February 11, 2016
“We come to know God best not by looking at God exclusively, but by looking at God and then looking at ourselves—then looking at God, and then again looking at ourselves. This is also the way we best come to know our selves.”
– David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself
True intimacy is never just about the other. It can’t be. The deepest trusts take both souls opening to the other. The strongest ties come through equal vulnerability from the very foundations of us to another.
We don’t tend to speak of God in terms like this. We don’t tend to find these thoughts comfortable, or sensible. God is divine and I am mud. He is entirely sovereign and perfectly Holy, I can barely maintain righteousness through breakfast. He is almighty, I am out of shape. There can be no equality, nothing remotely like partnership between one such as I and God… can there?
Maybe equality isn’t the right word at all. Maybe cooperation is better. That seems to fit more closely with how He spoke with Moses “as a man would with his friend.” It seems to more accurately describe the relationships with Joshua, Elijah, Daniel, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. It’s an appropriate word for Jesus’ interactions with the disciples. It’s certainly quite obvious when Jesus promises the coming of the Holy Spirit as “one who will come after me and do greater things.” You don’t have to read between the lines to find it in Peter’s reinstatement, “Feed my lambs… Take care of my sheep… Feed my sheep.”
So why is it that it only seems to be God that sees the potential within us? Why is it that we stutter and laugh in those moments of possibility? Why do we have enough faith to call out, to step out of the boat but not to go further?
I think that maybe it could be that we look at God and then at ourselves and then we never look away from ourselves. It is in ourselves, somehow, that we find safety and security in our own limitations and failures. It is perhaps in ourselves that we accept inadequacy more readily than challenge. Challenge requires us to look back at God. The struggle demands that we must lean back in and against it. It demands that we acknowledge the struggle itself, which in turn demands that we acknowledge the fact that we struggle and if we acknowledge that we struggle while we look at ourselves, we only see it as weakness.
If we acknowledge that we struggle and that turns us back to God, however, it is there that we will find blessing. We will find companionship. We will find faithfulness. We will find purpose. We look back at ourselves again, not as weak or as a failure, but as an extension of God in this world. We look back at ourselves and we see what we have not yet been able to see, but what God has seen all along. Him in us.