An interesting question put to Jesus one day. A blind person asked Jesus to help him see. “Help me see. Please,” he asked.
It may appear to you only as if was asking for his physical sight to be restored. Jesus’s miracles of healing, while important, are not the whole story. Physical issues affect us all throughout our lives. Some we bring on ourselves. Some are inflicted upon us by others. Some are random with no purpose or meaning to anyone at all. “So the question then becomes, “Please heal me.”
People have down through time dealt with the nature of Jesus. “How could he do the things he did:” “Who is this person who does things only God can do?” That’s the whole point of the miracles. He did because he was!
But maybe the question “Help me see” is about the question “Help me see where you are in my life, O God. Are you there? Is there a God at all and does that God care to be part of our lives? “Help me see, O God.”
It is a physical world we live in. Stuff. Objects. Things. Rules. Observation. Logic. Order. Think. React. And, yes, we are physical beings. No getting away from that.
But we are also deeper than that— more than just physical entities. There is more to us than physical arms and legs and brain. There is an inner reality which is the place where God chooses to enter our lives. But we must make room for God’s presence. We have to intend to meet the God of our lives in our lives. God wants in whether or not we walk towards the encounter God wants with us and we want with God. We can choose to walk away from the encounter God wants with us. It is looking into that darkness, that wondering, that “what if” that seemingly empty space that we ask, “Help me to see” “Help me to see God’s presence in our physical and personal lives.”
I am who we are. Really?
This hungry searching for transcendent meaning is a given in human existence. It just is. Deep down inside we know there is a desperate yearning for something. We can try to hide from it; try to tune it out; look for other ways to find the transcendent “connect” we long for. By “transcendent” I mean something to which we can connect that is “above” us; something that we can “hmmmm” to “… I like that. I am going to go for it because it means something to me.” This happens to all of us at some time or another.
One of the easiest ways to find that transcendent meaning we seek, that “connect,” is to identify ourselves with some group. “I am us.” We take on the ways of others. We make idols out of ideals and issues because we need to identify ourselves with something that will give meaning and significance to our existence.
But consider this. There will always be a searching within us. Why? We came into this world as one person unique unto ourselves. No one is like any of us. We are, to put it bluntly, ultimately alone in the world. All our relationships are a gift along the way to lessen the loneliness of being alive. Our family and friends and cohorts are something to be thankful for.
The question then becomes: where do we find the meaning we seek that recognizes the uniqueness of each one of us? Where do we feel we belong, to God or some group? Where can we find a sense of that will carry us through the hard times? Where and how can we find that sense of belonging we so desperately seek deep down within our unique selves? And what happens if we are led by what we seek in a way different than the group we think we belong to? The question boils down to
Who are we?
Where do we find that sense of who we really are?
What does it all mean?
Grace is the ongoing relationship God wants to have with you. In fact, truth be told, that relationship is already part of who we are. When God created us, God left a deep hole, deep down, that longs for a relationship with the God who created us. We can hide from it all we want, but it is still there. And it has less to do with how much a goodie-goodie we are or not than it does with God’s wanting in to our lives. As I have said before, that is what Jesus is all about and that desire continues to this day. We stumble. We create our own gods easier to see. In our human desire to be central to our experience of life, we slowly begin to pass over the God of creation.
Grace is God’s answer to our self-imposed alienation. You see, Jesus died because people like us could not believe him when he said he was God-come-down. “Crucify him. We don’t need a personal God. We are our own.” In the Resurrection, Jesus returned to be with those who turned from him and shouted those words. To me that Jesus rose from the dead is what that churchy word “salvation” really means. God knocking at the door I have locked to keep God out. If God acted like we do when someone bruises us, Grace would be an empty word signifying nothing. No. Grace is God’s continual seeking us out when sometimes things of God could not be further from our thinking.
The key is opening ourselves up to this grace of God’s relationship with us. We need to move away from our love of stuff toward the relationship God offers us. We need to empty ourselves of all we put in the way of the relationship that means more to us than any other relationship we have ever known. Before we hold the grace of God in our hands, we have to empty them of whatever gets in the way.
If we can empty our hands and hearts of those earthly gods and reach out for the grace-filled relationship God wants with us, we will come to know and see something that will make a great difference in the quality of our personal lives.
Grace is this: the relationship (yes, relationship) God wants to have with you, personally. This holds true no matter where any of us may be in the practice of our faith. Whether we trust God or not, or even if we don’t believe in God at all — that does not stop God reaching out for us. That is Grace. It is so easy to get wrapped up in our personal selves and our self-made gods (whether we call them that or not). The one who created us in the first place is the one it is so easy to forget or deny. Who needs you anyway, God? Surly not me.
It is a fact that the creator God does not answer directly today’s pressing issues. And maybe there is a reason why. If God took over control, then we are that much less free. What happens in the world is not caused by God, one way or the other. We might have an easier time of life if that were true, but we would not be free. And I believe God intends us to live freely; to make our own decisions. Grace is the promise that God will walk with us, be there, when darkness falls. Since it is true that God chooses not to control everything, chooses to “back off,” than we come to believe that we must be strong and assertive to make sure it is “my way and not the highway.” I often feel like that. So it is easy to cast aside the One who wants a relationship with us and turn instead to those self-created gods we like to believe can win the war for us. “If God won’t or can’t control things, then I will find or make a god that will.”
There are no gods, self-made or otherwise that want in to your life. Just because. That is grace. “You may want me out of your life, but I still want in.” That’s grace. Just because.
Next week I’ll share some reflections on what this means in the way we live in relationship with others, particularly those we do not like or who cannot stand us.