Saturday, October 29, 2011

By Your love and Your faithfulness

There are many whom the Lord has called to be saints and who accepted His call, and He was faithful to make them what He called them to be—saints. We tend to prefer reading about the more famous of these, rather than to be saints ourselves, and often console ourselves with these stories for not being what or who we think we should be, that is, if we are Christians.

The truth is really quite different, and the path of sainthood has nothing directly to do with our self-improvement. While we watch ourselves minutely, we overlook both our real faults and God’s actual work on what He knows them to be. We think we rely on His mercy to forgive our imagined sins, while He in His mercy is building the new man in us.

Looking at our old man and hoping to reform him, we miss the truth that our old man has only one destination—death—and that the new man is created, formed and born in us by God’s creative love without our help, and as complete as Adam was on the day He was made of soil and inbreathed soul. What we do as the new man matters. It is to obey the commandment.

The old man is given but one commandment which he cannot keep, and he is exiled from Paradise. The new man is given but one commandment which he can keep, and he is admitted into Paradise. We look in vain for ladders of attainment to climb over a wall that is for us unscalable, when the gates are thrown open wide to them who have been sent, and only to them.

A common criminal—some say a robber, some say a thief—was admitted into Paradise on nothing more than a few words’ pledge. To catch the ear of the Lord of all, we must be scaffolded somewhere near His throne, so He can hear the words we speak. Never mind the deeds. He knows them all. He too is surrounded by a pack of dogs, the same that cornered and ravaged us.

A taunt to come down and save himself does not degrade Him who is raised on high of His own will, whether it comes from the barking dogs below, or from one whom luck or fate has also raised, unwilling, on high. Death is the only way out, the release from fate, from the machinery of the Law that snares all who live, as they fall into its ever meshing teeth, to be crushed.

Some must labor from the first hour, some from later, from midday, or even only from the start of the eleventh hour, and some receive their wages, it seems to us, without doing a thing. We want to be with these last, if we can, or at least with those who labor from the eleventh hour. Whether robbers or just thieves, we hope to be on the right side of majesty, to catch the Lord’s ear.

But He has found us out, and He meets us where He chooses. Our plans are not His, and our righteousness is but filthy rags. What He wants to give us we do not desire, and yet His mercy waits. He wants to clothe us in Himself, but He will not clothe corpses, only living men. He will not pour His new wine into our old wineskins—He does not want us to burst—but only into new.

Father, everything is in Your hands. We do not see those hands, nor do we see You, and so we falter day by day, grumbling amidst Your blessings which we do not desire, because our treasures are stored in another kingdom, not in Yours. Saying we believe, we form ourselves in our own image, because we do not trust You to form us in Yours. Religion is our protection, against You.

As You know everything about us, the falseness of our prayers, the vainglory of our good deeds, the insincerity of our worship, our misguided intentions, our carefully concealed evasions, our private fantasies, everything that we do under cover of night, how can You still love us? How can You bear our shame with us, and for us? Yet You do, and for this we cannot even thank You.

Because even our thanks is only a lesson memorized. And yet You love us. Our words, our vain musings, catch Your ears, yet You promise Paradise to us who have done nothing to deserve it. All things You have arranged so wisely, even Your Divine Nature You have distributed among us so amply, raining Yourself down upon our deserts like manna. Though One, You enter our tent as Three, and we call you ‘Lord.’

Crying ‘Lord, have mercy!’ we deny Your mercy already bestowed. Praying ‘Hear our prayer’ we confess that we believe but do not trust that You hear us before we call. All our worship is without spirit and truth, O Lord, until we know for sure that thanksgiving is the only sacrifice of praise we are capable of, for all You have done, all You are doing, and all You shall do as long as the age endures.

‘Not by us, Yahweh, not by us, by You alone is glory deserved,
by Your love and Your faithfulness.’

No comments: