Sunday, September 23, 2012

Beauty and the purposed life

As I have spent more time living intentionally--planning my day, paying attention to discipline--I have noticed a shift in the focus of my theology. This is not to say that my theology has dramatically changed, but that I seem to be focusing on what I do in relation to God rather than what God does in relation to me. Does that make sense? By spending more tine in prayer and study and spiritual discipline, I am focusing more on my own role in God's work: the ways in which God relies upon me.

There are two dangers in this theological focus. First, you can start to think it is all up to you, that God has nothing to do with any of this business of living a life. There is a fine line between partnering with God and just taking over. I suspect this fine line is one reason why we do not often think of our role in God's plans. It is much easier to leave us out of the equation, and let God handle things.

The second danger is that you can lose beauty. If faith errs too much on the side of what you are called to do, you can miss out on being surprised by beauty, because you are so focused on the ground on which you are about to step. It is not often the case that the step in front of me is all that beautiful, though it is frequently the case that I am surrounded by beauty.

As an example: there is a park near our home where I walk each morning. It is a typical park, with baseball and soccer fields, a rec center, some woods, a paved two-mile path around the whole thing. On mornings where I am simply focused on getting my steps, I find myself focusing on the small patch of asphalt in front of me, just trying to finish walking by the appointed time so I am not late for work.

This kind of narrow focus will get you through life. You will get your steps in. It works.

But on mornings when I am not in such a hurry, I find that I focus more on my surroundings, on the woods, the children playing soccer on the weekends, the sounds of squirrels and chipmunks rousing for the day. The sun comes up, slowly, and the world comes, again, to life.

For as much as I have a role to play in God's story, there is a mystery beyond my own understanding and work. There is something which calls me outside of myself. I must be careful not to lose beauty, for without beauty, we might as well be dead.

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