”

My mind would jump to “Fuck Him! He doesn’t deserve forgiveness! I trusted Him and He let me down!” I felt like I was there 2000 years ago at the cross, shouting “Crucify Him!” The hammer that drove the nails through his flesh might as well have been in my hands.

My mind would jump back to how silly it is to be mad at God about this, but it wouldn’t stay there. I realized I needed to forgive Him. I pulled over and forgave Him. It was simply an act of putting the hammer down. It was a release. I wept.

Conclusion

I do not consider this post to be authoritative on this subject. To me it is not the end of the discussion, it is simply part of it.

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What is relationship?

My previous post, Romance is the enemy of relationship, focuses on what a romantic relationship is not. There is something left to be said about what romantic relationships are. These are Christy-Joy’s (i.e. my girlfriend’s) thoughts on this subject from a couple of years ago.

She wants me to add that her thoughts here are about more than just romantic love. These are about life and love in general. That when you give up the notion of only finding love when you find “The One”, you find that love, real love, is within reach all around you. Then you are living, not looking (for “The One”), and in the living you will not settle for romance, but in the right time will find someone who understands and lives REAL love too.


Love is not an amount

Love is not an amount
It cannot be measured
It cannot be weighed
It cannot be manufactured
It has no proportion
It has no size or volume
It cannot be compared
It cannot be controlled
It cannot be contained
It cannot contain

Love can hold and be held
Love gives and receives
Love has specifics and details
Love can laugh and cry
Love has time and no time
Love is always open
Love is bold and courageous
Love is true and pure
Love is simple and clear
Love is being who you are
And recognising who others are

The quest for love, true love, is taking me on a journey
Through the deserts of my dreams to
The everyday field of my destiny
In this field I find that love is all around me
I find patience to live, one day at a time
I find kindness for myself and others
I find forgiveness for imperfection
I find calmness when I choose peace
When I choose not to look beyond my today destiny
I find humility to admit pride
I find courage to push past unbelief
I find faith to believe
I find perfect imperfection that displaces fear
I find that my destiny today is full of this evidence of love, true love

I am sad for my dreams, they were deceived into believing that love was an external, deserved, recognised state, that is a result of dedication, devotion, sacrifice and long suffering. They worked hard and long, were obedient and submissive, but are now tired and old.

How free am I now, to live daily in my destiny of true love? Where just being, not doing, without seeking, results in the presence of an immeasurable, uncontainable, uncontrollable force of God, holding me so totally that I am believing it!

Finding true love is a miracle for me. It is not what I expected, it is so much more! I have been disappointed and hurt, but I see now that this was only by my deception. As I am being set free through revelation, through the light shining into my darkness, I am healed.

In this healing I find courage and hope, that I can follow my heart, and with this confidence know that I will live in my daily destiny of truth and this will be my joy. My destiny is not my own, but to share with those who walk, dance and grow with me through the field of today.
This love never fails.

 – 9 August 2012


Love is not a feeling

Love is not a feeling
Warm and fuzzy is a feeling
Cold and lonely is a feeling
Love is a state of being

Love is a commitment
To be patient
To be kind
To be forgiving
To persevere
To be humble
To be polite and sincere
To be truthful
To trust
And be trustworthy
To protect
To hope
To have faith

If this state of being
Results in the doing
Of these commitments
Then this is love
True love

What then is romance?
Romance is an expression
With a motivation
And a message

Love has only one agenda
Romance has two
Love is all about another
Romance is about me and you

Love and romance can come together
They make a delightful pair
But romance without love is dangerous
And love without romance is hard

Having neither is also a choice
That can be made out of fear
A choice made out of fear and weariness
Is not a good choice to bare

To continue loving when it gets hard
Is a better option for the heart
Fear and weariness grow into insecurity and hurt
Hard love grows into wisdom and compassion
This is all a choice that is made by following your heart

If fear and insecurity are growing in the hearts soil
The love is needed for self first, before another
The love needed for self can only come from the One who IS Love,
Who loved first and fully with no conditions for perfection.

When this Love is found, He plucks out the weeds of fear and doubt
Insecurity is cast out.
This Love, He brings peace and security
And plants patience
Kindness and humility
Perseverance, sincerity,
Trust and hope
That this Love, this True Love
Never fails.

 – 20 August 2012

When you believe and receive Love like this,
Knowing you are loved by Perfect LOVE
You can love without expectations
Just because
You were loved first
And then you can love another
with patience and kindness,
without comparison and pride,
politely and humbly,
with gentleness and selflessness
being true and honest
encouraging and hopeful
being truthful and protective
forgiving and persevering
having faith and being faithful
staying secure in the grace to be perfectly imperfect!
this is love
that never fails.

