Today I Saw God
"Mommy, when you are a hundred, will you be as tall as the clouds?"
This, my little daughter asks me from her seat on the swing in our backyard. Her sweet up-turned face looks past me to the billowing clouds overhead. To her, growing up means growing taller so she can reach the monkey bars unassisted and ride all the rides at the theme park.Surely 100 years should be enough to reach those clouds, she concludes.
While our growing taller comes to an end during our teens and early twenties, our growth doesn't stop then; it merely goes undercover. Throughout our lives, our bodies are busy reshaping, remodeling and renewing themselves, not only to heal after injury or illness but as a regular practice. Cellular turnover is part of our programming.
This notion always came as a surprise to the students in my anatomy class who, though quite a bit more advanced than my small daughter, generally assumed that once they stopped growing up they started growing old. Actually, there's a whole lot of reconstruction going on.
Even our bones, which seem the deadest of things thanks to archaeological excavations and Halloween decorations, are active and changing our whole lives long. Even when they aren't growing longer, they're growing stronger in response to the pushes, pulls and pressures they endure. It's the beauty of weight-bearing exercise. We're designed to fortify ourselves.What breaks down gets rebuilt, only stronger, given sufficient time, good design and quality building materials. We are always undergoing renovation.
We call this maturation, and I'm pretty sure it's meant to be a total makeover of body, mind and soul.
Kids think that once they've grown up they're grown-ups, figuring they may have some "filling out" to do but are otherwise ready to take on the world. We, who have spent some time in the maturing phase, know that the growing never stops. Though we're not getting any taller, we're always remodeling and reorganizing: filling in gaps, replacing old notions and fortifying things in light of new information.
We who have reached our full height are meant to be filling in: building spiritual muscle, agility and fortitude as God reshapes it along with our minds, hearts and souls. We are clay in the hands of the potter, teaches Jeremiah 18. A contemporary retelling might call us plastic, hardened at room temperature, but pliable at God-temperature.
God's not done with us yet. That's such very good news. God's continually defining and refining, affirming and growing us, inside out, as we will let him. That's not just for our own good but also for the good of all of our relationships, including the precious ones we have with the generations to come.
They're sure to ask us in Sunday school or confirmation class, around the dinner table or after ball practice, on their graduation day or on their wedding day, "Mom and Dad, do your think you'll ever be able to touch the sky?" They ask, not because they really think we will, but because they want to. And they can't see ever doing it without us.
"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal." –2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Oh my yes, little girl, there's every chance I will reach those clouds because, thanks to God, we're both still growing.
This post originally appeared on "The Kinesthetic Christian."
In recent weeks, I have been closely following a news story about a local politician embroiled in what will likely be a career-ending scandal. Sadly, I would usually be right there with the rest of the public shaking my head in judgment and cynicism, lamenting the lack of morals and good sense so often on display in our public officials.
In this case, I am just heartbroken.
I know this man, and I have worked with him. In spite of the demons he appears to be battling, I have always liked him and found him to be an outspoken champion for the poor in our community. Without his advocacy and leadership, the dreams of our recently completed local shelter for homeless individuals would not have been realized. While we may not personally be friends, I consider him a good friend of The Lamb Center, and I am deeply saddened by his struggles.
If I didn't know from personal experience the good he had done in other areas of his life, I could easily read the news stories and paint him into a monochromatic corner. The crimes with which he is being charged would make it easy for me to categorize him as a "bad guy" and write him off as just another example of evil, corruption and abuse of power.
But life really isn't that simple or clear cut, is it?
The morning the story broke, I made the mistake of reading some of the comments people were posting beneath the online story. As I was reading the vitriolic remarks, I wondered if any of these people would say the same things to his face. Yet, even as I "judged" them for the joy they seemed to be taking in his public fall from grace, I recognized myself. While I might not post an ugly comment in an online forum, I too have looked at someone I don't know personally and silently congratulated myself on my moral superiority.
But hopefully, I am still a work in progress. Although I am now firmly ensconced in middle age, there are five things I hope I am learning. More specifically, there are five things I am learning to live without:
The need for judgment
We are right to be outraged by outrageous behavior, and we are right to hold each other accountable for our actions. Yet, too much of my judgment of others is based on incomplete information.What I can see is only part of the story. My faith tells me I am called to love other people, not be the judge of their character. Judging another's heart is God's job, and I'm not God.
The need to be right
Sometimes, I need to learn to leave things alone. Just because I have an opinion doesn't mean others always need to hear it. If I disagree, I am not required to attempt to change the other person's mind. In most circumstances, there is only one loving answer to this question, "Would I rather be right or would I rather be kind?"
The need to prove my worth
We live in a culture of comparison and competition. We tear each other down in a misguided attempt to build ourselves up, as if we were standing in line for a limited supply of self-esteem. When I find myself feeling superior to a sister or brother, I need to consider from where I am getting my worth. I am a child of God, but I am not an only child. I don't need to hustle for my worthiness or fight for my share of God's love by ranking myself against another.
The need for perfection
When I characterize my own mistakes as failure, I have little patience for yours. The more self-critical I am, the more I judge others. Striving for excellence is a worthy goal, but striving for perfection is an impossible goal. Embracing progress instead of perfection makes me more compassionate toward myself and others and allows room for growth and learning for all of us.
The need for comfort
People are messy. Although we like the order and predictability of categorizing people as either good or bad, most of us possess plenty of both. In my experience, our best qualities can sometimes be our greatest downfall. While I would feel more comfortable in a world of absolutes, I am learning to embrace and even enjoy the subtler nuances. Black and white thinking may be easier, but color brings more joy.
Originally published on Grace Notes.
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