AfterWords | Beautiful Things (May 14, 2023)
AfterWords is a series of community-contributed reflections intended to further the conversations that begin during Parish sermons.
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A 3-Minute Read
by Ren Turner
So it’s Sunday and I’m in a church standing next to a pregnant woman.
Don’t worry, this isn’t the start to a bad joke.
Rather, it’s Mother’s Day at The Parish. I really am standing next to someone expecting, and we’re all singing these words over and over: “You make beautiful things. You make beautiful things out of the dust. You make beautiful things out of us.”
True of God. True of mothers.
And then things really get good.
Keely steps up and leads us in this meditation where we imagine Jesus preparing a feast for our most wounded self. My imagination takes me to my grandparents’ farm in South Georgia. I’m on a screen porch overlooking a pond and pecan grove. Family is all around. Air is crisp and breezy. Table is loaded with fragrant fried chicken, homemade biscuits and all the sides.
“What part of you is most resistant to the love of God?” Keely asks.
Rather than wishing away the pain, she encourages us to marinate in it.
Jesus enters the scene and says, “I long to take care of you. What do you want me to do for you?”
We could all do well to sit with that question for a while.
And all this before Jordan’s teaching, even!
Leaning on the work of Robert Mulholland, Jordan focuses on our two ways of being in the world. There’s the “false self,” described by Mulholland as, “this pervasive, deeply entrenched, self-referenced structure of being,” which is fearful, defensive, possessive, protective, manipulative, indulgent and destructive.
How lovely (not!). How true.
“The false self is not necessarily evil, just terrified, because it’s trying to make it in a world where God isn’t really for me and doesn’t really love me,” says Jordan.
Then, there’s our in-Christ “true self.” The old self no longer lives, but Christ in us.
Great, I’m in. Show me the prayer to pray or thing to do to flip this cosmic light switch. Let’s once and for all dump the false right now before the kids come in for Communion, and then we can get on with a lovely Mother’s Day.
Not so fast.
Jordan tells us this pattern of how God works transformation in our lives is a journey that must begin with death. Jesus is inviting us and our destructive patterns of living into the death and resurrection process.
Well, what does that mean? How does that work?
It is the opposite of self-reliance. This is where we must embrace our wound, accept our limitations and move deeper into the pain. We acknowledge that God is initiating and doing something in us. We are out of control. It is likely against our will. It likely feels like pain or suffering or even a type of death.
It’s Jesus preparing a feast for our most wounded self, asking, “What do you want me to do for you?”
Or, as Mulholland puts it, “ A deep inner posture of joyful release of our life and being to God in absolute trust, without demands, without conditions, without reservations. It is neither a passive resignation nor a fatalistic acquiescence to whatever comes. It is, rather, a consistent posture of actively turning our whole being to God so that God’s presence, purpose and power can be released through our lives into all situations.”
Or, as the Gungor song from earlier puts it:
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us.
You make me new
You are making me new.
Thanks be to the mothers and the making of their beautiful things. And thanks be to God, who is making you new.