Grace is a befuddling gift

 
 
In the world there are many other voices speaking -- loudly: "Prove that you are the beloved. Prove you're worth something. Prove you have any contribution to make. Do something relevant. Be sure to make a name for yourself. At least have some power -- then people will love you; then people will say you're wonderful, you're great."
These voices are so strong. They touch our hidden insecurities and drive us to become very busy trying to prove to the world that we are good people who deserve some attention. Sometimes we think that our busyness is just an expression of our vocation, but Jesus knew that often our attempts to prove our worth are an example of temptation. Right after Jesus heard the voice say, "You are my beloved," another voice said, "Prove you are the beloved. Do something. Change these stones into bread. Be sure you're famous. Jump from the Temple..." Jesus said, "No, I don't have to prove anything. I am already beloved." ~Henri Nouwen

The above was an advent reading that struck me deeply. As I sit in an "in-between" place of not really sensing that I have a good focus for reFresh in the new year and wondering and listening and praying and trusting, I am tempted to "prove" that I have important contributions to the world. It's so easy for me to forget that it is less about what I DO, or how notorious reFresh becomes; it is so much more about this one thing, letting myself be loved. This is, perhaps, one of the greatest challenges to a faith that claims grace as the basis of it's offering. We are wired to prove ourselves. Grace says, there is no need to. "It is by grace you have been saved, and this not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not a result of works so that no one should boast." (Eph 2.8-9). 

Grace says, you've already arrived AND there's room for a different variety of growth. Grace says, cease striving to be seen and known and loved, you are already seen and known and loved. Grace says, there's nothing to prove, there's nothing to lose. Grace is a befuddling gift intentionally designed to invite us into a new way of being.

So I wonder how much of my busyness - not always externally in activity, but internally in my brain and soul - is me wanting to prove I'm important. If I'm honest - much of it. I so easily forget. Either that or I'm not convinced that I really am completely known and beloved.

The solution in this season - to continue fixing my eyes on the babe in manger. As the Franciscans suggest, the quintessential posture of our loving God is that God is bent over in love. Franciscan scholar Mary Beth Ingham, CSJ says, "God did not come to fix what was broken, but to be with that which is valuable." And God came as a helpless, impoverished human to remind us that he knows and understands our plight. Just like a beloved infant who coos and poos and cries and cuddles, you and I are inextricably loved.

FOR REFLECTION

  • Did God come to help us live significant and noteworthy lives? Or did God come to let us know we are irreversibly loved? In what ways are you tempted to confuse the two?
  • What voices are strongest right now in calling you to DO or prove things?
  • What parts of your life feel busy right now? Ask God to reveal to you if any of your busyness (internally or externally) is your striving to be important, valuable, significant, seen, known, or loved.
  • Take some moments to listen in to God's invitations right now.