Monday, June 09, 2008

Taking or transforming?

Yeah, I've been away from the blog for far too long. Again. Thankfully (and yet, no so all at the same time) my son's baseball season is almost over even as it seems it's barely begun.

So, in an effort to make up for all my time away I'm going to do something I don't normally do and write a little about the non-ordinary. I suddenly feel like a scribe putting a quill pen to paper. Well, maybe not.

Several years ago my prayer life was far deeper and far more open than what I now find myself working through. Daily Mass, the Rosary and the Divine Office - all of it - were my constant companions. One day I was praying Morning Prayer in the second Sunday of the Psalter wherein we find the following reading from Ezekiel 36:25-27:

I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.

It really struck me deeply and instead of continuing on, for just a second I prayed, "Lord, remove this heart of stone and give me a natural heart in its place." It was not the first time, nor the last, I've taken something like that and repeated it to myself, so that was not at all out of the ordinary. Suddenly though and with crystal clarity, as if etched into my mind, a response formed, "I do not destroy things, but rather transform them." And that was it - as quickly gone as came.

At first I tried to argue from the text in front of me - you see, I knew just how much dirt and grime was covering my heart and I desperately wanted it gone and replaced with one without taint or mark. My ability to be thick-headed has never ceased to amaze me. Slowly, ever so slowly, I realized what my answer was telling me and that one sentence covered every part of salvation history from Adam and Eve to that very day and on until the end of time.

Our response when we get a glimpse of just what we have allowed ourselves to become is almost invariably to look for a quick fix - wipe it out, start over again. We're always looking for a "fresh start" - we hear that term from our earliest days. And yet, even in the Sacrament of Penance, all record of our sin is not wiped out; God forgets, but we do not. This, however, is us cheating ourselves of what is a singularly great gift from God - our temporality. If we had not been created "in time" we could not learn from past experience because all experience would be in the same "now". No, God created us in time to learn, to grow, to improve - no part of His plan was without need or design.

Just as God took hundreds of years to form and lead Israel to the Promised Land and then even more time to prepare them for the Messiah and even in their darkest days did not utterly destroy them but allowed some part to survive, learn and grow, so He will not destroy our hearts, no matter how dirty and grimy they may have become even if it may seem to us the fastest path.

Just as a diamond is found in surrounding material which only obscures its beauty and without that material and the force passed through it that diamond would remain only an obscure lump of coal, so we without our experiences both luminous and fetid would remain without understanding, without growth. I am not saying sin is necessary, that would be heresy; what I am saying, however, is that God works with every part of us to wipe away the effects of that sin and draw us ever closer to Him. That one spot that has, well, crud on it? That is the spot that is most in need of his polishing hand - to remove it would mean to remove a part of that very creation God himself called not only good but very good.

I find it interesting that after all these times of reading that quote this all finally starts to sink in. We all have areas of our lives we'd like to see gone, past parts we'd wish had never happened. I certainly have parts of me that I've spent a long time running away from, hiding from or ignoring. Those are the very parts though that God is reaching out His hand to clean and polish. God does not destroy, He transforms. We have only to remember this axiom and bring before God every part of us, including those parts we'd rather not remember.