Thursday, September 25, 2008

God is the audience

You may remember a while back, I posted some passages from a book I've been reading called "Gilead." I had put the book down for a while, but brought it with me to Michigan and just read this passage last night which I really liked and so share with you today:


This is an important thing, which I have told many peple, and which my father told me, and which his father told him. When you encounter another person, when you have dealings with anyone at all, it is as if a question is being put to you. So you must think, What is the Lord asking of me in this moment, in this situation? If you confront insult or antagonism, your first impulse will be to respond in kind. But if you think, as it were, This is an emissary sent from the Lord, and some benefit is intended for me, first of all the occasion to demonstrate my faithfulness, the chance to show that I do in some small degree participate in the grace that saved me, you are free to act otherwise than as circumstances would seem to dictate. You are free to act by your own lights. You are freed at the same time of the impulse to hate or resent the person. He would probably laugh at the thought that the Lord sent him to you for your benefit (and his), but that is the perfection of the disguise, his own ignorance of it.

I am reminded of this precious instruction by my own great failure to live up to it recently. Calvin says somewhere that each of us is an actor on a stage and God is the audience. That metaphor has always interested me, because it makes us artists of our behavior, and the reaction of God to us might be thought of as aesthetic rather than morally judgmental in the ordinary sense. How well do we understand our role? With how much assurance do we perform it? I suppose Calvin’s God was a Frenchman, just as mine is a Middle Westerner of New England extraction. Well, we all bring such light to bear on these great matters as we can. I do like Calvin’s image, though, because it suggests how God might actually enjoy us. I believe we think about that far too little. It would be a way to understand essential things, since presumably the world exists for God’s enjoyment, not in any simple sense, of course, but as you enjoy the being of a child even when he is in every way a thorn in your heart. “He has a mind of his own,” Boughton used to say when that son of his was up to something. And he meant it as praise, he really did. Now, Edward, for example, did have a mind of his own, a mind worthy of respect.

No comments:

Post a Comment