I have many different bibles but the one I use the most is my “Catholic Women’s Devotional Bible” because of the rich and plentiful devotions written by thoughtful women scholars, saints, and authors. The following is copied verbatim from my bible on page 1557 by Ruth Burrows:
God has given each of us the task of fashioning a beautiful vase for him, which we must carry up the mountain in order to place it in his hands. This vase represents everything we can do to please God: our good works, our prayers, our efforts to grow to maturity; all this God values most highly. Into the making of this vase, then, we put all we have, our whole self. It is for god we are fashioning it, we tell ourselves. When it is finished, we begin our journey up the mountain.
When we reach the top a double shock awaits us. God is not there--there is silence, no response when we make our arrival known. Secondly, the vase isn’t beautiful anymore. There it is in our hands, a tawdry common pot the vase into which we had put our all. A deep instinct is tell us that if we want God, we have to go over the other side of the mountain, and one glance reveals a steep, mist-bound, featureless face. We can’t go down there with anything in our hands; we must drop the vase, still precious though so disappointing. We cannot take it with us; we must go to God with nothing in our hands.
Our spiritual achievement is our most precious treasure. It has to go. “For his sake,” cries one who understood this. “i have suffered the loss of all things and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but one that comes through faith in Christ.” 1 Now we can only begin to see the shabbiness of all we have done and do when God shows it to us.
But what matters is that we recognize that it is God who is showing it to us and gladly let it go. The ideas we had formed of God, our working plan of him, so to speak, are destroyed. “Our” God disappears. it is only when he does disappear that we can meet the true God, who is mystery.
In these days many of us are compelled toward achievement of one kind or another. From achievement in career, recognition, monetary gain or simply being remembered. Social achievement is encouraged through facebook and other sites, and we’re encouraged to rank ourselves with various other applications. Be in the “in” crowd and surely you’ll get noticed. Even now I’m compelled to link my own artwork, in hopes that I will get recognition if not in a marked visit to my work, but ultimately to a sale. In fact I have convinced myself that if I encourage enough traffic to my site, it will certainly achieve monetary success. Is that not a contradiction of terms, that I’m trying to achieve a certain openness to the direction of God through these spontaneous paintings and then I seek recognition outside of God? And what does it mean “achieve openness”?
Certainly I’m seeking openness with God for my own gain, but ultimately for the reward of being one with God. But isn’t that what Sister Burrows is saying, that when we stop trying and surrender without expectation, or trying to be, or do, or become anything for God, that we discover the true mystery?
What would we be if we did not have future goals of achievement to focus on? How would we progress in life? How would growth occur if not for trial and error? Intuitively I know her words to be true, and yet how does one stop trying to achieve, when one’s paradigm and certainly the paradigm of America is to do just that?
Something to ponder more deeply. Your thoughts?
1Phillipians 3: 7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.