Most of what I notice in myself, especially when facing something for which I feel unequipped, is fear, and a desire for control and certainty, often mixed with self pity or resentment that life is demanding more of me than I feel prepared to face. With this image of myself it is not surprising that I often anticipate a poor outcome to upcoming challenges, increasing my dread and feelings of inadequacy. I've tried bravado, obliviousness, even prayer, but my self image is deeply rooted and those roots tend to grow into thorny brambles. And to tell you the truth, I don't think that my conception is all that skewed. I do have all that material in my heart and mind. The older I get -- even though I feel more loved by God and those who know me -- the truer this picture seems to be. This rotten stuff is a big part of the raw material of my life.
Pretty bleak, I know. But the surprising and happy reality that I have been experiencing is that these things don't really matter that much. The reason is, that even though what I have to offer God looks and smells like manure, it is exactly what God asks of me: "Bring your manure to me and I will fold it into the soil of the kingdom that I planted within you, and I will see that spiritual fruit begins to grow. Eventually, the smelly raw material of your life will become clean, sweet fruit that can nourish the lives of anyone you encounter."
Envisioning the kingdom of heaven as actually in my body, spacious and eternal, has brought an immense sense of freedom. For one thing it is far easier to face the truth about myself if I believe that the raw material of my life will be transformed into something good. It's easier to open to how my limitations and selfish preoccupations hurt others and even the world at large. It changes everything to believe that even my worst faults, in the hands of a creative God, can fertilize the soil of my soul. One of the gifts of hope is a greater tolerance for hard realities.
Another gift of hope is that it becomes easier to live in the present moment. The future is in God's hands and God is infinitely more trustworthy than I am. When I think that the future depends upon my competence and vigilance, I have every reason to be afraid. When I let go of the illusion of control and instead receive my life as the raw material from which God will fashion the future, something in me shifts. I move from a state of burdened responsibility to a sense of being a co-creator with God. I'm reminded of the image of being yoked with Christ, working together, sharing the burden.
At least a part of what is driving this quest is a growing awareness of just how limited I am. I don't know what the next best step should look like -- when a gesture or a silence is called for. I don't know who needs what, or when they need it, whatever "it" may be. If any good is to come from my life, I must trust God to accomplish it.
Of course, I feel the responsibility to do the best I can, to be as loving and kind, sensitive and responsive as I can be. But at the same time, I desire to be a vessel for the life of Christ in this world. I suspect that we all do. But the life of Christ must be received as gift. There's no point in looking to myself for this supernatural life. Only God can give it to me. If the life that I am living is something that I can do on my own, then I'm settling for far too little.
Christ wants to love the world through me and yet what I find in myself is not love. This is the human condition. What is God's solution? Incarnation. Strength in weakness. Taking the raw material of life and making a new heaven and new earth. What I am experiencing is the joy being a part of the divine re-creation.