I can say quite honestly that I really never wanted to write this essay.
I always looked at the concept of acceptance (as a realm of God) as something that existed on the other side of the mountain for me. And in order to write about something, I had to stand in it, up to my waist at least, and feel its motion. It takes a lot for me to grasp a lesson from God. A whole lot.
And existing on the other side of the mountain from me is a long way away. Way too far away to touch.
It has taken eons for me to view the five realms of God (obedience, surrender, discipline, acceptance, and grace) as steps. Not as equal links in a circular chain, it never mattering on which link you started your count.
But having grace as not just one of the realms, but the last one listed has always been a big, fat clue, as far as I am concerned.
But then came the confoundment.
The words that go with the concept of acceptance (as a realm of God), its definition, go: When God gives you something you want, and you accept it. The key to acceptance is gratitude.
With gratitude being one of God’s three fundamental laws (respect, courtesy, and gratitude).
So a nice, little, neat lesson.
Too nice. Too little. Too neat.
At least for God.
And why so late in the lesson plan? Almost to grace, which must be the queen of lessons. One of those lessons of all lessons, in fact.
A lesson that leads us into incomprehensibility.
And why such simplicity in the midst of such complexity? Obedience is about saying, yes, no matter to whom, no matter to what, except that the act cannot violate the fundamental laws of God (respect, courtesy, and gratitude). It’s key is willingness. So just in this, there’s learning to trust in the universe around you, no matter the face it is showing you. And there is in it a learning that the goal of obedience is not the objective; the goal is to soften your will, as Abraham once did.
Surrender, the most fiery lesson of them all, the lesson of pain and suffering, the lesson that teaches us that whatever comes into our lives, comes from God. Period. The key to surrender is faith. Which reveals to us that faith isn’t just about choosing a ribbon to put on your Sunday bonnet, or singing out in church even though you are tone-deaf. It’s about endurance. Strength. Facing the unknown.
And discipline. We, The Human, want to think of discipline in terms of practicing the piano. Do IT over and over and over, and you’ll get it. You will be perfect. But that’s not God’s discipline at all. God’s discipline is learning to follow. Step in the footsteps of the one in front of you. Not doing. But going. Motion. And all in the name of love. And in this love we have to learn to observe. We have to learn how to learn.
Just these three involve a lot of work. A lot of work.
So just how does receiving something we want from God (and saying, thank you) involve work? Involve transformation of the soul?
Involve a teaching of any kind?
We learn to say, thank-you, when we are given something that makes us happy at our mother’s knee. If we have the right kind of mother, that is.
So what is the big deal?
I’ve been thinking about Job a lot lately. I’m not sure why. Although finding a poem of wisdom smack in the middle of the story, a teaching on wisdom that comes from nowhere, is pretty exciting. A voice from out of the blue. Oh, and by the way, speaking of wisdom. . . . Were we speaking of wisdom? When were we speaking of wisdom exactly? I thought we we talking about hunger, and bleeding sores, and dead children.
I have studied Job from the perspective of stripping: having all that is of value to you taken away. We all go through it at some time or other. Some of us are stripped on a regular basis throughout our lives. Sometimes it’s a partial stripping, sometimes a complete stripping. We lose our ability to walk. We lose our job. We lose our beloved. A child.
And then, what are we faced with? The challenge of starting again. Of rebuilding.
Of accepting into our lives something new and different.
That’s what it’s all about.
It has only occurred to me in the last few days that when we accept something into our lives from God, that it involves a healing. A mending of that part of us that was without whatever-it-was. Darning the hole that existed in our soul because it wasn’t there.
The biggest problem with acceptance is that it is not about need, but want.
I think that is why this concept has always appeared as existing on the other side of the mountain from me: I just never did want in my life. Oh sure, I could want for other people. I could pray for them. Serve them.
But, in truth, I can only think of two times in my whole life that I approached God with a want. One was for a bicycle. The other was for a friend.
I always found, You have what you need, such a challenge to deal with in life that want, in terms of me, never entered my mind.
And, in truth, I imagine a whole lot of people live this way. Or, on the other side of the coin, their wanting just gets them into trouble, so it becomes a source of their guilt. Not their relationship with God.
Obedience, surrender, and discipline, as realms of God, reshape us. Like an exercise program, their teaching strengthens our soul, fortifies our beliefs, makes concrete our relationship with God.
But acceptance, ah, that actually shows us the face of God. The shape of God. The touch of God. Because in accepting what we want, and what God gives us, we come to know just how God sees our life and what he thinks belongs there.
It may not match our pictures of what we imagined. It may have hidden in it aspects that we never imagined would be there.
But in the ever-chanted gratitude, we can open ourselves into accepting what God wants us to have in our lives. The touch of a hand. A pat on the back. The smell of a new home.
In obedience, surrender, and discipline, our relationships with other people are tangential. The emphasis is really on us. But in acceptance, the emphasis is on the other. With God being the most important other in the dynamic.
In acceptance, we are opening ourselves to a new relationship. With what has come into our lives. With our expanded understanding of the world around us. And with God.
It is also, I have come to realize with a rise of my eyebrows, a preparation for grace.
And with gratitude as our tool for getting through this form of healing, we have the greatest gift of all: gentleness.