Life is much more than it seems. There is so much more going on than meets the eye. I have a friend who is frustrated with this how unspiritual life seems and how little of God’s verifiable, active, supernatural involvement anyone truly experiences. “There’s too much clay,” he summarizes. I understand well.
But my problem is that I love the clay. I love it so much that I would even say that there is not enough clay, except that I know it’s just my own limitations that make it seem that way. What I mean is that there are only so many people I can love in this brief moment I have here, and there are only so many people I can enjoy. To complicate it, love and enjoyment often don’t look that way except in the rearview mirror, and some things that look or feel like love or enjoyment are not that at all. But the limits of my loving and enjoying clay is not the clay. And on the flip side, there is only so much time for a few people to enjoy me, love me, change me, bless me, hurt me, rob me, take advantage of me: to perfect me. My limits are locale and time. The clay, however, is everywhere. And it’s wonderful.
One of my long-time friends is named Clayton. I have a newfound love of that name. For if indeed this world is “Clay Town” then I am happy to have lived here. Somewhere in the Bible it says to love not the world nor the things of the world, for the world and all that is in it is passing away. But somewhere else it says that God so loved the world that He gave his own Son as a gift to it. It’s strange that the same writer, John, would make such a blatant contradiction. He tells us not to love the world, but rather to have the love of God in us, which loves the world (comparing John 3:16 and 1 John 2:15). I love the world, because it is here that I have met and been affected by beautiful and powerful beings that have awakened my soul to her destiny.
But only God can truly awaken. Only God can effect irreversible change. He is the source of all life, and the source of all growth. And yet, people and other creatures have done this to me. As they are vessels that have received the Spirit of God, and as they are mirrors that have reflected the glory of God, they have been interfaces I have had with the God who is in all, over all, and through all. I am not ashamed to worship the Spirit of God in those people, and in those things. As I connect with them, I connect with God. And as I move closer to them I move closer to God. As I have done it unto one of the least of these, I have done it unto God.
People are more than lifeless vessels whose only real value is the Spirit of God inside. The people I love are more than clay pots. They are living vessels. The very image of God. The breath of God has animated some red dirt and created somehow little gods (says Jesus in John 10) who are beautiful and terrible as I would expect gods to be. But these are not Isaiah’s man-made gods whose leftovers were burned to cook his food and keep him warm, but rather God-made gods, whose leftovers are precious to Him and worth binding up if they become broken, God-made gods that were born to be
Christ—for Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces. (Hopkins)
C.S. Lewis remarked in Weight of Glory that “there are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously—no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner—no mere tolerance, or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”
All of the trouble I have had with Christians has come from their inability or refusal to see themselves as they truly are—glorious. I have the same frustration that William Wallace had with Robert the Bruce in Braveheart. He had so much glory in him, so much authority, so much to give, so many to inspire, but he got convinced through the bad advice of his father that it was best to protect his own interests. He got convinced that his only shot at glory was in manipulating and excercising power over others through various forms of persuasion, compromise, negotiation, and coercion. He was made to believe that his glory was really no glory at all. The father of lies turned his glory into shame. Wallace was confused, hurt, and frustrated by this. I share that. Because so many don’t see themselves as they truly are, they are threatened by the ones around them. And because they are threatened, they either do one of two things: give in to pride and begin competing, or give into malice and begin accusing. Either step up or pull down. Either justify self or blame another. Anything to keep from feeling empty and alone. Instead of just...being...glorious. But even though you refuse to see I refuse not to. I will resist the temptation to look with my eyes. I will trust to hope and to imagination that has been born of this gift of faith. I will continue to see that the fellowship of the glorious is real and it is as close as the breath we share.
More than it seems these dreams inside
Blur reality's line
If I could believe the dreams aside
I am capable more than it seems (Kutless, More Than It Seems)
We are more than we seem. We are misted by a mythic reality. There is so much that must be imagined, believed. There is so much to fight for in the face of certain defeat, so much to see only when our eyes are closed, so much to believe, so much to disbelieve.