Thus when two people
Only have one agenda each,
To love the other
Is this not romance at its most real?
Romance being
“An expression, with a motivation and a message”
Not pink Barberton daisy’s or red roses or warm, fuzzy feelings
But just simply
How the Creator designed life, in Love, to be.

 – 8 September 2012


Love is a temporary madness;
It erupts like volcanoes and then subsides.
And when it subsides you have to make a decision.
You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together
That it is inconceivable that you should ever part.
Because that it what love is.

Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement,
It is not the promulgation of eternal passion.
That is just being in love, which any fool can do.
Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away,
And this is both an art and a fortunate accident
Those that truly love have roots
That grow towards each other underground,
And when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches,
They find that they are one tree and not two.

– Louis de Bernières (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin)

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Romance is the enemy of relationship

Yes, the title is provocative, but I truly mean it. To be clear I’m not speaking about a romantic relationship per se, but the romance that accompanies it. It is that initial perfection of the relationship. Robert Capon calls it The Angel of Romance (a lot of what I’m saying comes from him).

The Angel is the perfection of that initial relationship. It is the butterflies in your tummy, the expectation, or rather, the utter conviction that you finally found the person who you’ve been looking for your entire life. The one that is going to save you. It whispers in your ear “this is it”. It is the all too early dreams of eternity (which you know by now know are silly, but you can’t help yourself). It is all of that bullshit.

You might be thinking I have gone through a tough breakup, leaving me bitter and cynical “That must be why he doesn’t believe in love any more. He just needs some time and this will pass.” Quite the contrary, I’m in a wonderful, loving relationship, but I still despise The Angel.

Perfection is a lie. If we idealize perfection we need to pretend in order to uphold it. We try to impress the other person. To do so, you hide parts of yourself. In effect creating a shadow persona of yourself, presenting this version of you to the other person. Through the relationship you slowly inch the persona towards your true self: slowly revealing who you truly are and maybe all the while promising yourself you will become closer to this ideal version of yourself. Personally I would want to hide my inappropriate sense of humour and my equally inappropriate friends. Another good example is how many relationships start with faking or inflating an interest in hiking or jogging.

From the other person’s perspective: behind the perfect person they see, is an imperfect person trying very hard to impress. Holding their imperfection tightly against their chest, like a poker hand of shame. Wondering how and when to reveal which card… and which never to reveal.

What truly shocks me is that we know that this is the case, at least in part, but we want the lie. We fight against the truth that the other person is merely a person and that they are eventually going to disappoint us. And we fight against the fact that we are eventually going to disappoint them.

We often love the idea of perfection (i.e. a lie) more than we love the person. When someone turns out not to be the person you hope they are, your love for them takes a knock.

So we love the Angel, but the Angel hates us, because the illusion of perfection cannot last between two human beings: real people in a real world. This is why Romeo and Juliet ends so perfectly. In the end the broken people are gone and as the curtain falls the only thing left is the divine Romance. The Angel lives on, because the lovers died before reality could set in.

All of this is connected to the idea of finding “The One”. Religion doesn’t help in this regard: believing in an omnipotent, omniscient God means that your husband or wife is destiny (recall the emotion of “this is it”). I remember my stance towards relationships during my church days was not “do I want to be in this relationship?” or “do I enjoy relating to this person?” it was “is this The One?”.

I’ve come to realize it is not about finding The One. The secret of a good relationship is not so much about chemistry i.e. the way you work together, but more the capacity for relating that grows inside the two individuals separately.

My point is while a romantic relationship is a good thing, our expectations are counter productive. They can push people away from our true selves, instead of drawing them closer.

When I hear the words “I love how he/she makes me feel” it is a warning sign that it is not about relating to the person but rather the idea of the person. It is a fantasy and reality kills fantasy. Remember the person in your fantasy is not a real person and you can’t have a relationship with that person. The person in front of you is real.

Romance is a mangled coping mechanism to relate to each other while we are dealing with our shame. Ironically the solution to our shame is being truly, deeply loved with our shame in plain sight. This implies a deep vulnerability. (But of course also an appropriate vulnerability.)

In my relationship with my girlfriend our focus has shifted from expectations and dreams of the future to simply relating, in the present, to the person in front of me. I choose to be vulnerable. To know and to be known. I have even come to see her flaws (read: the things she’s insecure about) as opportunities to reinforce the truth that I love her, not my expectation of her.

