"As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame; / [ . . . ] Each mortal thing does one thing and the same: / Deals out that being indoors each one dwells; / Selves -- goes itself; 'myself' it speaks and spells, / Crying 'What I do is me; for that I came'." --Gerard Manley Hopkins

22 April 2009

Beauty Meditations: Day Three

And here is what should have been today's:

Back in the early years of our marriage, we furnished our home and ourselves largely through garage sales. One day my husband came home and handed me a red blouse he’d found. I was horrified. “I can’t wear red!” I wailed. “Why don’t you try it?” he replied; “I think it would look good on you.”

I’d never worn red in my life – ordinary blues and light pastels had always been my most-worn colors. When, with great trepidation, I put on the blouse, the effect startled me: it brought out the color in my cheeks, made my eyes more green than brown – I looked good in it. If I’d refused to try something that another person had thought would be attractive, I’d have missed out on the pleasure of wearing many of the “winter” colors that I love so much – purple, red, black, teal.

We want to name ourselves; this is our fallen human nature. “I like this; I want this; this is who I am: how dare anyone else try to tell me who I am or who I should be?” Our whole culture teaches us that autonomy is the greatest good, that to trust anyone else to tell us who we are is enslavement and loss. But if we give up the right to name ourselves, how much richer our lives become. Others can see us as we cannot see ourselves – pointing out our flaws so that we can overcome them, our virtues and beauties to help us strengthen and use them in service to our neighbor.

Ultimately, of course, God is the only One who has the right – first by creation and then by redemption – to name us. Richard John Neuhaus, in Death on a Friday Afternoon, writes that “the self is an objective truth to be discovered[, not] a subjective choice determined by the self.” We have an identity: “It is no longer I, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal. 2:20). The “quintessence of original sin,” Neuhaus also says, “is the desire to be like God on our own terms.” We will name ourselves, we will determine in what ways we will be like Christ, we will hold onto our supposed right to choose the ways we will and will not serve Him.

And yet . . . the One whose Name we carry – the very Son of the very God – did not even presume to name Himself. Christ Jesus, “though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name [. . .]” (Phil. 2: 5-9). And we are to have this same mind, the heart desire that abandons self to obedience, allowing God to name us now and for eternity.

How will you allow your Lord to name you, to make you the woman He created you to be?


Anonymous said...

THis is beautiful, Beth. This a.m. in devo time with my kids we talked about how being God's creation, who are we to tell God what is "good" or "bad" or that we know how things should be. Your writing goes along with the thought that we are not our own. What a glorious place to be.

alaiyo said...

Thanks for the kind words, Danielle; I'm glad God could use them! I hope all went well on Sunday -- Beth