Sunday, June 30, 2019

The hiddenness of it all

All our steps are ordered by the Lord;
   how then can we understand our own ways? 
(Proverbs 20.24)
We know that in all things God works for good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. 
(Romans 8.28)
Esther de Waal, in her book Seeking God: The Way of St Benedict, asks "How aware am I that anything I do in any way is part of the working out of God's will?" This is a shocking thing to be asked. Not only is it an immediate blow to our self-esteem and our precious sense of independence ("I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul" and so on) but it contains more than a hint of Julian of Norwich's "It was necessary that there should be sin; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well."

We are frail things, temporary and provisional in our few years on the good earth, and somehow broken withal, even from birth it seems (Psalm 51.5); and yet we are what God has made us (Ephesians 2.10), created in Christ Jesus for works God prepared for us beforehand. We rest in God; there is nowhere else for us to be, no way to fall out of God's love (John 10.28-29), nor anywhere to fall, for God is all in all (1 Corinthians 15.28). "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." (1 John 4.19)

Isaiah had it down, all those years ago (43.1-2):
But now thus says the Lord,
   he who created you, O Jacob,
   he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
   I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
   and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
   and the flame shall not consume you. 
The very thing we most fear in our century, our loss of independence and self-determination, our sense of being in charge of ourselves and of our fate, turns out to be our salvation. For if we truly cannot fall out of God's love, what is there to fear, even in the worst of times? But we cannot do it our way: we must acknowledge with all out heart our unknowing, our dependence, the hiddenness of it all, as the author of Proverbs saw, that "All our steps are ordered by the Lord; how then can we understand our own ways?"

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