Sunday, February 28, 2021
“Again the LORD’s messenger called
to Abraham from heaven and said:
‘I swear by myself, declares the LORD,
that because you acted as you did
in not withholding from me your beloved son,
I will bless you abundantly...’”
I’ve fooled myself. As early as college, I had moments that I thought were complete surrender to God. I offered the Lord my all. “Take, Lord, receive.” I had thought that the offer was honest and true, but later I would grasp again for the things I had let go. Some of those were sins that comforted or soothed me, even grudges or bitterness that gave me a sense of who I was or wasn’t. Others were good things that fed my aspirations and hopes, things that in and of themselves were not bad. Of course, pride would convince me of my exceptionalism, but the goals and dreams were good. I would fight against loss and yearn for relationships that, when ended by death or brokenness, left a hole in my life and heart. I was good intentioned, but I never really let go of those things to begin with. I had fooled myself and left a thread of desire untouched or had partitioned a piece of my heart from being opened. I was bold, but foolish. I hadn’t really counted the cost or fully considered the commitment. I didn’t even really know myself. I was caught up in the moment and the immensity of God’s love. I wanted to love God back in the way he loved me and it blinded me to my own lingering hesitations, attachments, and sinful inclinations. I was blinded to my own limitations. God’s love is unconditional, unlimited, and eternal. How could I love God like that? I wasn’t, and still am not, God.
Sacramentally, I gave God my all at ordination. It was different. It was measured, sober, honest, and complete. Don’t get me wrong. I was incredibly joyful and happy. It was a long journey from my college days to having the Archbishop lay his hands on my head and my heart soared. The difference, I believe, was that I better knew my weakness (not just my weaknesses). God loves me way more than I could ever love him. He has been gracious to me, patient with my foolishness, and faithful when I failed. I don’t have it all together and certainly don’t have it all figured out. I give that to God. I try to look like I have it all together and have it all figured out. I give that to God, too. I sometimes think I have it all together and have it all figured out. I fool myself, again. That’s his, as well. My tendency to hold too tightly to things or frantically retake them is, you guessed it, also his. I am clay in his hands and can do nothing unless he molds me and fashions me. My life, my journey, my identity, my struggles, my failures, my imperfections, my resistance, my hopes, my aspirations, all of it, I place in his hands daily. I am far from perfect, but I am loved. My merits are few, but God is good. My vices are persistent, but my sins were nailed to a cross. I am still in need of a savior and he stands each moment knocking on my door. God is all in all. He is the one who did not spare his own son.
God makes the first move. It is all grace. I had thought I could love God like he loves me. I am incapable. I am weak. Instead, what we can do is receive his love. We can say yes. God does not force us. He has made himself vulnerable to our rejection of him, but we were created and redeemed to be loved. We are the beloved of God. It is who God is and who we are. Surrender isn’t a grand bold heroic act on our part. Surrender is surrender, offering is a response, faith is a gift, hope is a promise, and love is an ocean. This Lent, will we let the waves shape us, let the tide lift us, and drown in the ocean of God’s love?