I talk often here about our beautiful humanness. I talk about the heartbreaking beauty of vulnerability, of simply being ourselves, of meeting each other in quiet, broken places. I talk about not having to hold all things together and not having to perform perfectly, of allowing ourselves to be merely human. I fight fiercely for these things because I believe they bring us to the life we were created to live: human life.
But as much as I fight for this, I find that I still strive for superhuman status in ways that just look different than they looked before. Whereas before, being superhuman meant never having a flaw or a need, now it means being a savior. Sometimes I now find myself hanging my significance not so much on being what I think people want but on being able to offer what I think people need.
The problem is not in wanting to offer something people need. The problem is in wanting to be the source of that offering, and in wanting to be that source perfectly.
These days, I'm being reminded that God is the source of what people need. I'm also being reminded that He's the only one who can do it perfectly.
For instance, last Monday I sat in Starbucks for a couple hours and started reading a book on the practice of spiritual direction. It's pretty revealing to flip back through the first chapter and look at all the segments I underlined . . . almost all of them have to do with the work of spiritual direction being the facilitation of an active conversation between the directee and God Himself. The director becomes almost invisible because the focus is on God and the other person, and because the director trusts that God is indeed going to dialogue directly with that person. It requires trust that God is present and active and will indeed show up. It requires a willingness to let the two of them have the relationship they already have, separate from your part in it.
This humbled me. It means my work is less about what I have to offer from my own journey and the overflow of my own heart and more about what God wants to do Himself in the life and heart of that person.
Then at church that night, my pastor shared something that seemed to further these thoughts. At the very end of his sermon, he talked about how often we don't know how to pray for what is best because we don't know the mind of God. We pray with the best intentions we have, but God's purposes transcend our understanding and what we would choose for those we love. Our minds and our hearts are finite. They can only contain and conceive and purpose so much.
I found his words here particularly compelling:
Can you imagine Deborah's mother? You know Deborah, the warrior judge in Judges, the one who defeated the army? Can you hear her mom when she was growing up: "Oh God, she's so masculine. She's always beating up the boys. Why can't you make her feminine? I pray, God, make her feminine."
Can you imagine Esther's mom, or the ones who raised Esther? Esther, beautiful Esther. Can you imagine the prayers: "Oh God, don't let people look on her as just beautiful. Just give her a normal life. Don't let her get all caught up in her looks." When it was that particular beauty that put her in a position to save an entire nation.
Can you imagine Joseph's mom? "Oh God, he's so different from his brothers. Protect him from his brothers." What if his brothers hadn't thrown him into the pit, sold him into slavery? He would never have become the second most powerful man in the world. If that mother's prayer had been answered, if he had been protected, if he had been safe, he never would have been great.
Can you imagine the prayer of Moses's mother? When all of the male Hebrew children were being killed, can you imagine the prayers: "Oh God, give me a way out of here. Let me take my baby and run. Let me escape." Can you imagine when she finally put him into the river and let him go, and then she was called to nurse him? Can you imagine the temptation and the prayer: "Oh God, can you find a way that he doesn't need to be raised in the palace, and I can keep him to myself?" If that prayer had been answered, he would not have been the one to deliver Israel.
I've been reading through Genesis and Exodus for the past month or so, and some of these stories he shared are so vivid in my mind right now. I could certainly imagine Joseph with his brothers, and Moses with his mother. I could see how limited our vision really is when we are living on the horizontal plane of this earth. Out of the overflow of our human love and experience, we pray for things we do not understand. We are so limited, but God is more than what we are.
Just after my pastor spoke these words, a woman sang a song that brought tears cascading down my cheeks in ceaseless streams. Although I am not a mother and the song is the prayer of a mother for her child, I wept. I wept for the way our understanding is limited by our humanity, but how much greater is our God. I wept for the way my mother and father loved me the best way they could, out of their own humanity. I wept for the forgiveness that comes from recognizing that their two eyes, their two hands, and their humanity was paired with God's all knowing, all being, and all seeing. I wept in the admission that I, too, only have two eyes and two hands. I am merely human . . . but God is more, and He works with me, through me, and beyond me. Today, I am thankful for this and am learning how to live more fully from this place.
Below is the song that moved me so much. It's an arrangement of a Sara Groves song, called "Prayer for This Child."