So, I am sitting in my parish’s small group a while back. We were talking relationship with God stuff.
One feels a distance from the Lord. The leader confides, however, in great assuredness that God is involved and present in their lives because of a resume of good deeds and generous acts. Another responds with confusion regarding all her effort to connect with God and her uncertainty that there is any sort of heavenly response.
In youth ministry circles, we have discussed Moralistic Therapeutic Deism and its impact upon the generations. And there I sat, at 57 years old, and the youngest member of the group… wondering…
And, suddenly, the questions regarding faith became all the much clearer.
At what point did we
unconsciously yet arrogantly
become the primary actor, for lack of a better term, the provocateur,
in our relationship with the Lord?
Let’s review our relationship with God stuff that we commonly accept: God created the world – the vastness of the oceans, the majesty of the mountains. God is responsible for the spark of life which brought us to birth and sustains us through our days and years. The love of the Lord is the intimacy hinted within an adolescent’s first kiss, a parent’s first newborn’s swaddle, the witness of two older folks still holding hands. The grace of God brings healing touch, the promise of rainbows, the resurrection of new life each spring. Then, of course, there is the whole For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but… that they might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 3:16 and John 10:10)
And that’s just me trying to recap it all into a simple paragraph… a truth towards which words cannot do justice. And, yet, we sit in conversations that suggest that we might possibly be the primary actor in a relationship with God????
Our only action is to be open to a God who surrounds us in time, place, and abundant gracious interactions. It’s the old magician trick: Pick a card, pick any encounter. Whatever is chosen will still work.
In Evangelii Gaudium, Pope Francis reminds us that Thanks solely to this encounter – or renewed encounter – with God’s love, which blossoms into an enriching friendship, we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being.
Maybe, then, we are the primary actor. Encounters with God swell all around us. It seems to me that even, and still today, that the primary roadblock or our relationship with God is nothing more or less than us, ourselves. We are so intent on living a life that is our own, that we interrupt a God whose deepest desire is to be with God’s own creation. We can only become fully human when we move beyond our human failings and frailties by considering what is beyond our human experience.
It is that difficult. It is that easy. Meanwhile, the true Primary Actor keeps dealing out encounter experiences and encourages us to pick one, any one.