Jacobs

When he said humans were co-creators with God, it felt like coming alive, like live wires sparking. And I looked out the window and thought of all we had made and would make. The world we could shape.

But it isn’t only about what we assemble. Our identity is also a creation and the process is one in which we are intimately engaged with God. This creation -it’s our vocation. It’s the work of our soul and it is only with God and through God that we are ever able to shed the layers and lay bare on the altar.

This is how we engage with the Mystery and this is where I find myself now.

 

For ten years I was absent.

Not once did I attend mass or a service of any kind. Not even for the “big holidays.”

And yet already this week I have gone twice. When it is still dark and the air is sharp, I make my way to the church on the top of hill. It looms over the city and for the years I have lived here, it has loomed over me too.

Opening its doors felt both familiar and strange. The creak of wooden pews, the rustling of pages. The quiet anticipation.

More than once I found myself overwhelmed and in tears. Sure, there was joy and adoration and forgiveness. And the church itself -well, it’s more a cathedral. Who could sit there and not help but feel small? My mind drifted to those peasants, the first to enter the cathedrals of Europe, and I thought myself at that moment a peasant too. The walls, the windows, the light all spoke of God’s grace and magnificence.

I looked down at the dirt on my shoes.

 

As I walked out, that old injury aching in my knee, I felt confused.

Here is the Church I grew up in, the Church that has housed us for generations.

All of the questions and struggles of these past few years and for what? To have come full circle, back to where it all started?

So far I have avoided labeling myself but here I am caught somewhere between Catholic and Protestant. Not really wanting to give up one for the other, unable to reconcile the present with the past.

I felt alone. Lost.

Someone followed me out and I heard their steps behind as I descended the stairs. Me, limping. Him, more spry. And I thought to myself this isn’t unique to you. You aren’t alone in this. Haven’t we all wrestled with God and now walk with holy, clumsy limps? Aren’t we all Jacobs?

 

Our vocation, it’s work. We were never promised it would be easy or that it would come easily to us. Most of the time we aren’t even sure what exactly we’re grappling with. But we wrestle with it all the same because what else can we do? 

If I find Him I will find myself and if I find my true self I will find Him…
-Thomas Merton

 

 

 

 

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Risking Yourself to Find Yourself

I have been and am still wrestling with it, right there on the ground, dirt and sweat and tears. It’s the words on my lips and the beat of my heart these days. And if I could only dig deeper, really sink into it, I just might get it.

John 1:1-18, I’m committed and it’s etched into memory. Someone has said that what a heart knows by heart, a heart knows.

Indeed.

 

Because in there is the courage to be. Our true selves are tucked in somewhere in there. Words written almost two thousand years ago know me better than I know myself. So I breathe deep and keep digging.

What I’ve unearthed is few but precious compared to the dirt that is on me.

So I roll it around in my hands and on my tongue, all of those throughs and ins and beings. I’m sure I’ve polished them smooth, I’ve gone over them so many times.

And I bring in others, theologians and scholars, to help with the task. Some are more useful than others but all contribute to the necessary work. Some make me uncomfortable as they force me outside the boundaries I’ve imagined and really, this is what Jesus calls us to do. Everything belongs, nothing is wasted.

 

Something has been raised out of the dark. What exactly, I’m not yet sure, but it’s essential. That I know.

And really, I know little else. But faith isn’t certainty, it makes room for doubt and in doing so becomes one of our greatest blessings. Faith persists despite our lived reality. Because you can’t deny that something has come into being through him and in him. Our true selves are found only in Him.

Jesus calls us to the freedom of knowing who we are, our true identities, as children of God. Born not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. Here is our courage to be, to claim life with and in and of God as our own. The boldness we have, we have in Him.

 

The Greatest Risk

“The measure of our identity, of our being, is the amount of our love for God.” -Thomas Merton

 

So we find ourselves when we love God fully. We find our selves, our true selves, in loving him.

This is where we should root ourselves, firmly in our love for God, in the place of joy and real living. And this love must be shared. It cannot be stored away or hoarded; this will only leave us smug and righteous and living falsely. Our lives are a joyful sacrifice given out of our love for God.

 

But love requires vulnerability.

Here, I falter. I stumble hard. Because vulnerability so often brings pain. You could lose it all. But what I’m really saying when I live like this is that I don’t trust God. And then, my vulnerability becomes something shameful.

If you’re living, really living, it all points to the cross. To the one who gave it all away out of love.

Where is this passion for God’s will in my own life? Some days, I just don’t know. Grace is all I have then.

 

As an essential part of our humanity, let’s reframe vulnerability. Let it be something to be cherished because when we are vulnerable we are acknowledging our limitations and God’s sovereignty. It is the fullest expression of our trust and in those moments we are most fully alive. And then we are free to be our truest selves.