This is my sixth post in a series on Ann Voskamp's One Thousand Gifts. Each post will cover one of the eleven chapters of this book on seeing God and learning how to live fully... right where you are. Each post will be tagged 05/2014 and One Thousand Gifts. All quotes in italics are from the book.
Chapter 6: What Do You Want? The Place of Seeing God
During my education courses in college, I came across a quote that got me thinking: "Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid." The quote is attributed to Einstein, though it seems he never actually said or wrote it. And while I don't necessarily agree with it (I, for one, am no genius), it unearthed a bunch of questions about my assumptions regarding my students and what I (and others) required of them. What standards are we holding them to and why? How can we help our fishes excel at swimming and our monkeys excel at climbing? But mostly it made me think a lot about what we're meant to be and do. If the idea is that a fish is meant to swim and asking it to do anything else will set it up for failure, what are we meant to do, meant to excel at, and what pursuits will simply set us up for failure?
Chapter six is about seeing God.
With these big questions, these heady theological deals, it's best to turn to the professionals. The Westminster Catechism is a favorite around our home, and while I would love to memorize it one day, I only know the first question by heart. And now that I'm thinking of it, I should make myself say it, out loud, every day, first thing in the morning. It asks: "What is the chief end of man?" Answer: "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever." Well, there you go, fish. This is our swimming. Anything else is our climbing trees.
I think it would be safe to ask me now... What does this mean? Or as Ann asks: "How do you open the eyes to see how to take the daily, domestic, workday vortex and invert it into the dome of an every day cathedral?" We live on this very earthy earth and we do earthy earth things. We have dirt to clean up and hunger to satisfy and fatigue to remedy. How do we take our physicalness and make it spiritual? How do we meet God, see God, hear God so that we can enjoy Him and glorify Him? We need to look.
"No matter how manifested, beauty is what sparks the romance and we are the Bride pursued, and the Lover pursuing, and known or unbeknownst, He woos us in the romance of all time, beyond time... Any created thing of which I am amazed, it is the glimpse of His face to which I bow down. Do I have eyes to see it's Him and not the thing?"
We embark on this journey to find joy and light in the darkness and we begin counting, see gifts, bringing them up close, naming them and so stopping the torrent of time to embrace the gift of the Giver. And she's said it before, it's not the gifts that fulfill but the holiness of the space, the God who gave them. But we have to go beyond simply seeing these great gifts, opening our hands to receive; we need to look beyond those gifts to the One who is giving. We should consider how He reveals Himself to us in these gifts and what great things about Himself He wishes to teach us. And when we see Him there, we can't help but give thanks.
"The truly saved have eyes of faith and lips of thanks. Faith is in the gaze of a soul... The art of deep seeing makes gratitude possible. And it is the art of gratitude that makes joy possible. Isn't joy the art of God? ... Joy that fills me under full moon is the joy that always fills God... He is not a tyrant or despot. I smile under the moon. For God is happiest of all. Joy is God's life."
We open our eyes in faith. We see the gift. We thank God for it, and this thanking brings us joy. Joy is wonderful and all, but we don't seek joy for the sake of joy. We seek joy for the sake of God. God is joy. And us? We're meant to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. This joy that comes from the gratitude that comes from the gift... it is our function. It is our purpose. It is our swimming. And it is the one thing that we must have to exist as we are meant to exist. To thrive. To live.
"Because isn't my internal circuitry wired to seek out something worthy of worship? Every moment I live, I live bowed to something. And if I don't see God, I'll bow down before something else."
Here's where this gets essential. This isn't a matter of joy versus sorrow. This isn't a matter of having a "happy" life or having a crappy one. This is a matter of all importance, beyond any other endeavor you could pursue. You were made for this one thing -- to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever -- and you will always seek to do that thing (just like fish will always try to swim, even on dry land). You can't not bring glory. You can't not search for joy. But you can bring glory to all the wrong things and you can seek joy in all the wrong places. Cast your eyes out your door (or not-so-deep into the internet) and you will find a million ways to bring yourself joy or bring something or someone glory... in any way other than glorifying and enjoying God. We must seek God, or we will serve ourselves or our jobs or our families or our desires. We will get caught up and we will lose sight and we will end up fishes climbing trees.
"I am a wandering Israelite who sees the flame in the sky above, the pillar, the smoke from the mountain, the earth open up and give way, and still I forget. I am beset by chronic soul amnesia. I empty of truth and need the refilling. I need to come again every day -- bend, clutch, and remember -- for who can gather manna but once, hoarding, and store away sustenance in the mind for all of the living?"
Any extra manna the Israelites tried to collect would disappear in the heat of the sun. They needed to return to God, every morning, for their sustenance, their fuel, their very existence. It's this same mystery, how we can know and see and experience God and within a day, within moments, we forget and we turn aside. So we must return, we must seek to see, we must find, or we will turn aside. We will lose our way without an aim, without an end in sight.
Can you see how this won't happen on accident? Can you see how easy it is to miss this? We wake up and get to our doings and we whoosh by in the doing and we forget to swim. And after a whole day of trying to climb a tree, we are tired and frustrated and unfulfilled and we seek out any temple, any pleasure to bring us back to our rightful place, to fulfill our need to glorify and find joy. The placebo effect works for a little while but after days, weeks, months of this, we start to wonder why we are here at all. We have to train our eyes to see God. And we can't just see Him once or twice or here or there. We must seek to see Him daily.
"Faith is not a once-in-the-past action, but faith is a way of seeing, a seeking for God in everything."
This is our walk. This is our faith, an intentional seeking and seeing of God that we might glorify Him, that we might enjoy Him. It is why we are and it must be who we are. And here's the thing: it always ends in our joy. It may feel like work at first, begrudgery, an obligation. But God is a God of joy and this thing he wants for us, it is what we are meant to do. It is the air we are meant to breathe. And it is the "secret" to our eternal fulfillment... in Him.
Tune back in on Thursday, 5/15, for my post on Chapter 7: Seeing Through the Glass
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