God forms us

Editor’s note (from Scott): My apologies on the absence of the devotionals over the fast few days. I forgot my computer when I went on vacation. If you need to a refresher, click here to access all posts.

Recently I completed a massive project. I had made a decision that if I completed said project, I would treat myself. I carefully thought this decision out. My treat wasn’t going to be a new pair of shoes or a gelato. This treat needed to compensate for the time I spent with my nose to the grindstone in order to churn this baby out. In other words, my treat needed to serve as a realignment of sorts, an adjustment to a brief season of over-working.

I chose to take a pottery class. It TOTALLY fits the bill of self-care. It is something completely new with no promise of competency. It will require humility and concentration. It breaks my routine. It fits a dream to learn how to use a potter’s wheel that I have had since childhood.

I am taking the class. It is hard and wonderful and thus far, I have not crafted one use-able item on that darn wheel. But I see the need for the clay to cooperate with the process. It has to have certain properties - it needs to be moist, centered and balanced on the wheel. The hands of the potter can only do so much. The clay must be malleable. It is the wonderful synergy of the clay and the potter’s hand that makes the lump morph into something use-able and lovely.

As my teacher says all the time, “We only learn by doing and as we do this work, we are constantly pushing the edge - how much can the clay take of our pushing and prodding? It is at the limit of tolerance that we find the beauty of the object.”

Are you tolerating the pressure of the potter’s hand? Could you cooperate a bit more in the transformation process?

Humble Submission to God

12 As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.  Colossians 3:12, NRSV

Spirituality begins with the confession that there is a God and we did not get the job.  As such, we do not interact with God as if equals.  This does not mean we cannot be honest, that we cannot question, that we cannot challenge, it just means that we do so with the awareness that our vision and understanding are limited.  It also means that our plans and purposes and desires are secondary to God’s if (or when) they are not aligned.  

It means that whatever life throws our way, we (perhaps gradually) learn to accept and live with those circumstances, trusting that God has structured creation in this way intentionally (with all of its chaos, injustice, and suffering).  God does not exist to answer our questions or solve our problems; we exist to witness to his grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love.  He may choose to engage our questions and our problems and, in fact, He probably will at times, but we do not live with this expectation as if it’s something we “deserve” or something we’re “owed.”  This is when we cross over into pride.  

And, spirituality is not just between us and God.  It is just as much about our relationship to the people and world around us.  Living in humble submission to God means that we refuse to manipulate or cajole the people and circumstances around us such that we can create whatever we imagine might be the ideal version of life.  Humble submission to God means we accept the life God gives with all of its warts.  We refuse fantasy living and give up the desire to force others to conform to our fantasy.  

Footnote: This does not mean we do not exercise responsibility in our lives- it just means that manipulating, controlling, or dominating others is not a form of responsibility.

Reciprocity

Humility and the willingness to change our minds is a gift.  I want to be the person who can listen to feedback and learn from it.  But there is a distinction between receiving feedback and paying attention to harsh criticism from strangers (or people who you know do not know you even if they have met you).  It’s like that old quote about porn, I may not be able to define it but I recognize it when I see it.  And in this way, there is a sometimes intangible but distinct difference between feedback and judgmental criticism. 

 

Example.  When criticism from strangers is in play, because of what I have learned from Brown’s work, I have a note I refer to that says, “Teresa, if the criticism doesn’t come with a reciprocity agreement, return to sender.”  Shortcut phrase that sometimes works to remind me of my core values:  reciprocity. 

 

Translation:  In my community we operate as equals.  No one is an expert.  We are all Bozos on the bus and we love Bozos.  We try not to crosstalk or tell each other what to do (although we slip often and forgive regularly our slips).  We try to stay in the #metoo space of relationship.  We are all equals, we all have something to contribute, we don’t boss each other around, we do practice giving and receiving feedback in safety.  Reciprocity goes like this:  “Hey, I read that you said this ______ and I am wondering if it might mean that you hate Jesus.  Do you?”  That statement invites reciprocity - a conversation.  Or, “Hey, from what I experienced of you when you did _____, I doubt whether or not you know anything about spiritual transformation.  Do you?”  Again, a bit critical for a sensitive soul, but still, it invites reciprocity.  It invites a conversation, not condemnation.  If someone I do not even know tries to tell me who I am then it is okay to return that comment to the sender without spending valuable energy on it.  However, if my husband or my kids or my best friend tells me I do not love Jesus and I know absolutely nothing about spiritual transformation I better sit down, pour the coffee and ask hard questions about myself.  How do you process criticism and feedback?  Do you make distinctions re: source?

 

Tomorrow, more on the nature of reciprocity...