God Snuck Up on Me

I was reminded, via the daily reflections I read, of a pivotal time in my life not that long ago. I was encouraged to take stock of it anew and share it with you.

Somewhere back in 1999-2000, as a result of spending time with the Brotherhood of St. John of Shanghai and San Francisco, and the birth of our third child, Joshua, I began to recognize a pattern/rhythm/dynamic at work in my life. I shared it with my spiritual director, the abbot of the monastery, and submitted it to the standard of Word and Sacrament in as comprehensive a manner as possible to ascertain if it was what has been believed and proclaimed by the Church at all times, in all places, by all. It has and is (In other words I didn’t want my little paradigm to become the judge of something that seemed to be more profound and deeper than it. That would, according to my formation, have been “a fool’s errand.” I wanted to submit it to criteria that bridged the artificial barriers of time, sect, and personal preferences and my petty dislike of being challenged in ways that would mean I didn’t already know everything that I needed to know or have in place everything that completely fostered a healthy Christian life.)

What I came to recognize was the pattern/rhythm/dynamic had been there all along. It was like I knew it and I didn’t know it. I had been aware of the pattern/rhythm/dynamic in varying degrees since my childhood owing to the fact that I was raised in the Anglican Communion. But, somehow the knowledge was moving inside me. What was new was my way of accessing it. I was accessing it from a different place inside me. I can now say that the knowledge was proceeding — issuing forth — in a determinative way from my heart and not my head. That, I also realized, was very important. It meant that the character of my cooperation was essential to my salvation and growth is part of salvation not additional to it. God was about the business of doing a “hidden work” that the new way of “seeing” had made visible. Both the new way of seeing and the unveiling of what I saw were, I realized, a gift from God. Indeed, the gift of God Himself.

I first offered the a large portion of what I had sensed during a retreat in the spring of 2003. (Why did I wait so long? I needed time to assimilate it for myself…  Bits and pieces had been articulated before then…) It was very well received. People came up to me after the retreat and said it “named something mysterious” that they had known but had never been able to put words on. As a result, it became a standard part of the retreats I conducted from that point forward either implicitly or explicitly. It has been the blessing of my life to enjoy some union with Christ and have Him make His direct appeal to folks through me. (not that I have achieved it, but I press on and strive toward that end – Lord have mercy upon me)

We are the beloved of God from eternity. We are unconditionally and eternally loved. We belong to God by His choice and not by any attribute of our own. We were created in love according to His image and likeness as a result of our belovedness. We belong to Him. Belonging is a matter of God’s unconditional favor and creative energy. The question of whether or not we will choose to be a person who belongs is ours. It is a choice that involves our acceptance of God’s acceptance of us. That has eternal relational consequences. What are not ours to determine are the conditions and responsibilities and benefits of being beloved and belonging and so on. The fruit of saying yes to the fullness of our belonging is, over time, is believing. Our believing involves repentance which is both relinquishing and taking up. It is the movement of freedom and new life within. It results in clarity of vision and discernment – beholding (we continue to see Him within and begin to see God without – “everywhere present and filling all things.” We see more clearly our Lord and our God; we see clearly our own condition and need for redemption; we see clearly (even though through a glass darkly) the condition of the world and God’s desire to redeem it using us – His people – as leaven of life and transformation. We are illumined. As our spiritual and physical blindness and brokenness begins to be healed, we can begin to “seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbor as ourselves.” We become united to Him in Whom we have believed and to Whom we belong and in whose sight we are beloved by grace – partakers of the Divine Nature [without separation and without confusion]. We become Christ without ceasing to be who we are. In fact, who we are is impossible without becoming partakers of His Divine Nature. We become ourselves by becoming Christ by grace. (My language and articulation are clumsy. Lord have mercy…) We enjoy some degree of theosis and embark on the pilgrimage of deification. That is a good way to describe what it means to be a blessing. For, seeking and serving Christ in another person as Christ, by pouring out our life toward them and for them and allowing them to choose to do the same thing, gives them the opportunity to know (encounter in spirit and truth) Him as Savior and Lord. They can grow in that saving knowledge. And, of course, as we sow, so shall we reap. We sow blessing and we are blessed. We consider the blessing we receive as the word of the Father – “well done my beloved son/daughter.”

So, let me reiterate… The Christian life can be described as the way of LIFE involving a dynamic interrelationship and flow/progression. This progression or pilgrimage begins in the heart of God (the secret place). It is revealed and an invitation is made that carries a promise of new life and involves a challenge to receive and give. As the invitation is accepted and embraced, the secret takes up residence (abides in the heart of the person). The belief grows like a seed in the heart of the person where it abides and bears fruit. This fruit is not only a life of ongoing transformation but of leaven/salt/light. That love received from the heart of God is brought into contact with all things in the world of the person who has received it and transforms that world and all in it. Nothing shall prevail against the power of such love. In light of the truth that God has blessed and is blessing through them, the person considers herself/himself blessed.

Beloved
Belonging
Beholding
Believing
Becoming
Blessing
Blessed

The aspects of this inter-dependence are our “belonging in/with/to God” (Is. 43.1) and our “belonging in/with/to each other” in fellowship (He. 10:24-25)

The Invitation – Belong and Behold
Acknowledging a yearning for “more”
Presence and receptivity
“Come and see …”
“Come unto me all …”
(walk and live with me and among us)

The Promise – Believe
Be open, honest, and receive illumination
“I will give you rest … you will find rest”
“… and you will be free indeed”
(You will come to know and trust)

The Challenge – Become
Make adjustments and embrace ongoing transformation
“take my yoke … and learn from me …”
(You will receive life – become a new person)

Do you have regular opportunities to deepen the realization (ongoing revelation) and embrace of the pattern/rythm/dynamic of the living Christ in your life? Do you know that you belong to God in love and become who you truly are in Him? Are you part of a group of people who are watching out for one another, supporting each other in difficult times, weeping and struggling alongside one another, and Eucharistically celebrating all of life, the accomplishments and disappointments, as occasions, when placed trustingly in the hands of a good and loving God, of joy in your life? I encourage you to do so.

God Bless,
Fr. Thomas

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4 thoughts on “God Snuck Up on Me

    • I am glad you asked that question. It indicates that you are reading deeply and reaching for intentionality out there that is beyond the mere words. What fun ! ! There are a number of reasons for the title “God Snuck Up On Me”

      1.God’s ways are surprising and mysterious – surprising and sneaky in a way.

      2.God chooses, perhaps quite often, to work in ways that defy our Western growth GPS tracking systems.

      3.The fruit of the most transformative obedience pops up when we least expect it or when we are convinced that this is “worthless.”

      4.It signals the fact that God is more clever than my best attempts to always “be prepared” and equipped for each and every eventuality in life.

      5.I like being reminded of how God’s effectiveness. Those reminders often show connections and nuances.

      6.It invites the reader to reach out for a connection or directionality beyond what the rational would yield. I desire for the reader to be reading with the heart not just the head.

      7.It is fun to be “snuck up on” and surprisingly embraced and treasured by someone who truly loves you and whom you love. Like getting a gift from someone “just because.”

      In the end there are a lot of more “linear” and “reasonable” titles that would work but, that would be soo boring…”

      Other than that I really had no reason to pick that particular title. :o)

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