Since my experience of the total love of God through Jesus when I was thirty after several years of rather hedonistic agnosticism and then several more years spent searching for spiritual meaning and purpose, my heart’s desire has been to somehow communicate that love to others.
God’s love didn’t make me perfect, but it brought meaning and purpose, an acceptance of the reality of my human weakness, and hope for growth and change through grace. Change for the better has been slow and spotty, but is still part of my journey at “almost’ eighty. ( I have a couple of hours left till the eighty.)
My most natural gift is speaking. And a Spiritual gift of seeing the connection between Scriptures and daily life came with my conversion. For a long time I just did whatever needed doing, like teaching, making soup for the sick and poor, smiling at people, organizing my husband and children into a work crew for church and school events, recruiting and getting training for religion teachers, and and at that time a new ministry for laity and particularly women, reading the Scriptures aloud for worship services.
Some of the more obvious experiences of God curtailing my tendency to hubris seem worth sharing, if only to give others a chuckle.
One came to mind this morning as I was checking my old lady chin for whiskers. Forty years ago when teaching a fifth and sixth grade confirmation preparation class, I was (I thought) waxing eloquent on the opportunity at confirmation to make their own choice of Jesus as their personal Savior and Lord and how wonderful that is. At the end, I asked if anyone had a question. One rather quiet boy raised his hand. My heart filled with joyous expectation as I said, “Yes, Jesse?” To which he replied quite seriously, “Mrs. Norman, Do you have a mustache?”
“Absolute faith and its consequence, the courage that takes the radical doubt, doubt about God into itself, transcends the theistic idea of God.” a quote from the Protestant theologian, Paul Tillich. He describes this as when we realize that God is the “ground of our being.”
This resonates with me because by my age, I’ve walked through not only my own valley of doubt, but that of beautiful life-long Christians who in the last stage of life come to grips with the challenge of recognizing their own limits of understanding.
This isn’t loss of faith, but instead the loss of the delusion that we can grasp what God is by cutting God down to our size. It is facing our own limits and becoming comfortable with our “unknowing,” because we have simply finally become grounded in God. God, whatever God may or may not be, has become our home.
I studied Tillich many years ago and didn’t have a clue what he meant! Recently, this spoke so clearly that I was dumbfounded. It was a bell ringing, a moment of clarity, a light bulb going on in my mind! But even more, it was a sense of finally being home.
Wow! I am filled with wonder, but also humbled. It has taken me until the age of seventy-eight to experience this. I am a very, very slow learner.
Do not let your reason limit your faith, but also do not let your faith limit your reason. God gave us both to use in an ongoing, open-ended dialogue. It is hubris to think we know enough to limit any possibilities. But it is total rejection of the gift God gave us, as those made in His image and likeness, to not use our intellect to explore His creation and to grow in our understanding and appreciation of it and Him.
Faith untempered by reason quickly becomes superstition. Reason that is unwilling to take the risk of faith becomes hubris.
The challenge of the spiritual life is maintaining an ongoing dialogue between faith and reason that stretches and refines both.
The historical paradox of Jesus being divine, yet fully human, does not require an either/or solution. We can focus on one aspect to better understand it, but if we emphasize one to the detriment of the other, we lose the meaning, purpose, and power of the mystery.
One of the most amazing and freeing aspects of the humanity of Jesus, as illustrated by the stories in the Scriptures, is that he grew in wisdom and holiness. He, like us, was until the moment of his death in a process of growth in understanding of his mission, in his understanding of the nature of love, and in the faith and courage to accept death .
Even more surprising was that often the people who guided and challenged him in this process were women, women with no religious or political credibility, even gentile women, and women considered unclean.
Recognizing the humility of the human Jesus can free us to both face our own incompleteness and to believe in our potential for growth.
And risking the leap of faith to accept Jesus as the expression of the unconditional love of the creator of all that exists for us personally is the saving grace that can carry us through the doorway of death.
God is love and Jesus is the human expression of that perfect love. Jesus is the Word of God to us.
Our own difficulty in grasping the paradox of the divinity and the humanity of Jesus, is simply just that, our difficulty, because of where we are in our own growth process. Sometimes our leap of faith is like putting something we don’t understand into an open file labeled Possibility and then living with an openness to the Spirit of God speaking, guiding, challenging, calling, teaching through the everyday events and people in our lives and then empowering us through Her quiet voice within.
(to be continued at a later date)