Who are you O Lord my God, and who am I?
These questions are not my own, and they may even be familiar to those who know a little about the Franciscan Tradition, St Francis himself is said to have been observed praying those very questions, questions perhaps that we should ask on a regular basis. Questions that if we dare ask them, would I suspect lead us on a journey to an ever deepening relationship with the divine.
I am pausing with those questions now, as I stand at the beginning of 2017 ( I had last week off) they seem like good questions. I have a to-do list that is as long as my arm, some things are overdue, others are new this week, some will be easily resolved, others will need plugging away at, it would be easy to become immersed in and overwhelmed by the details and to allow myself to drown in the despair of feeling that I will never get any of it done. That or I could ignore it completely and end up doing nothing! Instead, with these questions; “Who are you O Lord my God, and who am I?”, I can step back and take a long view, as I assess my calling to this place at this time in the light of eternity I find that I do have the energy to begin to make progress, perhaps calling to mind that first line of the Methodist Covenant prayer: “I am no longer my own but yours.”
I ask these questions from other standpoints in my life too, I would really like to become fitter in 2017, having struggled with a roller-coaster of fitness attempts over the last 10 years ( at least), all combined with battles with self-esteem and the occasional or more than occasional bout of depression I find that these questions allow me to assess my value. I am able to say that my knowledge, experience, and understanding of God is one of being deeply loved and cared for, my images of a tyrant who is demanding and cruel have all but gone, and instead I come to the one who offers to carry my burden and invites me to participate in the divine life without earning it by any merit of my own. I am invited because I am loved, not because I am good enough, and that sets me free. Too often I have been disheartened by a false image that our culture demands, looking to perform my way into being acceptable, when the invitation of Jesus is simply “come” ( see Matthew 11: 28-30).
So with those questions I begin my journey into 2017; when I ask who are you of the divine I am also asking who am I, in doing so I am setting myself in the context of eternity and strangely I find that I am not diminished by it. I have heard stories told of great people who would look up at the heavens to place themselves into perspective, and yet when the divine touches earth surely we are enlarged by it. When Christ who was revealed to us first in creations spoken awakening, and again in the tiny babe named Jesus comes and calls us to participate in the divine life we cannot shrink back but need to enter into a life where for me realising my true potential does not require me to be two dress sizes smaller, or to work more hours every day to achieve more ticks on my to-do list. What is required perhaps is the surrender that is brought into focus by the Methodist Covenant Prayer, as we respond to the challenge of entering deeper into the covenantal relationship saying (perhaps for the umpteenth time): “I am no longer my own”, we both give ourselves away and reclaim ourselves at the same time…
To misquote Augustine in answer to my starting questions:
You have made me for yourself O Lord, and I am restless until I find myself resting in you….
So I can only pray: help me to walk and work with you, in the unforced rhythms of your grace, to know your life coursing through my life, make me a channel for you…