The throng parts like clouds
To reveal the blazing Son
And my soul knows peace.

A little late, because I'm thinking of Simeon this year.
(previous Christmas haikus here)




love cannot be coerced

Continuing "God Pulls"...

Abandoning the struggle for human power is frightening, though, because it leaves us so vulnerable. "Like sheep among wolves," Jesus described his followers. But he told them not to be afraid. "Not a hair of your head will perish." "No one can snatch you out of my Father's hand." We don't need to worry about gathering enough power to defend ourselves, because we are secure in God's care.

And to abandon the struggle for human power is not to give up our desire for justice. We have seen the kind of justice that money and politics can provide. A power that can be bought and sold, and even used for evil, is not a power we should rely on for justice. God is the author of justice and the only hope that justice will be done. "Will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?" Jesus asked. "I tell you, he will quickly grant justice to them."

The pull of God's love moves us to respond when evil is done by others, but not to punish or destroy them. "Do not resist an evildoer," Jesus taught. God does not want to force people to turn from evil, crushing their freedom. God's desire is that each of us freely choose to surrender to his love and be pulled towards goodness. Love cannot be coerced. We can only demonstrate the power of God's pull in our own lives and hope that it stirs a desire and hope in the hearts of others. They must come to goodness the same way any of us does, by stopping our struggle and letting God pull us and move us in love for one another. For this, human power is of no use.



the struggle for power

Continuing "God Pulls"...

Everywhere we look, we see the demands of our physical needs and the desire for security driving people to seek power, the power of money and the power of society. We see people in a constant struggle for this human power, because it can only be gained by the struggle with other people. But Jesus showed us that the love of God does not pull us into this struggle. He sold nothing. He refused to be made king. And in answer to the struggle he simply replied, "Give to Caesar that which is Caesar's, and to God that which is God's." Jesus was not interested in the power of Caesar, only the power of God.

The power of Caesar, human power, can be bought or stolen, but not the power of God. Human power can weaken or be lost, but not the power of God. Human power can be used for evil, but not the power of God. Human power inevitably fails. But not the power of God.

It is necessary for us that our human power fails, so that we may learn to not trust in it. So that we may learn to not trust in ourselves. It is only when we no longer trust in our own power, when we no longer hope in it, that we come to the point of surrender. When we despair of the struggle, when we can fight no longer, those are the moments when we are most open to the pull of God. "Come to me, all you who are weary from your labor and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest," said Jesus. "For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Unlike human power, the power of God is a gift. Not a power we must constantly struggle for, but a power that lifts and carries us.





no one can serve two masters

Continuing "God pulls"...

When we surrender to the pull of God, in each moment, we are moved to act in love. But there are so many other demands pulling us in each moment also! One of the most persistent demands is our physical needs, and the demand of others that we pay to get these things that we need. So there is a great pull on us to do the work that people will pay for, that can provide us with money. Jesus warned us, "You cannot serve both God and money." But money seems necessary to satisfy the pull of our physical needs, so it seems impossible to surrender every moment to the pull of love.

This is exactly what Jesus taught his followers to do, though: "You received without payment, give without payment." "Do not seek what you are to eat or what you are to drink, nor be worried. For the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well." With the pull of God's love, there comes also the promise that our physical needs will be met.

As the pull of God moves us to give freely to others, so the love of God can also move others to give to us, meeting our needs. In this God offers us freedom. Freedom from the anxiety of our physical needs, and freedom to work with a single focus, simply loving others as God inspires us. And everything we receive is then also an act of love towards us. Our needs are met, and people are drawn together, by the pull of God's love.



the community of God

Continuing "God pulls"...

Those who surrender to God's pull are drawn to God, and also drawn together. They are pulled towards one another, towards the community of God. This is real community, with real people to embrace and support each other, but it is different from any other group or organization of people.

Because it is not created by human effort or human design, it is not held together by us. We are not the ones who decide who is admitted to this community. And we cannot cast anyone out. We do not choose who leads this community, nor do we decide its nature or purpose or direction. We did not start this community, and we cannot end it. It is truly a living community, the only gathering of people that actually has a life of its own, a life that will never end. We can become a part of its life, but its life does not depend on us.

