An Irresistible Invitation

Being made in the image of God means we are creative beings.  We are not created once, but keep recreating ourselves through many life stages.  Life circumstances can unfold in ways that nudge us off one course and onto another.  We all stand in need of occasional course corrections.  The most alert and observant among us will be the first to recognize the need.  Whereas Jews take inventory of needed course corrections in the days leading up to Yom Kippur, many Christians do so in the days leading up to Easter.   Next week marks the beginning of Lent, an occasion that invites us to ponder where we have veered off course so that we can expose those places to God’s creative power for healing, forgiveness and spiritual renewal. 

I want to dispel the notion that the practice of introspection is appropriate only for people who have veered way off course or made grave mistakes.  God extends an open invitation to intimacy to us all.  Every person who seeks to be in a more vigorous relationship with God will gain from a serious examination of what is getting in the way of that relationship.  Examining the 4 types of choices we have made is one way to approach this introspection. 

Maybe you are not sure where your life is going.  Maybe you’re lost or not sure if you are on the right course.  Maybe you’re certain you are on the wrong course.  Perhaps you’re stuck in doldrums, paralyzed by pain, shame, guilt, or wounds that won’t heal.  Maybe you are in so much pain you can’t wait for change, any change, to escape your current torment.  Or maybe you are comfortable with “the devil you know” and hesitate to believe in the transformation that is being offered to you.

Perhaps you are in need of healing after a rough patch of road, like a failed marriage or the death of a loved partner.  Being healed could give you freedom and energy to start a new stage of your life.  Or perhaps you anticipate a rough road ahead–a diagnosis, a trial or an ending–that begs for strength. 

Maybe you are in transition between life stages, stepping up to new responsibilities–marriage, parenthood, a new career direction–where the challenges call for new strength.  Or maybe you have already made significant positive changes in your life and you don’t want to rest on your laurels but to use your freedom to seek more awareness and intimacy with God.  Maybe your life path has been free of moral crisis and brokenness, and you simply wish to respond to the abundance of God’s grace in your life by drawing closer to him. 

Whatever has brought you to the place where you now stand, you are in receipt of an invitation.  You are invited to spiritual renewal.  The invitation places you at a crossroads.  You may choose to accept or to decline.  To accept is to be transformed, to experience life in a more joyful and freer way.  To decline is to leave unopened a great gift set before you. 

Join the conversation.  Will you rely on your own power or God’s power to change your course? 

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved.  Visit http://www.AcrossTraditions.com.

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Will of God: Do I want that, too?

Our biggest obstacle to doing God’s will, or even perceiving God’s will, is a preoccupation with what we want instead.  It takes commitment and discipline to recognize the difference.  My godfather has that commitment and discipline, and he still wrestles with his will.  We had lunch last week, and he relayed his prayerful reflections while driving to the office that day.  He was extremely pleased with the plan he had for his day in the office.  He didn’t really want to ask God if God might have something else in store for him.  “I’m asking you if you have a different plan, God, but I’m not happy about asking you, because I really, really like my plan!”

We tend to get in our own way on the journey to healing and life change because we resist taking that difficult step of creating a power vacuum to make space for God’s power to act in our lives.  There is a Jewish saying that you can’t pour water into a cup that’s already full.  “Islam” translates roughly to “surrender.”  Eastern traditions teach transcending self is necessary to ease suffering.  The Twelve Step tradition teaches self-centeredness is the root of life’s unmanageability and surrendering our will to God is the route to sanity.  The Christian tradition teaches Jesus’ life and resurrection represents the rebirth and newness of life that is available to all willing “to die to self.”  These spiritual traditions embrace the idea of emptiness—both emptying the mind to encounter the soul and, more especially, emptying oneself of one way of being to make space for a new way of becoming.

When we surrender our wants and ways to God, we make room for God to act in our lives, joining God as a partner in the creative process and inviting the kind of transformational life change we cannot even imagine.  C.S. Lewis encourages us to trust God’s imagination:

We are halfhearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered to us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.

When I realize God’s imagination for me is better than mine for myself, I can relinquish my silly notions that I know best how to satisfy myself.  Whether those notions have led me to complete devastation or to a dull ache of emptiness (“There’s got to be more”), relinquishing them will free my imagination for the destination God would have for me.

When we have decided that an increasingly intimate relationship with God is the destination we seek, then recognizing and taking up his will for us becomes part of the destination as well.  What God desires is not so much a certain accomplishment as a certain reciprocal relationship.  God gives, we respond, and when we’re aligned to God’s will, our response to the gift is itself a gift to God.  When we seek God’s will in pursuit of this reciprocal relationship, we bring joy to him, to others and to ourselves.

Join the conversation.  When God put an opportunity you didn’t plan (or didn’t want) in your path, did you alter course or stick with mudpies?

Copyright 2011 Stephanie Walker All rights reserved. Visit www.AcrossTraditions.com.