Here is a wonderful reflection on human being and human becoming authored by Rob Des Cotes, a spiritual director, retreat leader and pastor of Imago Dei.
“For we are co-workers in God’s service.” 1Cor. 3:9
I am grateful for the number of wonderful spiritual directors God has given me in my life. A simple word or phrase offered in the course of spiritual dialogue has often led to fruitful adjustments in my vision and response to God. One such phrase that a wise director once shared was the concept that we are called to continue God’s good work of creation through the good choices we make each day. It is an idea that has inspired me often as I consider being a co-creator of my life with God.
I was encouraged to read a similar teaching in a book by Johannes B. Metz called Poverty of Spirit. This Catholic theologian reiterates what my spiritual director once taught, saying,
- Becoming a human being involves more than conception and birth. It is a mandate and a mission, a command and a decision we must make each day to become who we are called to be.
The mandate to “become” is the noble vocation that each one of us receives as the purpose of our lives. It is what we feel moved by in our restlessness—the longing to grow, in order to be. Unlike animals who simply accept what they are, we are born with an instinct that tells us we are not yet what we might be, which is why we are always reaching beyond ourselves, towards becoming. Metz reminds us that this invitation to “continue the good work of creation through the good choices we make each day” is one that God Himself has placed in our hearts. He writes,
- As humans we are challenged and questioned from the depths of our boundless spirit. Being is entrusted to us as a summons, which we are to accept and consciously acknowledge. It is an act of creation that we are called to participate with.
The invitation to become who we are is indeed a joyful summons but it can often feel like a burden as we find ourselves wrestling in the “already/not yet” tension of being human. We want to settle, often prematurely, into a persona that would put this tension to rest. But at the same time we resist it as we feel called to also explore other potentials within us. To be co-creator of ourselves, for many of us, is both a dignifying as well as an onerous summons. Metz describes the choice that lays before us saying,
- From the very start we are something that can be, a being who must seek and find its own selfhood and participate with what it is called to be. But we can secretly betray the humanity entrusted to us. We can ‘stifle’ the truth of our being. We can run away from ourselves, from the burdens and the difficulties of our lot.
In what ways do we run away from ourselves rather than accept the mystery of who we are and, therefore, of who we are becoming? In other words we do not become the person we are called to be by rejecting our present self, but by embracing it. As Metz writes,
- Our vocation, or “true name,” reveals itself when we accept, with all our heart, the being who is committed to us. Thus the free process of becoming who we are unfolds as a process of service. In biblical terms it is simply a matter of remaining obedient and faithful, not to our ideal self, but to the actual humanity that has been entrusted to us.
Metz stresses again the importance of embracing the truth of our creatureliness when he writes,
- Understood correctly, our love for our self, our “yes” to our self, may be regarded as the ‘categorical imperative’ of the Christian faith: “You shall lovingly accept the humanity entrusted to you. You shall be obedient to the truth of who you are. You shall not continually try to escape it.”
To drink fully from the cup of our own particularity—with all its promise and limitations—is to show obedience to the will of God. We are to “lovingly accept the humanity that has been entrusted to us.” To do otherwise –to reject our present self—is to also risk rejecting the very person that God has called us to become.
Knowing how readily we try to escape the harsh distress of the human situation and how difficult it is for us to bear with ourselves, we can then understand why it is so important for God to heal us in the area of “self-love.” We can then understand why we also constantly need the help of his grace. -Johannes Metz
Rob Des Cotes
Imago Dei Christian Communities
FOR GROUP DISCUSSION:
- How have you experienced the restless desire to “become who you are?” Has this been a burden to you or a joyful exploration?
- What are some reasons why we might refuse to participate with the vocation to become who we are?
- What prevents you at times from “lovingly accepting the humanity entrusted to you?” In what ways does our refusal to love the person we presently are prevent us from becoming the person we could be?
FOR PRAYER: Take time in prayer to examine the truth of who you presently are, with all its promise and limitations. Ask God for the grace to “lovingly accept the humanity that has been entrusted to you.” Thank God, with faith and joyful anticipation, for the person you are becoming.