Now don’t get me wrong the Angel is present in our relationship. I think the Angel will always be present in new romantic relationships, no use feeling guilty about it. The key is not to fight the Angel, but to acknowledge its presence, realise it can harm your very real relationship and then let it go. It is present, but we don’t build anything on it.

Our relationship is not romance in the normal sense. It is more like the absence of roaring sound. It is not candles, roses and red satin, but it is beautiful. Beautiful like a river.

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Suffering and hope

This post has been coming a long time. It started as a conversation with an atheist friend of mine. It is therefore rather philosophical in nature. Suffering and hope has become a bit of a theme in my life. It is very necessary to write it down and share, but I am sure there is a lot more to this.


Why would a good God sit by and allow suffering? This is also known as “the problem of pain” or theodicy. Before we answer this question, there is a very simple solution to this problem: god doesn’t exist. Or God is not good. For me this won’t do. I do believe in God and I do believe that He is good. I believe it in the deepest fiber of my being, and I believe it in the midst of the contradiction of it all. I needed to explore this idea.

There are broadly speaking two answers to this question. The first is that suffering is good for us. That God uses it to shape us. This view is dominant in the early church. Think of Paul saying things like “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Rom 5:3,4) Most people would agree that their suffering formed them and although they don’t want to go through it again, they don’t want to go without in their past. But there is something unsettling about this idea: God looking at our suffering and purposefully not intervening, because it is good for us. It doesn’t sound like a loving father, it sounds cruel. It also doesn’t begin to answer questions about suffering leading to death for the individual involved.

Today a much more dominant view is one on freewill. That God allows suffering, because if He interferes with it, He interferes with our freewill. This is of course in line with evangelical thinking. I think part of the reason this idea is popular today is simply because it is opposed to the more traditional view. The big problem with this, of course, is that no one chooses suffering. As a victim our choices are violated. And what about illness, accidents, natural disasters and any other suffering that has a non-human root?

I will touch again on both of these ideas a bit later, but we first need to set a basis for talking about them. There is an underlying assumption of separation in both of these answers. It makes it seem as if God is watching our suffering from afar. But the incarnation means that this is not the case. It means God is partaker of our suffering. Jesus himself knew pain and suffering, even doubt. But not only did Jesus experience suffering during his lifetime, He is partaking of our present suffering. This is because He is partaking of us. We are in Christ, and Christ is in us.

Where is God in our suffering? He suffers in the victims and is tormented in the perpetrators. He is at the very bottom of our pit, at the very bottom of our despair.

His presence in our mess is also his active intervention. Think of the cross. Christ assumed our humanity, died our death and resurrected us. This is because death is incompatible with Life. His resurrection is inevitable and He takes us with Him. Entering our hell is how He conquers it.

This conquering is the central and most important part of my view on suffering and the problem of pain. Beyond all other ideas of growth through suffering or freewill, there is hope. Hope in restoration so complete, that it can only be understood as resurrection.

At the end of The Lord of the Rings Sam sees Gandalf again: “Gandalf! I thought you were dead! But then I thought I was dead myself. Is everything sad going to come untrue?”

A great Shadow has departed,” said Gandalf, and then he laughed and the sound was like music, or like water in a parched land.

Everything sad will become untrue. We do not mourn Christ’s death, because He is alive. Suffering will be done away with so completely that it’s past effect will become irrelevant. Every tear will be wiped away (without wiping away us)*.

*I believe this is a process of healing and I believe the process is possible in this life or the next.

When we are suffering God is suffering with us, but He also sees the healing that will follow. Like a mother who’s teenage daughter is experiencing her first heartbreak. The mother is probably in tears with the child. The daughter thinks it is the end of the world. She struggles to see any sense to life. The mother, however, knows that this pain will pass. That more good things will come. That life still has meaning.

It is like the scene where Mackenzie and Jesus lay looking at the stars on the pier in The Shack by Paul Young:

“Jesus?” he whispered as his voice choked “I feel so lost”

A hand reached out and squeezed his, and didn’t let go. “I know Mack. But it’s not true. I am with you and I’m not lost. I’m sorry it feels that way, but hear me clearly. You are not lost.”

You might still ask why allow the suffering in the first place. The healing is more than the suffering. The resurrection is more than the death.

My sister, a music teacher, was once struggling to teach a pupil a piece of music. The girl was technically proficient, but struggled to convey the emotion in the piece. It felt bland and lifeless. The girl’s mother said that of course the girl can’t play with the required emotion, she has never been hurt. It is like a part of personhood is only birthed in suffering.

Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. – John 12:24

The resurrection only happened because the death happened. Don’t get me wrong, suffering is inherently worthless, but the resurrection gives it worth. Our healing or our growth from the healing adds value to something absolutely wasteful.

Please understand, I do not think God creates the suffering to make us grow, but I think He doesn’t fear suffering as we do. I think He uses it, not because it is good, but because it is there.

We bring God our mess and He creates a beautiful story from it. Paul Young says that God is like the weaver at the edge of town. Everybody brings the colours of their world to Him. He takes the colours of our lives, adds his own colours, and begins to weave a beautiful tapestry. He doesn’t care if Satan brings those colours, or circumstances, or our own stupid choices. He will take whatever those colours are and begin to weave purpose.

Good out of suffering might sound similar to the first argument about growth, but it can only be understood in the light of complete healing and restoration having the final say. It means that suffering is not as scary to start with.

Let’s go to the idea of freewill. Imagine for a moment a world where God very actively prevents suffering from ever occurring. No rape or murder has ever occurred, because God prevented it. Rapists are struck by lighting before they act, every single time.

Compare this imaginary world to our world. In this imaginary world there are possibilities which are off limits. There is something that simply can’t happen. It is as though God is as afraid of suffering as we are. Now consider our world. Where there isn’t a possibility that God is afraid of. We might be terrified, but knowing that there is nothing resurrection cannot reach, He knows it will be okay.

What if God’s goodness is not found in His ability to prevent evil, but rather in His unceasing commitment to open up new opportunities to live and laugh, despite evil. – Andre Rabe

Paul says (Rom 9:38,39) “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” It is not exactly what we want to hear. Not “God will protect us from these thing” but “these things can and will happen, but it is okay”. But it gives me hope: none of it will truly interfere with the love of God. What is there to fear.

Recently I went through a small crisis in my life and someone dear to me wanted to save me from it. Her plan was grounded in desperation and fear. I asked her to stop. Her fear made me fearful. More than a far fetched plan to save me, I needed her to have confidence that even if the worst happens I am still okay. A confidence that nothing can truly separate me from the love of God.

All of this not only gives me courage for my future. It gives me a hope beyond hope for the world. An extreme optimism in me that sings that the resurrection has the final say. You might ask me if this will make me socially negligent, thinking that I don’t have to worry, everything will be okay. Definitely not! It wakes something in me that want to usher in that healing.

That is why faith, wherever it develops into hope, causes not rest but unrest, not patience but impatience. It does not calm the unquiet heart, but is itself this unquiet heart in man. Those who hope in Christ can no longer put up with reality as it is, but begin to suffer under it, to contradict it. Peace with God means conflict with the world, for the goad of the promised future stabs inexorably into the flesh of every unfulfilled present. – Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope

For me hope is healing me. That very healing and hope in me, is the healing and hope for the world. This is simpler and more personal than it sounds. It is simply love. Seeing the resurrection in my neighbour awakens the hope for it in my neighbour. This is what changed my life .

In conclusion, an atheist might look at all of this and say it is very convoluted. A more elegant solution to the problem of pain would be to simply reject the notion of God (or of a good God). But that idea leaves us stranded in the face of very real suffering. It leaves us hopeless**.

Totally without hope one cannot live. To live without hope is to cease to live. Hell is hopelessness. It is no accident that above the entrance to Dante’s hell is the inscription: “Leave behind all hope, you who enter here.”- Jürgen Moltmann, Theology of Hope

That is why I believe in restoration. It serves me, it gives me courage to face my past, present and future suffering. And it brings me hope.


**Don’t get me wrong, atheists can still hope for a better future and work for it (I think some atheists do this better than most Christians). I’m talking about hope for suffering being undone, hope for ressurrection.

 

 

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The wanderings and homecoming of the Shekinah of God


Someone read me this quote by Jürgen Moltmann from his book The Spirit of Life. It really struck me and luckily I have access to a theological library, so I found it so that I could share it.

First a note on the word Shekinah: It originally meant God’s ‘tabernacle’ or tent. Later it came to mean God’s particular presence (as opposed to his omnipresence). It is often translated as ‘glory’. As Moltmann put it:

The Shekinah is not a divine attribute. It is the presence of God himself. But it is not God in his essential omnipresence. It is his special, willed and promised presence in the world. The Shekinah is God himself, present at a particular place and at a particular time.

