Meanderings on BEING

When I read the following post to my husband (he and my mother-in-law serve as a sounding board for nearly everything I put on the blog), he responded, “I’ve never ever asked myself the questions you wonder about in this piece, but I’m assuming that if you’ve wondered it, someone else has, so, yes, post it.” I then asked him, “Do you think I’m out on a theological limb in this one–just a bit?” At that he grinned, half-shrugged, and said, “Maybe a little, but not too much.” (I’ve done some adjusting since I first read it to him, and I think I’ve moved closer to the trunk.) SO, if you choose to read on, just know I am NOT claiming this is solid theology but simply, as titled, my mind’s meanderings on my being/personhood/individuality.

It all started with these questions: If I am accepted ONLY in Christ, then does God love ME? For that matter, who am I? If I am called to become more and more like Christ, then WHO am I becoming? How can I still be ME and yet be like Christ? And WHO, exactly, is God loving? Me or Christ in me?

Scripture tells me I have no “good” in me, but it also says I am made in the image of God. I have value as God’s creation in general (like the sparrows) and, to a greater extent, because of that image.

I still wonder, though, do I have value simply in being myself?

But, wait, without God, I do not exist.

Now my head is spinning!

In Him we live and move and have our being. So is there part of God’s being in me? Well, if there is no good in me, then, no, there is no “divine” in me. God is good to His core–no, that’s not strong enough. He IS good, so not only is He never unsure about what is right-wrong/good-evil, He is never tempted to do anything that disagrees with His pure nature. Well, that doesn’t describe me at all. So what does it mean that I am “made in His image”?

I go back to my earlier statement: without God I have no being. I am NOT.

Yet I am. Even in a state of alienation from God—my pre-redeemed state—I have been given being. I am able to think and reason and love and hate and feel pain and joy.

I certainly do not FEEL like a puppet.

Nor did Jesus Christ–very God/very man–treat people as puppets. That, right there, wows me. Each person He encountered was His own creation. He could have chosen NOT to create any of them. In one sense, they were nothing more than clay in His hands.

Yet He treated each person as an individual. He treated each with respect as a human, as an individual. Even when He came down hard on a person or a group of people, it was never belittling but related to the choice they had made to set or follow their own standard/to be their own god–and they were definitely faced with the option of choosing differently. (I think of Nicodemus as a particular example of this.)

We are not only treated as individuals; we ARE so individual—down to our fingerprints, as if God is saying, “I am so big I am able to put a unique image of myself in every single one of you, and I will never have to duplicate or repeat.” (We get a beautiful picture of this in Psalm 139, in which the writer, David, imagines God being present–right there–shaping him in utero uniquely and specifically–no cookie cutter “creation” going on.)

This brings me back to my original question: Who am I? But now I realize that there are two ways to ask that question, one good and one bad. The bad way is when I am wanting an individuality/personhood that is separate from God, from being His, from being linked to Him as the Source and the Sustainer.

And isn’t that the same desire Satan had?

Lucifer wanted to be Lucifer on His own. He didn’t want to maintain his being as an angel OF God. He wanted to be Lucifer, just Lucifer. He didn’t want God to be linked to his being.

God granted Lucifer’s request. I know Lucifer was cast out of heaven, but he wasn’t annihilated. Can anything that God creates ever by truly annihilated?

So Lucifer “won,” in the sense that a rebellious child “wins” autonomy. He was allowed to separate. We see the consequences. Lucifer has lost all good. He has NO good impulses. He never creates, only destroys. He destroyed Eve–and then Adam and all their offspring–with the same temptation.

When I want to be MYSELF (and I am speaking here as one who is following Christ), am I trying to separate from Christ in me? Am I trying to fill the God-blank inside me with ME (pure self-focus). And in so doing, do I, like Satan, ironically, become capable only of destruction, never creation?

Hmm. I am imagining the “God-blank” as a sphere within our souls that has a beautiful, unique shape but which is un-filled. It is merely keeping a portion of my soul from being tainted with the selfishness/self-focus that permeates the rest of me. That empty sphere will either be filled with God or be overtaken by all the rest. In its empty state, it has no power to DO good, only to keep space for Good to enter in. When Christ enters it, His Good has power and begins its work in me, renewing me.

My mind returns to Nicodemus here: is this somehow related to “being born of the Spirit”? When I surrender and say, I am Yours, God. You work Your new creation in me, exactly as YOU want to, then am I born anew to be the ME He originally intended? So, though I am becoming more like Christ, with more of God filling me, yet He is filling me uniquely so that MY becoming like Christ is wholly different than my husband or my children or any other person becoming like Him. Together we are His body, but each cell within it is individual.

He is too great to simply duplicate Himself or even a small portion of Himself. There is TOO much of Him to ever be exhausted.

