Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Doing God's Work

It seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to do his work. 
~ Madeleine L'Engle, Novelist

The work of God it seems to me is not about some kind of holy living.  It's not about someone's prescribed righteousness.  It's not about moral rules.  It has nothing to do with saving people from hell or even from themselves.

There are of course endless ideas about God.  Whole religions and theological doctrines have been built upon those ideas.  Some of those ideas come from various sacred texts: the Bible, the Torah, the Bhagavad Gita, the Koran, and others.

But whatever your thoughts or beliefs about God may be, if they don't begin and center in and end in love, then they seem to me to be little more than attempts at strained piety or becoming holier-than-thou.

It is not in the protection of ourselves that God's work is done.  It is not in making sure we have the right beliefs.  It is not in fooling ourselves that we fully know God and have some kind of personal relationship with God.

Rather, it is in the living of life that we do God's work.  It is in extending ourselves into the care of others.  It is in being free to explore life and experience it openly and unafraid and without the fear of being judged or condemned for doing it our way.

There are models for this.  Take for instance Jeff Bridges' character, Otis "Bad" Blake, in the movie, "Crazy Heart."

Blake is a wrecked and boozy country singer.  He was once a headline act but the years and the drink and just the cascading events of life have taken their toll.  He performs his solo act in seedy joints before the usual bar scene loyalists.  Some of them are still old fans of Bad's raspy voiced style and his homemade songs, many of them extraordinary in the stories they tell and the emotions they express.

As he wanders from his crummy venues he meets Jean Craddock (Maggie Gyllenhaal), an attractive single mom and newspaper reporter and twenty-five years younger than Blake.  After an interview with the old country singer star, a culture piece for her newspaper, the two strike up a casual friendship.  It is in this blossoming relationship that Bad Blake is in some ways renewed.

Love makes the heaviness of life more bearable for all of us.  It can excite the deadest spirit.  Being found attractive to another attractive person, discovering there are still things you are interested in you can share with someone else, and awaking to a depth of caring and the risk of being there for another person is all a part of doing God's work.

When asked by a promoter if he is dependable Blake replies, "Son, I've played sick, drunk, divorced, and on the run.  Bad Blake hasn't missed a goddamn show in his whole fucking life."

It is that showing up that is a part of doing God's work, too.  The determination that no matter how tough life might get, how far down we might sink into places we don't like or into being people we don't want to be, we still find the wherewithal to live and to strive and to make our contribution however weak or small it might be.

God's work is not about miracles and stellar success and virtue beyond question.  Like God, it is getting involved in life and all of its dirt and drama, its struggle and suffering, its mystery and magnificence.  It is wanting to create, and learn, and love.

In the end Bad Blake doesn't win the girl.  But he finds confidence again in his talent.  He discovers a child's love and dares to make a connection with his own estranged son.  He realizes his humanness and that personal growth is never easy and never ends.

As the iconic American writer Thornton Wilder once said, "The very angels themselves cannot persuade the wretched and blundering children on earth as can one human being broken on the wheels of living."

We all learn from one another.  And in that sharing and learning and living, we do God's work.

(c) 2012 Timothy Moody 

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