Friday, June 10, 2016

Says My Soul: Handling The Great In Between by Seeing the Ultimate End

It's been a crazy past few weeks here in Estes Park. This once-sleepy little mountain town- seemingly empty when I first touched down in cold, wintery January- is starting to come alive with tourists and visitors, families and couples, international travelers and roadtripping retirees.

As someone who loves observing and hearing peoples' stories, I've been liking the change a lot. 2016 has taken me places I never imagined and across the paths of some amazing people. It's sometimes hard (or simply unthought of) to track the changes happening in our lives while they're happening, but even though my Colorado experience isn't nearly over yet, I've been conscientious to reflect a lot here.

Life changes fast when you look back on it, but so slowly while it's happening you hardly even notice anything happening at all- unless you consciously dedicate time to paying attention.

And that's what I like to look at, I think; what I've grown to be aware of, especially as an artist: the space between what I used to look at simply as 'points A and B.' The great in between. Which is really the right now, life itself. It is important to be here for it, to ask of the moments: where is this taking me, how am I growing; what is needed from me (not needed for me), what is needed from my life?
I'd like to live where I am in awe and wonderment of life- of what I've chosen to do, who I've chosen to let enrich me; of goals I've been faithful to accomplish... awe and wonderment, but not surprise at the results. I think we've all been here at certain points, but I decided some time ago that I didn't want to keep living and making choices that I looked back on in regret, or bewilderment, or with a sense of 'how did that happen?' or 'how did I get here?' or 'is this what I really wanted?'

I want to make choices about life that are based in faith, in faithfulness; in a duty to my purpose that doesn't fall behind to a life of comfort or ease, or just doing what I think is self-advancing or beneficial only to external goals (like art, education, career, finances, work, etc.).

I have found it a real and necessary function of being human to not just be seeking short-term success or satisfaction over goals, but to be in pursuit of something eternal, something bigger than all that, more than all that. Not an anxious chase, but a pursuit: a sort of romance that lasts a lifetime, beyond just the moment where we 'get' what we want.

 A desiring. A going-after with passion of that happiness- that joy- we sense we should have. And not to selfishly obtain or possess, but out of love: because it lives within. It's a pursuit that is wrapped up in a sense of loyalty, of faithfulness: it comes from a place of responding to the world, to life, in active, working, diligent love that I have recognized comes from God.
It's a the pursuit I have learned to have for God and the life I have been given because it is the pursuit I know He has for me- for all human beings. It permeates. It is constant. And feeling inescapable, undeniable love touch you each day- each moment- then touches your every decision, because it touches your every thought.

I know many people don't think the Christian concept of agape love- the highest form of love, the love of God for man and man for God; divine, unconditional, un-earned and un-earnable, self-sacrificial, thoughtful love- is something that can or should propel and sustain a life, especially with so many other options, but all I can say is that it has come to entirely propel- more than any other waking thought (of which I can seem to have so many)- all of mine.

How my world has changed not by trying to be more compassionate, or enlightened, or smarter or better than the next man- but by knowing love. Learning the character of a consistent God who- when I am so human, so changing, so inconsistent, so subject to time and matter on earth- is always the same in abundance, giving, creativity, presence, commitment, and desire.

To see myself, finally, in the image in which He intended; nothing has given me more courage and authentic freedom of spirit, in the truest sense. How my life has changed through first receiving the kind of love I have always felt the world needed more of, the kind of love I have so wanted to give. Now it seems so simple: how can we know we are searching for something that's missing, something we don't have, and expect to find it in our selves? Why didn't I look up sooner?
And yet, it all happens as it's meant to. Six months ago I was getting ready to pack up and move out of my apartment in suburban Chicago, in search of a life that would seem... closer to me, to who I was, and to what I knew would shape my character and draw me nearer to God (which is to say: closer and nearer to myself, to the way I was created; to who I actually am). The past few years have been about the same metaphorical journey on a longer scale of time: packing old things up, letting old things go, pursuing a God who is not just conceptual but relational, something- someone, in Christ- who I have had to make time for in a real and literal way.

A relationship of love thrives with participation and engagement, with commitment, with attempts at learning, knowing, listening, and growing the other. Knowledge of God's desire for relational, intentional love with us through Christ has given me a better model for relational, intentional love with other people, strangers, and friends in my life. I'm not married yet, but I know I'll be a better (not perfect) spouse for someone when the time comes because I'm currently building the most important relationship of my life- not just 'with myself,' but with something higher.

Before I left Illinois I had been listening with my heart and knowing what I'd been called to (which also meant away from). The how or why were not so important: within all of us is set something- some gift, desire, love, passion, talent, idea- that, if used for a glory higher than ourselves, I think will last forever in the spirits of other people, and in the world, in a very truthful way. What we do for God lasts; everything else, eventually, goes.

Life over the past few years has been about participating in the truly higher evolution of myself, not just seeking 'quick-fix' change or even just 'personal growth': evolution has to do with seeing something ultimate, an overarching and end goal; walking a path, yes, but having a clear reason why, and a reality over the purpose for this life; where it's going and how it's ending. Having a reason and a perception of faithfulness to something over time. It changes more than how you act or merely appear: it changes who you are at the real core. It brings you to life.

That is existence in and with an intimate God: I know what I am working for and who I am working to please, so it sets not just an ordinary but an eternal light to life, a fire that touches every pursuit. Rightness with God, the commitment to this truth, has set everything else (finances, relationships, creativity, fulfillment, wisdom, career, identity itself) truly in motion on a right but not self-righteous path; has made me truly alive from the core of who I am, not just the appearance. When I focus on relationship with Christ first, deeply, and exclusively, everything else- every creative idea, relationship, thought, decision- is made or carried out with peace of mind and rightness of spirit. Everything, then, works for good.
So I've been remembering this about the great pursuit of the great 'in between.' Where the Lord is working, things can't be rushed. There is a time, a place; a true reason that everything in our lives happens as it does, and that reason will always be revealed to us. When we learn His pure love, we will understand what that reason is, and see that it is always a gift.

I've found in life a uniqueness to my soul (to everybody's soul, of course); through living from and for a real and eternal purpose, I've lost the sense or belief I once had that once this life is over we get to 'come back' to earth or 'try again' once we leave it, or 'reincarnate' in some new form: love wherein there is any pressure we self-conceive of to redeem ourselves loses its purity- it ceases to be love at all.

If we truly want to live in love, we have to recognize love as something that doesn't require rules, legality, or score-keeping over 'good and bad deeds,' but constant, heart-driven, character-based grace: constant movement forward, and the realization that we've been given this life as a gift, not because we 'did anything' to deserve it. Once life is ushered into our hands (we are only stewards; it does not belong to us), what will we choose to believe about who we are, and why?

When we live in God's grace and from His love, we see our souls (and others') as the individually created things that they are: here for a purpose, here but once (pure things do not have derivatives), here to be grateful to Him, to the hands that made us. Here to live our lives for Him, which- if pure, unconditional, kind, gracious, love is the thing for which we are working and serving- is not servitude  at all, but actually absolute freedom.

As we start to see God, we start to see that the bonds our hearts and minds have created are not only our ego's own doing, but unbreakable to any truly liberating degree unless they are open to a receiving a power greater than they already have.

If we don't see that we belong to Love itself, the world will take us and make us slaves to something lesser, and this life- this great in between- will be lost. As I reflect on what's truly happening at this particular time and place in my life, it makes me more truly aware of what's ultimate: where I'm going, what my soul is made of, and why it makes any difference at all.

"He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself, lose yourself on the Cross, and you will find yourself entirely."
-Saint Catherine of Sienna 

xoxo

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