And the actual quote:

God loves his creation. God is bound to every one of his creatures in passionate affirmation. God loves with creative love. That is why he himself dwells emphatically in every created being, feeling himself into them be virtue of his love. The love draws him out of himself, so to speak, carrying him wholly into the created beings whom he loves. Because he is ‘the lover of life’, his eternal Spirit is ‘in all things’ as their vital force. In the self-distinction and self-giving of love, God is present in all his creatures and is himself their innermost mystery.

The moment a created being turns away from this divine love from which it nevertheless lives, it becomes anxious, aggressive and destructive, because it becomes self-seeking. Its will cuts it off from God’s will, and its life turns away from the love of God, to self-hate. The whole misery of men and women comes from a love for God that has miscarried. And the result is on God’s side what Martin Buber called a ‘de-selfing’ (Entselbung) – a kind of self-emptying of God. His Shekinah indwells every one of his creatures; but this Shekinah is now alienated from God himself. It is grieved and hurt, but it does not leave these lost beings to themselves. It suffers in the victims and is tormented in the perpetrators. It goes with sinners on the wanderings of their estrangement. The Shekinah does not leave us. Even in our most frightful errors, it accompanies us with its great yearnings for God, its homesickness to be one with God. We sense its pain in the ‘drawing’ of the Spirit.

With every bit of self-seeking and self-contradiction which we surrender to the will of the Creator who loves us, the Shekinah comes close to God. If we live entirely in the prayer ‘Thy will be done’, the Shekinah in us is united with God himself. We live again wholly, and can undivided affirm life. The wanderings are overs. The goal has been reached. We are conscious of God’s happiness in us, and are conscious of ourselves in God’s bliss.

When does this happen? It happens when we encounter overwhelming joy: we become selflessly happy and come wholly to ourselves. It happens when we encounter bitter suffering: we experience ourselves in the pain, and trust ourselves wholly to God. It need not happen once and for all. It can also happen briefly, for a time. When we once more break asunder and become inwardly disunited, the Shekinah sets off with us again on our odyssey. If we become one with ourselves, the Shekinah comes to rest. But the intense approaches to God himself of the Shekinah which is our driving force are linked with indescribable joy. We become sensitive to the Shekinah in us, and equally sensitive to the Shekinah in other people and in all other creatures. We expect the mystical union of the Shekinah with God in every true encounter. That is why we long for the love in which we forget ourselves. We encounter every created being in the expectation of meeting God. For we have discovered that in these other people and these other creatures God waits for our love, and for the homecoming of the Shekinah: ‘As you did it to one of the least of my brethren, you did it to me’ (Matt. 25:40).

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Table

“I want to show you something” she said. I don’t know who she is, but her voice felt like a breeze. It made me happy, but I don’t know why. “Okay” I replied.

There was a door in front of me, I didn’t notice it before. We walked through it and on the other side was a table stacked with cold meats, cheeses, bread, wine and fruit. Three people were sitting at the table. Two men and a woman. The two men looked a lot like each other, but one was a bit older. The woman was my hostess, now sitting at the table. Strange I didn’t see her moving. They were laughing about something the younger man said and it looked like they didn’t notice me at first.

She said into my ear “this is Jesus” gesturing to the younger man. Apparently she was still next to me. Jesus turned to me. “Hi” I said. He looked at me with interest, smiled and said “this is my Father and you’ve already met the Spirit.”

“Hi.” I gave a little wave. It seemed appropriate at the time. The Father smiled.

“I brought you here to show you who God is. It is rather important” she said. “Who do you think is God?” I was a little dumbstruck. The fact that there were three people in front of me confused me. Seeing my hesitance she said “don’t worry, we don’t expect you to get it right. That’s why you are here.”

“The Father” I said, “or all three of you.” A moment passed and I said “no wait, there is only one God.” “Well you’re actually close to right, Father is God, Jesus is God and I am God, but there is only one God.” the Spirit said.

Seeing my confusion Jesus said “the problem is that you are looking at the three of us and missing the fellowship.” He pause and then said “this is God”, apparently gesturing to the food on the table. I looked at Him sheepishly. “This”, He grabbed the table. “The table?” I asked. “Yes!”

“God is love” the Spirit said. “Love is not a personality in itself, but flows between persons. When you use the word ‘God’ you are actually referring to the space between us. ‘God’ is the family, we are the members.”

The thought was new to me. I gave it a moment and then said “wow, that’s beautiful”. “And important!” Jesus said.

“Why is it important?” as I said it, I realized how selfish it sounds. “Because you are included” the Spirit said. “Included?” “Yes, if ‘God’ was a person and not a space then…” The Father, who had been quiet, interrupted her by raising his hand. He leaned forward, pulled out a chair at the table and said “have a seat.”

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