Saturday, February 12, 2011

The God-given Imperative

I found it!  No, I'm not talking about Jesus, because He's not an it, after all.  And if I was actually going to begin a post (or write a slogan) with the genesis of my relationship with Him, it would be, "He found me."  Maybe others go searching until they find Jesus, like He's playing hide-and-seek with them, has crawled into the darkest closet where they only look when they've reached the end of their rope.  But that wasn't my experience.  My experience--and I daresay the experience of most of us from the those sons of Zebedee out in the boat with Simon (later Peter) onward--is that we answer a call, or a knock, or are found by Him.  He does the work of seeking us first, now and always.  So, that slogan, bumper sticker, that whole "I found it" campaign that had such momentum a couple of decades ago (was it really that long ago?) is wrong.  Just plain wrong.  As well-intentioned and good-hearted as it was, it put the emphasis in the wrong place.  We have to get over the notion that we're the center of the universe.  We aren't.  It doesn't take a genius to know that.  But we also have to get over the more pervasive notion--even in Christian circles--that we're the center of our own story.  We aren't.  We just aren't. The one who set the stars into space also created amoebas.  And He, my friends, is the One who knows our names.  He calls us into relationship with Him.  His Name is Jesus.  So, none of this "I found it!" about the One who found us.

Whew.  Just had to get that off my chest.
 What I meant when I said, "I found it," was Rainier Maria Rilke's Letters to A Young Poet.  I've been looking all over my house for it recently.  I really have to get my bookcases better organized.  I used to be such a stickler about my books.  But we've done too much re-arranging in the last few years so my Dewey-decimal system (or my own rendition) is all out of order.  It makes me just the littlest bit crazy.  But this too is beside the point because I found what I was looking for. Thankfully.

Today I got an email from a friend which reminded me of being young and uncertain of who and what I wanted to be.  It reminded me that it's a process, this figuring out who we're meant to be, and for some of us, it takes a life-time.  Hey, look at me, after all.  Anyway, her email made me think of this quote Rilke wrote to his young poet friend.  It's one of my all-time favorite quotes, because it's about writing.  But it's also about living, or about whatever it is that you're passionate about.

So here you go on this windy Saturday night:
Search for the reason that bids you write; find out whether it is spreading its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself that you would have to die if it were denied you to write.  This above all--ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple "I must," then build your life according to this necessity; your life even in its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and testimony to it."  (18-19)

What Rilke is touching on here is the God-given imperative, I think.  The gift He has given--to preach, if that's the call, to teach as a teacher, or nurse as a nurse--that makes us whole.  In responding to this imperative, as Rilke calls it, we are what we were created to be, our in-His-image selves. 
For me, it's writing, generally.  But writing with an ear to His voice, if that makes sense.  This is what drives me.  This is the urgency in my life.

What is it for you?  What's the end of that stillest hour of your night question?  "Must I...?"

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