Posts Tagged ‘God beyond god’

PSALM 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills—
    from where will my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
He who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time on and forevermore.

This psalm, if written by David, may express the early flush of enthusiasm and idealism that often accompany the individual’s spiritual rebirth. The idea, or even stronger, the expectation that God will protect the believer from every danger and disappointment in life is itself hopelessly naive.

Truth is, hardship comes upon believers as much as on unbelievers, on saints as on sinners. So then what’s the difference? Where’s  the real advantage (if we may put it thus) in the spiritual life for those who make the decision to live for Something More? If it’s not protection and guarantees, what then?

The short answer is that faith in God provides to the one willing to bet life and all its chips on a supreme grace underlying existence itself a deep peace and inner strength that can endure the troubles that come our way.

Sometimes individuals can feel guilty, or that their faith is inferior or insufficient, if they have a hard time believing in the god that swoops in and intervenes for the protection and happiness of his elect. Over time and with maturity, we gradually (or suddenly) learn that God doesn’t drive away the night, so much as offer assurance that “even though I walk through the valley of shadows, Thou art with me.”

GENESIS 12:1-4a

Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him.

Accepting God’s calling on our life will always involve some sort of “departure” from where we are presently. Sometimes this departure is of a physical variety and takes us to another place, nearby or distant, in order to fulfill what God has given us to accomplish. But whether or not such a physical departure is involved, there will always be required of us a going forth from our current way of life – from our present mindset, our acquired habits of thinking, valuing, and behaving.

Because our worldview is our reality-in-perspective, this psychological departure can often be felt as a death (and rebirth) experience. The most critical phase in this transformation is just after the departure has been made, but before a full view and understanding of our destination is gained. In that vulnerable and frequently confusing time, the thing most needed is our deep trust (faith) in the providence and wisdom of God.

The Jewish people came to an early appreciation of Abram’s call as most significantly a summons from God to leave behind one worldview for another. Abram was called out of the polytheistic culture of his ancestors, with its deep assumptions and ancient traditions, in order to enter a revolutionary and completely novel experience.

His destiny was to be in a devotional and moral relationship with the one God, the one and only God, with that Divine Reality and Holy Mystery beyond all the gods of religion.

                                                                                            

Abram’s departure, being physical, must surely have been difficult. Leaving his tribe, its traditions, its pantheon of deities, the familiar landscape and way of life – not to mention his relatives, his occupation, and whatever reputation he had been able to make for himself – leaving all of this must have been a fairly wrenching experience.

But leaving behind things, particular locations, and even other people is not in itself the most difficult part. It’s the value and meaning, the emotional attachment (in degrees of dependency) and cognitive certainty we’ve associated to these that arouses feelings of anxiety, disorientation, and sadness.

This is where physical departures become psychological departures, where shifts of location initiate shifts of identity.

For Abram, the call of God was not simply and exclusively a summons away from his familiar environment and definitions of self. Along with the call away was the call toward: “Go from your country and your kindred” was followed by “to the land that I will show you.” Abram’s new mission was to serve God’s blessing for the world.