The community of God is alive with the love of God, the spirit of God, in us. As John wrote, "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them." This is what unites the community of God. This is what the community of God is. The love of God drawing people together, giving them the purpose and energy and strength to act as one, for good. Obviously, this is not what most people are doing, most of the time. This is not what we usually see when we look around us. But the community of God is among us. When we surrender to God's pull, we begin to see and experience this community, mixed in among society, its boundaries not clearly defined. Because we cannot own or control this spirit of love. When we surrender to this love, we are drawn into God's community and are a part of its life. But whenever we fight and resist God's love, then we stand outside, apart, fighting and resisting God's community. The only way to remain a part of God's community is to surrender, in every moment, to God's continual pull. "Who are my mother and my brothers?" Jesus asked. "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does the will of God is my brother and my sister and my mother."





the power of God

Continuing "God pulls"...

God is not waiting for us to be good. We do not have strength enough for that. We have the strength to say no to goodness, but not the strength to become good. God is not waiting for that. What God is waiting for is our surrender.

To surrender is to stop fighting. This is what God is waiting for, for us to stop fighting. God is waiting for us to let ourselves be pulled. It requires no effort on our part. It requires strength to resist, to keep fighting, but surrender is effortless. A release. The power that will change our lives and change the things around us is not our power but the power of God. The power of love.

Love is the power of God. It is love that pulls us to God and to the good life that we long for. And it is love that pulls us together with the other people who love. It is the power of love that changes people and things for the better. It is the power of love that breaks every chain. It is the power of love that drives out every fear. Because the power of love is the power of God. The power of people is nothing compared to this power, the threats and the lies of the crowds, they are nothing compared to the power of love.

And all that is necessary to experience this power is surrender.



in chains

Continuing "God pulls"...

Everywhere we look we see people in chains. But God made us to be free.

We have given up our freedom, and the people around us despise it and trample it. But God respects the freedom we were granted. God will not pull us against our will. There is no power on earth that could hold us if God pulled us free, but God will not pull us if we do not wish it. So we remain in chains, held back from the life we long for.

We resist God's pull because we are proud and easily deceived. If we could break our own chains, we would do it. We try, again and again. We enslave others, thinking that somehow makes us more free. Yet we remain in bondage, to money, to people, to fear. Our problem is not that we are too weak, but too strong. We cling so strongly to the little control we have, the little lives we have built for ourselves, so these are easily used to threaten and coerce us. While God waits for us, lamenting as Jesus did, "How often have I desired to gather you together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!"

It would take no effort of ours to break free, for God would do it for us. We do not need to change our circumstances. We do not need to change all the people around us. We only need to change our own mind—God will do the rest. But we don't believe that. Instead we put all our effort into denying our situation, insisting it is better than it is, constantly working to convince ourselves that we are not in chains. And the people around us are very willing to help us in that effort.

While God waits.



Ecce Homo (Honoré Daumier, 1850)


God is pulling

Continuing "God pulls"...

That's because God is pulling us. Like the gravity that inexplicably holds us to the earth, and keeps our planet from hurtling away from the sun, like the nuclear force that holds together each and every atom of the universe, God is holding each of us. And we are being pulled toward God. Not physically but spiritually, with a force more powerful than that of atoms or stars. God is pulling each one of us.

God is not just calling out to us, from afar, as is sometimes our impression. God is close, touching us, pulling us. Not just urging us to do better, either. If we are to move, to change, we won't be the ones who make it happen. God is the one who moves us, God is the one who changes us. God provides both the inspiration and the energy, the power, for any good change or action or word. God is not just calling, God is pulling.

Jesus said, "When I am lifted up, I will draw all people to myself." And this is what is happening now. Each of us is being drawn towards God, whether we are aware of it or not. Perhaps at moments we feel it, as a deep longing, or a twinge of conscience, or a flicker of light in our darkest moment. But whether we sense it or not, God is always pulling, with every breath we take. Constantly. Relentlessly.

But not irresistibly.



we cannot will what we cannot see

I've planned a long series of entries for this year, that I'm calling "God pulls." Here's the first, an introduction:


We cannot will what we cannot see. We cannot attempt what we cannot even imagine. And we cannot choose what we know is impossible.

But still we long for it. In the depths of our soul we desire a good that we do not see, a truly good way of living that we don't see anywhere around us, except maybe in brief glimpses. And those soon fade. So, in any moment, if we try to do good we find that we can't even imagine how true goodness in that situation might look. We've heard stories of Jesus' inspiring life, and read what he taught, but trying to follow that in any real sense seems utterly impossible. Because it is impossible for us; he even said so. "No one is good but God alone," Jesus said.

Yet still we long for it.