A transcript of a talk by Trevor Miller (continued from Part 1)
So as this New Year continues to unfold, let’s resolve to seek God but to do so fully aware
1] That we don’t know the future but God knows
Imagine God planning for our future! He desires us to have hope – a confident expectation of His blessing and provision in the days ahead. Hope causes us to walk forward into our future with faith and anticipation, even though we don’t know every detail. And we don’t want to, because we are mature enough to know that if God showed us every detail of our lives, all at once, the good, the bad and the ugly, we wouldn’t be able to cope; we would refuse to face another day! So God reveals our future to us in portions we can digest – like a loving parent feeding their child only the right type and amount of food that their child can sustain. God wisely reveals what we can understand, perceive, and apply at any given time.
Our part is to ‘keep on keeping on’ in our seeking God, mindful that as His plans involve the ‘landscape of the heart’, and that at times our perception may become clouded by the inner conflict with ‘the world, the flesh and the devil’, He is constantly at work within us by the Holy Spirit, prompting us to ‘go to the cell and your cell will teach you everything’.
We resolve to seek God knowing
2] That we choose to live the risk of faith, to live in uncertainty and paradox with trust in God alone
‘I know the plans I have for YOU’ – individually = alone; community = together. He knows, and yes, we remain open to His telling us bit by bit – but we don’t need to know; we need to trust because His promise is ‘a future and a hope’ that will bless us not harm us.
Mature faith is risking your life, throwing yourself into it with abandon. It’s our very challenging Day 4 and 5 meditations. (The Prayer of Abandonment and the Methodist Covenant prayer). It’s our Brendan Liturgy – a call to risky living. We must understand that, ‘The opposite of faith isn’t doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.’ A lot of people confuse certainty with faith. When you’re absolutely certain you have nothing to learn, there’s no mystery; no risk, no real joy. We are called to adventure; living the questions central to our ethos – ‘Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’
Our Community ethos gives us the gift of life as sacred space, which allows us to live with paradox, mystery, and chaos so that despite feeling quite vulnerable and unsure of ourselves, we also feel safe. Because we have learned to be at home in the realm of not knowing. St Thomas Aquinas wrote, ‘This is the ultimate knowledge of God, to know that we do not know.’ But He does!
Finally, we resolve to seek God knowing
3] That we do so as the persons we are – being and becoming. Again Merton grasps the heart, ‘What you have to be is what you are’. We need people who understand ‘who they are’ in terms of vocation; who will not seek an identity in what they do or what they possess but will so concentrate on their being (inner journey) that all their doing will proceed from seeking God, knowing self so as to better live/work in Community. As Jeremiah, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”.
The Desert Fathers saying puts it well, ‘Do not give your heart to that which does not satisfy your heart.’ Vocation is God is here, God is now, God is in this, and so I will be attentive to God in the ordinary, mundane events of daily life. Our vocation is an awareness that to live ‘a new monasticism’ means that wherever we are/whatever we do we are committed to working with our hearts as well as our hands and our minds, exercising the soul in prayer, keeping company with God, seeking God in each other as we look for ‘the Kingdom in the streets, live church without walls, strive to put relationship before reputation’ etc. etc.
This is to understand that at the heart of vocation is spiritual formation. Basically the ideas central to spiritual formation are two-fold:
A] We have been formed by the Spirit of God: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you” Jeremiah 1.5.
B] We are engaged in the process of having Christ formed in us by the Holy Spirit: “until Christ is formed in you.” Galatians 4.19
The first idea is about who we are. The second idea is about who we are becoming. A mixture of Being and Becoming. We still have growing to do, changes to make, ways to become more fully formed, by God, in the image and likeness of Christ. This is the heart of Philippians 2 of ‘working out what God works in’ as a continual process, which will continue until Christ is fully formed within and through us.
As we resolve to wake up to who we are, we begin to ‘make something of our lives’, because we understand that the most real thing about us is the Holy Spirit. That we are the place where God chooses to dwell; the place where God happens. This enables us to face everything else we may be, so that our mistakes, sins, stupidity, regrets, are put in perspective so that we can face the truth about ourselves without being crippled by what we see. Forgiveness is part of God’s plan. And so is His delight in us.
This is why in monastic spirituality ‘seeking God’ always involved seeking an awareness of ‘who you really are’, the true self. To be able to get up in the morning, look in the mirror, and see what God sees; someone unique, unrepeatable, remarkable, and beautiful. This is part of our ethos and has become a homecoming for many; being in community with people glad to recognise each other as fully human, as God’s handiwork? Each a work of art in progress! Philippians 1:6 “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus”. The Divine Mastermind says “I’ve started, so I’ll finish’. Wonderful grace!
This is what we take into 2014 – who God is, who we are and what He has promised – a future and a hope. We have entered this New Year (Alone/Together) with real thankfulness to God for his faithful provision for us, protection of us, and perseverance with us through thick and thin, so that his purposes can be fulfilled in and through us. So we share the aspiration of our Brendan Liturgy
Lord, I will trust You, help me to journey beyond the familiar and into the unknown.
Give me the faith to leave old ways and break fresh ground with You.
Christ of the mysteries, can I trust You to be stronger than each storm in me?
I determine amidst all uncertainty always to trust.
I choose to live beyond regret, and let You recreate my life.
I believe You will make a way for me and provide for me, if only I trust You and obey.
I will trust in the darkness and know that my times are still in Your hand.
I will believe You for my future, chapter by chapter, until all the story is written.
Focus my mind and my heart upon You, my attention always on You without alteration.
Strengthen me with Your blessing and appoint to me the task.
Teach me to live with eternity in view. Tune my spirit to the music of heaven.
Feed me, and, somehow, (in 2014) make my obedience count for You.