One of the first concepts that I trot out when teaching RCIA is that of God outside of time. That’s a function of the teacher more than the curriculum, because understanding that God is outside of time made all sorts of theological bits fall into place for me. Last night, in a moment of carefree timelessness with a friend, another bit dropped into place. My groom, our friend, and I had just laid waste to a pot of crab legs, a couple of beers and a sunset, and were sitting on the porch of an evening enjoying the breeze and the company. Conversation wandered around to things spiritual.
Our friend was musing on the human tendency (read that: my tendency) to see faith as a matter of meeting standards, as though God were setting out an obstacle course for us and grading us in the way we scale the hurdles and accomplish the mission. Perhaps, he offered, the journey is more a matter of being with God in whatever moment we are in. Perhaps, just sitting here on the porch, full of good food and good beer, enjoying the night with friends is a God moment, and there’s nothing more I need to be doing right now.
A God moment. Three words and they made me see the same word differently. It’s hard to come up through the ranks of medicine, if not law, and not become inculcated with the notion that there’s a “right decision” and a “wrong choice.” All I have to do is think back over my time in the surgical pathology suite and the wrong--really wrong--decisions I made that had disastrous consequences. One man lost a good portion of his face, another a good part of his gut because I made an error in judgment. I made--objectively speaking--the wrong choice, as all of us, pathologists included, must do, once in a while. As one of my medical school professors told us early on: There are two kinds of doctors-those who have killed people, and those who will. Tough language and tough choices that are all too easy to carry over into the spiritual world.
Mind you, there are some really wrong choices to be made, and God makes that pretty clear. But just as most of my life did not involve the pathology cutting room, neither does most of my life involve such terribly momentous, clearly black and white choices. Most of the time, life isn’t either-or, it’s either-or-or and often both-and. Not every choice is a life and death decision between good and evil. Thanks be to God, much of life involves choices between the abundant goods God has provided us. This job, that one or the other, or staying home as a wife? Paper or plastic? White wine, or red? An evening alone with my husband, cuddled up in front of the fire, or one spent with friends?
I think it’s true that we are constantly faced with choices that will either lead us toward God, or away, but not always because of the content of the choice. Sometimes--maybe most of the time--it’s because of the disposition of our hearts. The “best” choice may still lead me farther from God if I make it in a closed and selfish way. The simplest thing--a kind word, a humble meal, a trip to the grocery, can carry me along if I live in the moment God has provided, knowing that, not only does He share the journey with me, He has made me a part of a community that lifts me up and bears me along, if only I will recognize both it and Him in the ordinary moments of my life.
Which circled us around, somehow, to the idea of being content to be who we are in the here and now, with believing that God has a plan for us and will lead us there is we have faith. The question was posed, not so idly, was whether I could say that I am as perfect as I can be at this moment in time. After some reflection, I came to the cautious conclusion that yes, I might be--but that I hoped to be more perfect in the future.
Why? You aren’t promised even the next moment.....can you be content to know that you are what you are and what God made you, right here and now......?
Then the penny dropped.
All of human life is best ordered toward reflecting the image of God: in our very selves, in our relationship, in our work, in our community, in our love. And God is infinite, everlasting, never-ending, always present and outside the time that confines our days, completely Other and the great I Am. How the can we possibly mirror that experience in our limited, finite way?
Perhaps this way. We are admonished to leave the past to God’s mercy, the future to His providence and to live fully in the present. To be present, totally present right now, regardless of what we have done and what we might plan for tomorrow. What dawned on me in the course of our wandering conversation is this: whatever I am in the present is fully a combination of what I have been and the choices I have made, and, please God, is the seed of walking forward in faith, being led to what I will be. If I step back just a little and let myself, perhaps all three, past present, and future, converge in me in this very moment so that I see--and am present in--them all. I am all that I have been; all that I will be is drawn down and focused in the present. I can, perhaps, for an instant, step outside of myself and outside of time, and just be.
Just be. That might be the best way to mirror I Am.