Saturday, April 4, 2015

He Must Increase, I Must Decrease: Putting Him First on Easter and Always

"If we can't say Thy will be done from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will feel compelled to try to control people and control our environment and make things the way we believe they ought to be." -Tim Keller

As Easter Sunday approaches, I've been thinking about all the ways that faith has brought my life from a temporary season of mundanity and darkness to an eternal path of hope, light, and fulfilled dreams. I know faith is sometimes hard to talk about at different times for different people: sometimes we're too logical for it, sometimes too cynical; sometimes too self-righteous, sometimes too proud; sometimes simply too uninterested or content enough without it.

I think there are times I have been all of these things, and I just didn't see it. I guess this is why as Christians we're instructed not to throw stones: I find more and more that the almost amusing thing about a true practice of Christianity is that every time your mind even thinks of judging the sinner because you think you're a kind of saint, you know that all you have to do is take a good, honest look at who you were, where your heart was, before you were operating with the influence of  Christ in your life.

Pride, self-dependence, desire, attachment, and ego are present in the smallest instances where you'd never be anything but blind to them unless you exposed them to the light of God- and following Christ, you do this regularly. Once He- not yourself, not the world, not your religious beliefs, not the people around you- becomes your standard of love, beauty, truth, goodness, light, and hope, you change really, at the heart level; not in theory, or through a spiritual practice, or a religion. Something new comes of you.
And that's a humility-inducing, smack-in-the-face kind of catch. If the abrupt recognition of the reality that God is so much bigger than you doesn't eliminate pride and increase humility, nothing will. That's what truly being Christian, breath by breath, thought by thought, to me is about: embodying grace, not just mimicking it. It's a transformative process: you can't fake humility, you can't fake grace, and you can't fake love, not for very long anyway. 

As Christians we give ourselves up so we can not just 'practice' or 'attempt' or 'replicate' these concepts, but become them. This implies a letting go of the control we think we have over our own evolution so that we can be transformed by something better. And that to me, now, is the most interesting thing about entrusting life to God: that if you truly believe, and Christianity is truly a path for which you are willing to sacrifice everything that stands between you and the Lord, then you truly have to perceive that you are not necessarily the writer or creator of your own story. 

I could say I particularly love to both write and create my own story, and maybe it seems that way, but that's not really it: I love to allow my story to be written and my creations to be created. To be creative as a human there is no place for control, but to be creative like God there is no place for randomness. If you choose to believe, then you choose to be used in His hands- and you choose to believe that His hands are infinitely more creative, beautiful, purposeful, and powerful than yours.
We all know it somehow, don't we- that we're not really in control? There is a certain, clear, and sometimes absurd sense of pride evident in people who think their opinions, thoughts, and worldview are the most right or the most important or superlative (to everyone except that person, of course). I always try to think of exposing faith in the presence of others in this way: let others see not that as a Christian I find myself to be the most right, but the most gracious. Let what is not said by myself reflect selflessness and humility more boldly than what is said by others may reflect pride or self-assuredness.

You cannot really share an authentic opinion about God as well as you can share an authentic reflection of Him by really intimately understanding what He gives us in a son: by knowing the desires, qualities, character, depth, mission and ministry of Christ, and choosing to follow. 

We find not only the fullness of Christ's love, but the emptiness of everything outside of it, when we seek to understand His will, and not ours. Inner peace becomes a gift we accept and not an idol we work for in a world that tells us we need to seek it to be happy. Wonderful things happen, for ourselves and other people, when we seek to glorify the Creator, and not just the things He has made, which, however beautiful, pale in comparison to Him.

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