Transfigured Love

“I must learn in this life to accept the fact that hunger and restlessness are part of what I am made for.  To love God is not to acquire the biggest and best gratification of all but to have my whole experience of love transfigured.

Instead of the manic struggle to fill the gap in my heart, which leads to the exploitation and domination others and of my whole world, I acknowledge that I am never going to feel cosily at one with myself, all desires gratified; my longing opens out on to the horizon of the infinite God….

….[I can] however, walk with Jesus Christ in the risky territory of this world, trusting his gift and not my effort, to keep me faithful.  And instead of the urge to fill the gap in my heart, that gap becomes the way in which God’s love comes alive in me:  I start wanting what God wants, I come to share his will to give himself.

And so I begin to see other human beings in the light of God, to love them a bit more as he does, to long for their good as if it were mine.  This, says Augustine, is how the passion for justice grows out of love for God:  I stop taking it for granted that how I define what’s good for me sets the agenda for everyone else, and I learn to see that there is no good for me that doesn’t involve good for others.”

[italics mine]

Rowan William, on St. Augustine of Hippo, in ‘Luminaries: Twenty Lives that illuminate the Christian way’ pg. 17-18

Luminaries

Angry at God

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Have you ever wanted to shake your fist in the face of God?

Have you ever read the story of the ancient Israelites and wondered why on earth they were such a dopey bunch of failures?

Have you ever read the Psalms and wondered why so many of them seem so angry, so confused, so desperate?

Have you ever read the Bible and just known that you could be reading a story of your own self, your own life?

Why can’t we just have a list of propositions?  Because God is not an abstraction.

Why can’t we just have a list of rules?  Because God is not a task-master.

Why can’t we just be told in plain Hebrew and Greek?  Because God is a Lover and all good lovers love poetry.

No doubt the relationship you have with God is difficult.  You are the angry fist-shaker.  You are the ancient Israelite.  You are the confused Psalmist.  You want abstraction because relationship is too costly.  You want rules because you are a task-master.  You don’t want the love language of poetry and Psalm because you are not a lover!

The Bible forces, allows, challenges us to face our inner conflicts.  Go on, shake your puny fist in the face of God, tell Him you’re angry at this or that, but then move on to praise, as the Psalmists often do.  Be angry; be grateful.  Complain at the bitterness of your life, how unfair it is; and then give praise for all the blessings you receive. In the fullness of your humanity, just as the ancient Israelites found out over the centuries, you discover the Face of God.

If their struggle is our struggle, the relationship is going to be difficult.  Newsflash:  We are sinners; God is not.  There is a conflict of light and darkness, love and hate, humility and pride.  Don’t misunderstand, this is no ying and yang thing.  But we post-moderns are like the ancients.  Our flesh battles with God and desires God.  We desire His love in all the wrong places.  Distorted love, broken hearts, indulgence, pride.

So the relationship is difficult, and that should console us.  We identify with those who experience struggle and sacrifice, who know the light and the dark, who hunger and thirst, who grumble and complain, who rejoice and praise.  This is not contradictory living and believing, this is real faith worked out in the real world.  A faith worked out and lived out before the inscrutable and exquisite God of love.

Augustine was right, when he said in his Confessions, “Can any praise be worthy of the Lord’s majesty?  How magnificent his strength!  How inscrutable his wisdom!  Man is one of your creatures, Lord, and his instinct is to praise you.  He bears about him the mark of death, the sign of his own sin, to remind him that you thwart the proud.  But still, since he is a part of your creation, he wishes to praise you.  The thought of you stirs him so deeply that he cannot be content unless he praises you, because you made us for yourself and our hearts find no peace until they rest in you…”

Go on creature…

Go on sinner…

Go on you bag of contradictions…

Go on you creature of the dust…

Go on – one marked with death…

…be real.

Shake your fist, but bend your knee also.  Shout “Why?” and “How Long O Lord?” but don’t forget to make confession and give thanks.  It’s not contradictory, it’s complexity in reality.  Worship Him, Jesus, our Lord and our God!