Every day, it seems, I find myself looking up words and their etymologies, trying to get at the root of what something I've just read means. Sometimes it's a word in the Bible, and I end up wading my way through ancient languages I've never studied, searching for clues. Other times it's just words from daily life that suddenly pertain to some matter I'm struggling with or considering. Often the word has changed over the centuries; I find such words particularly fascinating—particularly when, as is often the case, the word's current meaning is at odds with what it once meant. Some of these word studies find their way into my writing projects. My goal is to post new words weekly, sometimes brand new material and sometimes excerpts from my books.

28 February 2010

Grant the Glad Surprising!

I've been doing radio interviews about my new book this week—three back to back on my days off from teaching—and the discussions I've had have reignited my enthusiasm for the scriptural passage that forms the center of A Field Guide to God. In it, Paul summarizes all of scripture to a crowd of Athenian philosophers gathered to discuss the newest ideas: "From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us" (Acts 17:26-27 NRSV).

I just can't get over the promises so efficiently offered here. That all of human history, that everything that seems to divide us, that everything that happens to us, however perplexing or upsetting, is part of a divine plan to make us seek God. That God greatest desire of us is to be sought. That God is always near us, waiting to be found. Inherent in the promises is also a clear plan for what God expects of us: namely, we should not merely seek but grope for God.

In remeditating on this passage anew, it occurred to me how much God's desire for us is like the desires imbedded in any relationship. I thought of how I have gone through days, weeks even, waiting for one of my daughters to get over some perceived injustice on my part, how I long the whole time for her, how I nudge opportunity after opportunity for reconciliation into every encounter.

I thought, too, of how, when my husband Kris is depressed or when he and I have had one of our rare fights (usually these occur sequentially: he gets distant and down, and I flip out and try to fight it out of him), afterwards I get in bed next to him and feel about as far away from him as it's possible to be. Far away in my frustration and hurt, in my inability to solve his stress and dread. Far away in my inevitable anger. Far away in my regret. Far away, even, in my underlying desire to repair what I have damaged and make things right again, which I know to be impossible.

Simultaneously, I know that it is possible for us to restore our usual love, that we will get okay with each other again. We always have, after all. I know that we could even now be on the road back to each other if I would just reach across the great chasm of sheets and blankets and coldness between us, reach up across his back and pull him toward me.

But I can't do it. Can't force myself. But he..., I lie there thinking. It's his ... He should.... And so it goes until one of us gropes past anger or hurt or self-righteousness for the other. Maybe not that night. Maybe not the next day even. Each of us wants and waits and just about makes that move, while the other is never far away, wanting, waiting, just about to move, too. And eventually, in a moment of "glad surprising" I sang about in a hymn this morning at church, love is restored.

It seems to me there is no greater thing in my life than those moments of restored love. Toward a husband. Or a daughter. Or a relative or a friend or a colleague or even a stranger who happens to displease me. What a joy it is to rediscover in myself the capacity to get beyond my own meanness, if only momentarily.

From one ancestor God made all nations to inhabit the whole earth and allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for and perhaps grope for and find God—though indeed God is not far from each one of us. What delightful promises from our creator and father and lover. What a call to action.

1 comment:

cristifhl said...

Thank you so much for this post. WOW - how true are your words! This is one of my favorite passages of Scripture, but I had never heard anyone unpack it the way you did.
Thanks again, Cristina Peña