Thursday, October 30, 2008

Receive, Believe, Become

Perhaps you've had one of those weeks recently where key dimensions of your life were left untapped, your routine mere ashes scattered in the wind. That's how it has felt for me this week, with the combination of teaching three days of leadership training; attending a full-day leadership workshop; and lots of personal family demands composing a perfect storm of work-life imbalance.

The main casualties of the storm? Rest, exercise and writing. Replenishment and adrenaline rush, with creativity caught in the maelstrom as well and flipped aside like a yester-year Halloween costume decaying on an abandoned clothesline.

My eyes are bloodshot as I fire up my laptop at 8:30 p.m. tonight. I am determined to write something, even if just to grouse a little.

Maybe I'll do better than grousing. My Life Application Bible is open next to me on the futon. It's turned to the opening chapter of the Gospel of John. Verse 1:12 has been on my mind for the past several days, for some reason. In the NRSV translation, it reads:

But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God...

I've always thought there was a lot of spiritual potency in that verse, a storehouse of individual riches that add up to a wealthy dynamic. I enjoy unpacking the goodies one key verb cluster at a time:

All who received
Who believed
He gave power
To become children of God

My Koine Greek is rusty enough after more than eight years out of seminary that I cannot recall the exact verb tenses found in the original language here. But even without putting on my exegetical scholar's hat, relying only on this particular English translation, I am captivated by the string of thoughts.

It all begins with receiving. Receiving God's love, God's presence. Man, we fight and strive and work for so much stuff we feel we must earn, receiving seems almost counter-intuitive.

Receiving implies that grace was at work long ago, and continues to immerse the world about us today. The gift is proactively offered to us, ever at our fingertips. Ours for the taking.

Receiving sets the stage for believing. The transformation of the receiver creates the conditions for intellectual, spiritual, emotional belief. You're more apt to believe in something when you've got it gripped tightly in your palms.

Such belief enables us to become a dwelling place for the things of the Spirit. For the power of God to rest. And this is not just a power to accomplish something great, but a power to transform the core of our being and identity.

It is the power to become something. To become some-ones. To grow up into the children we were meant to be.

And the becoming, I seem to vaguely recall from Greek class, is not a static activity. not a one-time deal. The becoming is a process, an ever-increasing movement into Christ-likeness. With each deepening surrender to the gift of God, we are becoming more and more childlike. We step further across the leafy boundaries of Eden, the once-shattered image of God patiently being restored and made like new. Filthy rags starched clean, dead bones alive once again.

It begins with receiving what has been offered.

During weeks like this I find there isn't much brain power available to pray. I don't feel like studying. I don't feel very spiritual. I question what it's all about. I don't remember what I've got that's good. Really good.

And a simple verse in the midst of a massive ancient book reminds me of a very timeless promise. The gift of God's grace continues to be offered, and my part of the deal is to simply muster the most pathetic little effort to just receive it.

And even if I can't manage that tiny effort, grace parts my weary and distracted fingers and snuggles right into the warmth of my palms. Receive, believe, become.

Cool stuff, this love of God.


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