If Paul was a Jew among Jews, I am a first-born among first-borns. I live my life religiously. About twenty years ago, I went hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Western North Carolina with my family and some family friends. The place where we were hiking crossed a rocky bald where there were patches of sensitive lichen. A helpful sign instructed hikers to follow a trail of yellow painted dots to minimize the ecological impact of hundreds of booted feet. After a few minutes of ambulatory dot-to-dot, we sat down to look at the view. My mother, always aware of her children, had seen my careful attempts to minimize my lichen-impact, and teasingly asked if I was sitting on a dot.
I was sitting on two.
I have done quite a bit of good. But to what purpose? Somehow, we, the church, are still living balanced on a scale with our ancient Egyptian friends. Am I good or am I evil? Yes.
I am good and I am evil.
As I journey through the Christian experience, life, struggle, I have come to believe in grace. It seems like an intangible dimension in which we move. It is present in our motions of goodness and not annihilated by our motions of evil. I do not understand its nature, but I have felt it. It could be atonement, but it does not have to be.
John Wesley taught about the different natures of grace. He taught that baptism was a way for people to receive grace. Baptism is a moment and a motion. A moment of naming this one as a child of God and a motion of ongoing work. Yes, there might be a moment of justification—atonement, but the funny thing about moments is that we don’t get the whole picture.
Einstein’s theories involving space and time have shown (to other people) that space and time converge in some way, and, somehow, that shakes out to mean that, from the standpoint of physics, all time is now. I have really tried to grasp this. I have. Maybe someday I will. Within this theory, I already do. Even though now-me doesn’t truly understand them, Einstein’s theories give a definite nuance to our experience of time. Even though we experience time in a linear way, it is not the most accurate understanding of time, but because we cannot experience time in its fullest sense, we are left feeling like our experience is paramount.
If all time and space are concurrent, how can we speak of a moment of atonement. If all time is now, then you exist in all forms of yourself, now. Our only response to that, other than puzzlement, must be this: Life is contained in the infinity of now. There is no before or after, there is simply going further into now. Now is the intersection of grace and the Christ. Now is the joining of the self and the anti-self. If you choose to become present to now, folding into the flow of love, then the infinity of now will become the abundant, eternal life all were promised.
Since I cannot grasp the infinite nature of a moment, confined, as I am, to a linear experience of time, I must satisfy myself with this: life is more complex than our doctrines can explain.
Beware of absolutes.
This is slightly adapted from Andrea Lingle’s upcoming book, Into the Abundant Deep: A Credulous Journey of Faith, due to be released spring of 2018.
Invitation to Missional Mindfulness:
Throughout Advent, the Invitation to Missional Mindfulness will be taken from the Advent Incarnate Incarnational Group Guide:
- In what ways did you experience or observe God’s presence over the last week?
- In what ways did you feel distant from God this past week?
- How would you like to grow in your relationship with God this next week?