Thursday, July 25, 2013

What People See In You

The Father is beyond our sight and comprehension; but He is known by His Word, Who tells us of Him Who surpasses all telling … The Son reveals the knowledge of the Father by His revelation of Himself … The Father’s purpose in revealing the Son was to make Himself known to us all and so welcome into eternal rest all who believe in Him.
            --- from the treatise Against Heresies, by St. Irenaeus, bishop
We know that people saw the Father when they saw Jesus, but what do people see when they see you?  What are their physical reactions, and perhaps even more importantly, what thoughts are awoken in their minds and hearts, because of you?  God’s grace is there in each of their hearts, like a book waiting to be opened.  Do your actions stir the winds in their being, flipping those pages in their hearts, causing the eyes of their hearts to glance at the words God would tell them?  Is God revealed through you?  Is that what they see, because of you and your actions?
Personally, I am convinced that God brings people into my life, and as our paths cross, however briefly, He uses me to love His children.  I affirm my will to do that each morning as I begin: “Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace...”  If this stirs their awareness of Him, I guess I am doing His will.  I will admit, however, regarding my actions, that there is something in my heart that wants to know: “Am I doing this well, Lord?  Am I making a difference in this world?”  But, of course, you can see the key word in those questions is “I”.  That yearning to know how I am doing, like a report card, is my ego speaking.  I want to be important in my own eyes, and I want God to tell me that I am. 
And if I can’t hear God’s judgment, I often judge myself --- and in that, I am wrong.  And, by the way, it is likely that you are wrong also, if you are judging yourself harshly.  The reason is that my actions and their results, their impact on people, both occur on two different planes, the physical and the spiritual.  On both I want to do well, but I can only really judge the sufficiency of my intents.  Often the results are not something I can correctly perceive or predict.
In my entire working career I received some sort of annual performance review from my bosses.  For some people, that review was critically important to them; they wanted to know that they were judged as valuable by their boss.  As my bosses know, however, I didn’t care much about their opinions; I was my own harshest judge, and I always found things I could have done better.  One boss once demanded I re-write my comments to his review, thinking my harsh words about myself somehow negated the value of his judgment.  But he was right in one thing:  Although I can judge the intent of my actions, how well I tried to do things, I cannot and should not be the ultimate judge of the ultimate value of the results of my actions and how they impact others; only they can say how they were impacted.  Maybe what I judged as not enough result was truly “just right” in their judgment.  And perhaps the spiritual results of my actions were also judged “just right” by God. 
While I pray that “not my will but Thy will be done through me, Lord,” I am in fact not God and so can’t do things as perfectly as He can.  Jesus led the life of the perfect man, sinless, doing the will of the Father, but those around Him didn’t understand the spiritual sufficiency of His actions.  Often He asked them in one way or another: “Do you think I did right?”  And many were critical, and many proclaimed Him and His actions to be from God, while many others were just plain confused.  They were just men, ordinary men, and so they couldn’t understand the value of many spiritual things.  And so, often He explained to them the will of the Father, what He had done, and why what He did was good.  But by themselves, they couldn’t know.
Neither can people who would judge the sufficiency or spiritual results of my efforts, nor even myself.  If I truly AM an instrument of God’s will, as I pray to be, only He can judge my success in doing His will because only He knows the real outcomes of my actions.  Perhaps He had me smile at that grouchy woman today so that she might be better disposed to her children tonight, who as a result might grow up to be great preachers of God’s love, helping God’s people long after I am dead.  How can I know of such results, or judge my actions leading up to them?  No, all I can do is to do His will, as best as I can perceive it, and then be content, at peace.  Do not be anxious means just that.  I can’t judge the true goodness of my actions, nor their results.  He will help bring about the results of my actions, and may stir the pages of His Word in another’s heart.  He will judge my success, or failure.
One thing only can I reasonably judge: my desires and preparations to do good actions, my intents and how they were shaped. I can perceive how well I am seeking to know and do His will.  How much time do I spend reading His Word and those of His saints?  How much time do I spend talking to Him, listening to His response?  How open am I to reacting to those who in some way enter my life?  How open am I to feeding the hungry, as He did?  How open am I to healing those suffering, as He did?  How open am I to crying with those mourning, as He did?  And how sensitive am I to the touch of my garment, when someone may quietly be seeking my help, as He was?
Only I know the answers to those questions, which impact how well I am doing.
In the things I say and do, people see me, but if I prepare well and choose to do things as best I can, then what people will see in me is truly “not I but Christ who lives in me,” and He will use me and them as He knows best. And the world will be a better place because I have lived. 
I am tempted by my ego to want to know that I am making a difference, to see and measure results, but all I can see and judge are the serious intent of my actions; the results are His results.  Even if I saw them, I likely wouldn’t understand.  Which is why I shall try to go through this life sowing seeds, being content not knowing if some of them are taking root and yielding huge fields of grain, or in fact most are falling on rocks and being eaten by the birds.  Who knows!!  Perhaps He wishes me to feed His birds!
Stay with me Lord, to show me Your will.
Stay with me Lord, for it is You alone I look for, Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more.
With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth, and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity.
            -- from Padre Pio’s Prayer After Communion

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