So perhaps God says to each of us: “You are YOU. Yes, you are from me, yet you are you, and the more you surrender to ME, the more you become the YOU I designed you to be. I take joy in your uniqueness because you display ME uniquely.

“When you are focused on self, you are not YOU—the real YOU is being overcome. The real YOU is completely at peace in your being my intricate masterpiece. You lose self-focus and, in so doing, become more YOU.”

All this is too big for me, but I end in awe rather than confusion because I have returned to my Creator. I place my weary, addled head on His chest; I feel His loving arms encircle me; and my spirit is reminded that He is for me.

I rest my whole being in that.

Remember, remember, remember

Another guest photo! Since Judy is taking a media arts class, she’s been using the camera to take some very fun shots, like this one of our kids plus a couple extra enjoying the trampoline.

The entire Old Testament can be summed up as a recurring cycle of creation, fall, redemption. It starts with the capital-C Creation: the first, tragic fall, and then the redemption promised by God in chapter 3. The cycle is repeated on big levels—the creation of the nation Israel, its refusal to enter the Promised Land, God’s raising up Joshua as a triumphant leader—and on individual levels–Abraham receives the promise of a son, he lacks trust and has Ishmael by Hagar, Isaac is miraculously conceived and born.

When you read large chunks of the OT at a time, you get the feel that God is constantly having to remind His people of His faithfulness. He recounts their history to them time and time again, through songs, through the speeches of prophets, through annual celebrations and feasts, through rituals and sacrifices. Over and over they are reminded that they failed, God disciplined, they cried out, and God redeemed. The message is this: trust Him so the cycle does not repeat.

Things change in the New Testament, as the biggest redemption story of all is told. Through Christ’s work on the cross, those trusting Him are redeemed for all time. No further sacrifice is needed.

Yet, on a smale scale, I still see the OT cycle in my own life. God creates new work in me, yet I become complacent or proud or angry or distant, and God must draw me near again.

Just like the Old Testament Israelites, I need constant reminders of God’s faithfulness so I don’t continue to repeat this cycle. Recently I read Psalm 78, one of those lo-o-o-ng reminder Psalms that reviews Israel’s history from Jacob to David, and it gave me the idea of reviewing my own history with God. I don’t have as much to look back on as the Israelites—or as much as the 70 and 80-something saints I’ve been interviewing lately for Wheaton Academy publications—but at age 42 I’ve had a good 25-plus years of walking with God, and He’s revealed Himself to me again and again.

So here’s the beginning of my own Psalm 78, starting when I was 16:

-When I was 16 I led a kids’ Sunday School class in a downtown federal housing project. One of the older kids from the project—his name was Peanut—was my guide, taking me safely through the project, telling me which sections not to enter as I gathered children each week. I remember praying as I walked, for my own safety and for the wellbeing of the kids who lived there. I knew the presence of God as I walked there.

-I was 17 when I first experienced a time when the Lord gave direct leading. I just knew I was supposed to go to Grace College, 11 hours from home, sight unseen, without knowing a single other person going there.

-Near the end of my junior year in college, Dave and I, engaged at the time, broke up after dating for 2 ½ years. I set my ring aside, spent a lot of time alone (he did, too), and came to a point at which I could truly say, “Lord, I love You first. To marry this guy or stay single—I’m waiting to hear from You.” Though that was a difficult time, it was truly a sweet time—maybe the first time I can remember losing a sense of time and place with the joy of fellowshipping with God.

-My first teaching job at a public middle school in Warsaw, Indiana, the tiny, misfit youth group Dave and I started during those years, the mission trip we took together to Argentina—there are so many ways I remember God leading and directing and teaching me during these years.

-In 1998 we knew we were supposed to go—somewhere. I remember filling out the application for overseas teaching and looking at this question: Are you willing to go anywhere God wants you to go? Well, what do you say to that? I originally wanted to go to a Spanish-speaking country, but God made it very clear we were supposed to go to Okinawa, Japan.

-When I went to the doctor in Okinawa to confirm my first pregnancy, he looked at the ultrasound and counseled Dave and I to expect a miscarriage. Separately we were both given the same verse to hold onto—“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts you”—and we went back to the next doctor visit sure that, no matter what the outcome of the visit, God would give us peace and comfort. Emily is the result of that pregnancy!

-We returned in 2000 and went through a difficult time of doubting that we were supposed to be back in the States. God reassured me so abundantly of His love during that time that I began to rethink how I viewed God, comparing my thoughts of Him with the way He is revealed throughout Scripture and in the person of Christ, learning to think “rightly” of Him.

I’ll pause here so the blog entry doesn’t run too long—maybe part two will be my next entry. Writing this has been a wonderful reminder to me that God has revealed Himself to me over and over—and these are just the “big” ways; there are too many small things to include in between all the “big.” Maybe you want to write your own Psalm 78—or if you don’t feel that you can, ask God to help you see the ways He is working in your life.

Thanks for reading—hope it was helpful.