Harmony restored

I chose this picture (taken recently at the dog park early in the morning) because it's beautiful for one thing and it also gives me a visual of unity. All the lines of the web meet and lead to the center.

I chose this picture (taken recently at the dog park early in the morning) because it’s beautiful and because it also gives me a visual of unity. All the lines of the web lead to the center. Not one tries to move off in its own direction.

It wasn’t major, simply one of those fairly normal interactions that often happen when families are trying to get out the door in the morning. She wasn’t happy with this. She wasn’t happy with that. She made a face at one thing and groaned at another.

And when we got in the car and she made one more slightly snarky comment, I shot back.

I regretted it the minute the words left my mouth.

Actually, it was one word in particular I regretted… Oh, I thought, that could sting.

I wanted to apologize, but that very second, the car door opened, and the rest of the crew tumbled in.

I prayed the entire way to church. Lord, give me a chance alone with her to say I’m sorry, to say I was wrong. And, somehow, please, restore this break I created in our relationship.

I dropped everyone off at the door and parked, still praying for an opportunity before church began. I couldn’t sit through an entire service with that rift between us.

But they were still in a clump when I entered, and I had to check one into children’s church. Then another asked me a question as we walked toward the sanctuary. We were getting closer, closer; our group was straggling into a line. I fell into step next to her.

Finally, right outside the doors, it was just the two of us. “I need to talk to you,” I told her, and we stepped aside.

I apologized, and then–what grace–she did, too.

We walked into our sanctuary with our rift repaired and our bond re-affirmed. The opening notes of “Behold Our God” accompanied us to our seats, and I sang with gratitude about the majesty of a God who is great enough to hold the oceans in his hands, whose voice makes nations tremble, who needs no counsel from anyone…

Who, despite being incredibly magnificent and powerful, so obviously cares about my relationship with my daughter. In the same moment that He dealt with world powers and stars and universal affairs, He also thought it a priority to heal a relationship between two individuals.

Amazing! I shook my head at the wonder of it.

We sang the “Gloria” next, the beautiful song we sing many Sundays that honors the Father and the Son and then ends with the unity of the three-in-one. As we sang, “Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father,” awe of the Trinity washed over me anew. THIS is why God cares about the harmony not only of the vast universe but also of our families. The Trinity is why God cares about each and every relationship we have. This is why He longs for unity in the Church and peace on earth.

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. (the Book of Common Prayer, “For the Human Family”)

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Living Confessionally, Part 3: Stretching my view of God

NOTE: The italicized phrases in this blog post are drawn from the prayer of confession, which follows the post.

In the last blog post in this series, I wrote about how confession has expanded my view of sin: it is not limited to thoughts, words, or actions, for these spring from a self-focus that keeps me from loving God and others. This understanding of sin has also stretched my view of God, for I see that He, unlike me, has NO sin in Him. His Spirit is not bent in self-focus; His every intent and action are for good.

As a child I equated God’s sinlessness (holiness) with a lot of “not” statements. God does not lie, does not steal (kind of impossible for Him to do that!), does not

But the holiness of God is so much greater than that. I turn to my definition of “not-sin” from the last blog post to help me with this idea. “Not sin” (holiness) is loving God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving my neighbor as myself.

Does God do that?

Yes!

First, He loves Himself with all His heart, soul, mind, and strength.

That’s a strange statement, and one my mind falls far short of comprehending, but when I consider the Trinity (another idea that blows my mind), I see that in the Three-in-One, God keeps this first-and-greatest commandment perfectly. The Father loves and honors the Son and the Spirit; the Son loves and honors the Father and the Spirit; the Spirit loves and exalts the Father and the Son. (For a GREAT and readable article on this, read “The Good News of the Trinity” by Tim Chester. By the way, he uses the term “perichoresis” in that article; click on the word to find the definition–which I had to look up!)

In the Trinity we catch a glimpse of how relationships are supposed to be. No self-centeredness taints the fellowship of the Trinity. Its members are for each other, loving each other with purity and kindness. The members of the Trinity completely act out the love described in I Corinthians 13 and the fruits of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5.

Second, God loves His neighbors (all His creation) as Himself. This doesn’t negate justice. God wouldn’t allow sin within Himself; He cannot accept it in us. And this is exactly where God’s love for us, His “neighbors” shines brightest. Rather than leave us in a state of separation from all that is purely good (Himself), He loved us as Himself and GAVE Himself. There is no greater example of the second commandment. For the sake of the Son, Christ, He forgives us and has mercy on us.

And so the prayer of confession takes my eyes UP—away from my self, away even from my sin—and I am amazed at the Goodness of God. In all His thoughts, words, and deeds toward us, in what He does and does not do

He is Good.

Here is the Prayer of confession in its entirety:

Most merciful God, we confess that we have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart;

We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves.

We are truly sorry and we humbly repent.

For the sake of your Son Jesus Christ, have mercy on us and forgive us;

That we may delight in your will,

And walk in your ways,

To the glory of your Name.

Amen

 

Almighty God, have mercy on us,

Forgive us all our sins through our Lord Jesus Christ,

Strengthen us in all goodness,

And by the power of the Holy Spirit keep us in eternal life.

Amen.