Sunday, March 11, 2012

To Be Or Not To Be

You know what's amazing? The fact that so much of what we seem to know of God can look like blatant contradiction, only because we are so limited as human beings. Take, for instance, the very nature of God - Who and What He Is. Jesus tells us that "whoever has seen [Him] has seen the Father" (John 14:9). And so through Christ, we have seen the love, the peace, the justice, the mercy, and all good things that flow from the heart of the Father. Christ is the visible manifestation of an invisible God. But at the same time, God is so entirely unknowable, so utterly inconceivable to the human mind, that it's a wonder in and of itself that Jesus was able to get the message through our thick skulls.

If a friend asked you what you thought about another person (whom you liked), and you replied, “Amanda? Yeah, she’s good,” your friend would be a bit confused, and would ask you to attach some kind of noun. Is Amanda a good person? A good soccer player? A good chef? Every time we attach a quality to someone, we also need that quality to be counted concretely to show that the person possesses it. On top of being a good chef, Amanda might also be trustful, beautiful, and lovely. A person can only possess levels of the attributes of say, trust, beauty, and love. Even when someone says, “I am happy,” what he or she really mean is “I have happiness,” or “I am exhibiting the state of happiness.” When youth ministry leaders and youth cry “God is good!” we do mean what we say - God exhibits goodness. He showers us, his children, with goodness. But no one ever asks what God is good at.

“I am WHO AM.” Appearing as a burning bush, that’s the way God introduced himself to Moses. And then, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). It wouldn’t make sense if I introduced myself to someone by saying “Hey, what’s up? I’m.” But God does this to Moses. He doesn’t even say that He’s God – He just says that He is. The mind-tripping conclusion that we have to draw from that biblical text is that God doesn’t have being – He is being.

Creatures like you and I can be distinguished between two very fundamental aspects: One, the fact of what we are (humans), and two, the fact that we are. The fact that we exist is dependent on any number of factors outside of ourselves. We need food to eat, water to drink, air to breathe; we also needed to have been conceived. Our existence was given to us, and continues to be given to us. Even the food we eat needed to have been given existence by water, sunlight, nutrients in soil, etc. Everything in existence was given existence by something that preceded it. But if we just stop here, our minds would keep going back and back in time, thinking that this pattern could repeat itself infinitely. But that can’t be true! Think about it – you’re reading this blog post right now. So has this point in time been reached? Yep. But if the universe and time were infinite, then this point could never have been reached…because there would have been an infinite number of points before it. If the universe and time were infinite, nothing would ever have happened.

So there needs to have been a beginning point for all of this existence, all of this being. And in order for this “point” to be the beginning, it can’t have the need to be given existence by something else…there can’t be any separation between what it is, and that it is. And that’s God. He Himself is the reason for His being: “I AM.”

It’s the reason that God can create something out of nothing. He gives everything its existence; “in Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). And from this comes the basis for understanding our place in the cosmos, our place in Salvation history, and our place in the House of the Father. We are such small creatures in this grand plan of the creator. We came from nothing, and because of it, we need to understand that we are not our own. We belong to God, and it would be so incredibly easy for Him to treat us like slaves, telling us to do His bidding, and when He had had enough, just will that we stop existing, and we would. What better time to come to this realization than during Lent?

We’re in the third week of Lent now – has God knocked you off of your high horse? Have you allowed God to penetrate your heart of stone and make it into a heart of flesh? In my last post, I mentioned how suffering makes you more dependent on God. But we need to move away from thinking of the whole situation as us choosing to be dependent instead of choosing to be independent. We literally cannot be independent from God, and every time we try to be, it messes with the way things are supposed to be. God knows what we need – we need Him. Only in Him can we find our true selves.

This brings us to a really neat thought. Sometimes, we run into church and ask God what He wants from us; what job to take, what vocation to follow. What we don’t realize is that even though the answer is not easy, it is simple. If we pray, if we suffer, if we offer all of the inconveniences up to God, then we will see: God just wants us to be. That’s it. During this season of Lent, pray that you will be able to simply sit and revel and partake in the very life of Him Who Is. In doing so, you will start to understand that following Christ into his passion, death, and resurrection is in fact a beautiful path that leads us to who we are meant to be in God.

In a living creature such as this
everything is wonderful and worthy of praise,
but all these things are gifts from my God.
I did not endow myself with them,
but they are good, and together they make me what I am.
He who made me is good, and he is my good too;
rejoicing, I thank him for all those good gifts
which made me what I was, even as a boy.
In this lay my sin,
that not in him was I seeking pleasures, distinctions and truth,
but in myself and the rest of his creatures,
and so I fell headlong into pains, confusions, and errors.
But I gve thanks to you, my sweetness, my honor, my confidence;
to you, my God, I give thanks for your gifts.
Do you preserve them for me.
so will you preserve me too,
and what you have given me will grow and reach perfection,
and I will be with you; because this too is your gift to me
 – that I exist.

-St. Augustine, The Confessions

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