Eric's Sunday Sermon; The Chasm Between Self and God
It takes thousand to build this little mound.
There is a problem in the spiritual context that is hard to resolve sometimes. We are to rely on and develop self. Yet we are to rely on and develop a relationship with God. Just what is the proper balance here? When we take the reins and seek control over our lives we run a risk of distancing our self from the reliance on God. When we find ourselves totally reliant on God we run the risk of not taking responsibility for our own actions. Certainly this is not a novel or new conundrum. But for some reason it is not addressed nearly as often as it effects our lives. Let us relax and not look for an answer but rather observe and not judge. Perhaps between our selves and God we can come to some agreeable understanding so that we are comfortable in our own skin when faced with these issues when they arise.
I just love this song R E S P E C T
Looking for differences
“Let Go and Let God”. What a wonderful phrase and easy reminder that we are not in control of the universe. But I beg of you while driving 70 miles per hour down the road, do not let go of the steering wheel. How simple is that? Letting go and letting God handle things does not mean that we take no responsibility for our actions, or that we fail to act.
“My son has died and I can find no reason that God would have taken him from me”. How horrible this is and there is absolutely nothing we can do about it. This matter is entirely within God’s hands. Our reliance and faith in God can carry us through such a terrible experience but there is nothing that our “selves” can do to create a positive out of the situation.
What startling and clear cut examples. And yet there is a gray area in both of these life situations. In the case of the car I can be a better driver by just accepting traffic and other drivers as being what they are and having faith that things are the way they are supposed to be. Reliance and faith in God can relieve the stress and anxiety of driving and allow me to focus on just being safe. In the case of a great loss I can do things like exercise, meditation and healthy distraction to help get through the time of great grieving.
Just some beautiful wood sculptures of the apostles.
A song that touches my very soul. Those of us who believe are touched by a living God.
I like to think of my relationship with God as a marriage. It can be good and healthy or it can be stale and destructive. If in our marriages we can find a healthy balance between taking charge and letting go our marriage can flourish and be in and of itself a true nourishment to the soul of both. If we become lopsided in either direction we can create a sick relationship that is not good for either. There is give and take, there is a season for relaxing and a time for commanding. And so it is with our God. We need to give and take from our creator.
There is a man who only gives thanks in his prayers. He asks for nothing from his God. At first blush this would seem a noble perspective and healthy prayer life. But let me let you in on a secret. I am a father of four, three being adults and one being quite young. My adult children are quite self-sufficient and certainly seem to have their act together. They lead great lives and are fit as fiddles both spiritually and physically. I love to hear of their exploits and accomplishments. They are quite loving to their old man and give me much pleasure. But darn it! They just do not need me enough. Nothing brings me as much joy as when they ask for something from me. There is some kind of magical music playing when I hear the words “dad can you help me with this”. It would be hard for me to even imagine my Father who art in Heaven not finding the same joy when I ask for help from Him. One could understand the notion that I owe Him that.
Do you have a God that you can work with?
Do you view your relationship as a partnership?
The beauty of nature, nurtured by man.
I need folks and God to help me along the way.
So a perfectly self-sustaining human organism is no great asset to a marriage or to a God. Over the last two days my lovely bride who is extremely self-confident and self-competent has asked for my help with the workings of her computer and her phone. In one case I just fixed the problem and in the other just gave advice. Well maybe she needed to have her electronics working properly. But I surely needed the boost to my self in being asked to and able to help. My puffed up chest grew two inches.
It is in this symbiotic relationship with God that we find the harmony of self-reliance and reliance on our God. It is in the give and take. If we allow our ego to grow to such extremes that we refuse to ask for help then we become lopsided in self. If we beg and only look to the outside for help our good self disappears. Think of the great tightrope walker with the long pole high above the ground. She gives just enough to the right and adjusts with just enough to the left to keep moving forward and in balance.
It is by no means a cop out to “Let Go and Let God” but it must not be our default position. Our default position must be “get up and get going”. We must ask for guidance and help along the pathway of our journey in life. But if we just sat under the tree and went nowhere what in the world would we need help doing? Certainly no father does for the child what the child could and should do for themselves. Of what good is that? But equally so, no father can see a child fall and not lend a hand up and an encouraging word to carry on.
I will often go to a zoo and nearly ignore the animals.
If we look closely and meditate on such matters we see a whole bunch more beauty in a healthy relationship than we do in a healthy person. I remember visiting the Pantheon and noticing how remarkably harmonious the columns were. I remember seeing in ruins a single solitary pillar standing and thinking how sad that was. It immediately made me think of how much happier the column would be if it were resting with the others. When God and man work in harmony there is a peaceful beauty that surrounds life. When they work at odds there is much discord and violence.
In my travels and happy wanderings around, for years I found the natural world the most satisfying. I saw virgin forests and unclimbable peaks and vast deserts and formidable jungles as the places where man had not sullied God’s great work. For me these were the only places of natural beauty. And today I still hold them in the highest regard and awe and seek them out. Where I was born and raised there was an abundance of land on which no human foot had ever touched down. I remember my horror when hiking outside of Interlaken Switzerland, I had hiked for miles off the trail and thought I was in such wilderness, to my surprise I suddenly realized that all the 100 year old trees were planted in rows! I just could not accept it as natural. But a funny thing happened on my way to my fifties. I began to encounter and cherish well-kept nature. I began to see the beauty in places that for a long time man had worked with nature to build outstanding and delicious parks. I began to find pleasure in areas where man had worked and toiled with God to create a relationship. For some reason as I age I find that places where man has sought to work with God to create beauty are just as beautiful as where only God’s handiwork is found.
This revelation was made even more clear in watching children grow. Oh my how precious and perfect is the newborn. And yet the child is not meant to remain this way for long. We are meant to live life and grow. There is a fun discussion in life known as the nature versus nurture debate. It tries to delineate between what is just the natural condition due to birth of someone and what is taught or conditioned. And there it is for all the world to see as plain as day. We are a combination of the natural wonderful pure relationship with our creator and that which man teaches us along our way. Just as clearly we are a gentle yet firm combination between our self and God. There is no clear line of demarcation and there is no black and white. We are both our self made and our God made.
I took a break from writing this to do something that I really do not like to do but must. I had to go trim back our roses. I just love our roses and they bloom like crazy and grow ferociously. But from time to time I must trim off even healthy growth so that the entire plant grows well and flourishes. Truly at their best they are a combination of man’s nurture and God’s creation. We should probably be as good of stewards with our own self so that we can grow into the best that we can be.