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Identifying in God’s image

by davesandel on January 5th, 2013

Identifying in God’s image

Saturday, January 5, 2013

The Twelfth Day of Christmas

1 John 3:14

We know that we have passed from death to life because we love our brothers.  Whoever does not love remains in death.

But this is not the kind of love that requires my emotion.  This doing-love is sustained best in a state of attentiveness, a disciplined way of looking at myself and others.  In Soul Making Alan Jones reminds me that every religion has a word for this: “In Buddhism it is simply called ‘emptiness.’  Meister Eckhart writes of Abgescheidenheit (indifference).  Hinduism speaks of detachment; the Sufis of sobriety.  Early Christians speak of the desert of apatheia, which might be freely translated as a way of looking at the world without craziness.

“In every case, this detached way of looking is related to compassion.  It is not an escapist strategy.  Rather, it is a way of relating in love to the world and its inhabitants.”

To love well I must be committed to others – body and soul – and at the same time separate.  “The greatest saints and sages of the world have exhibited this breathtaking contradiction in their own being – an extraordinary passionate involvement in the whole life of man together with a luminous detachment from it.”

Jones summarizes the instructions he received in the desert like a spiritual Rules of the Road: “Look!  Weep!  Live!”

Look: be silent, wait, and watch.  Learn to go beyond my desire to comprehend or devour reality with understanding.  Foster “a contemplative willingness to see what is there in front of me without prematurely interpreting what I see.”  Think … less.  Sit … more.  Say … less.  Breathe … more.

Weep: In my looking I know pain.  Jesus watched his compatriots and wept as they turned away from their own salvation.  Just as I know myself by looking, I also know others by identifying with them.  The Syrian children who can only paint in red, and whose stick figures all have red coming out of them, are my children.  My heart breaks.

Live: “The sure sign that our attentiveness has been focused and honest, and the tears cleansing, is Joy.  Joy is the fruit of desert patience.” I am made like you, and we are all made in God’s image.  And so … live!  Give.  Walk out of my house and into the lives of those that John calls “our brothers.”

What is this joy that surpasses understanding?  As I seek to understand it, of course my mind founders.  My thoughts do not penetrate the hard ground of this puzzle.  This fruit of desert patience does not come easily into my mouth.  It does not taste anything like what I usually call happiness.  The satisfaction it brings is deeper than what I mostly know.

This joy surprises me again that what I understand to be God is not God, because I am finite and God is infinite.

The knowing comes in giving, in loving, and not in tossing around an idea.  This knowing be-comes me, en-joys me, and fills me up to bursting.

You made us, Lord, it is yours that we are.  We are your people, your flock, the work of your hands.  We do things to make this miracle minor, smaller and less amazing – we settle for our own understanding; oh what a mistake we make when we do this.  Forgive us, Lord, and restore the Joy of our salvation.




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