When the apostle Paul sat down to write his letter to the Galatians he was concerned that they had slipped away and forgotten what it was that first awakened their faith. So often it is the case that the original place of connection is lost in the mire and rust of stress, new ideas, everyday concerns, and a general tendency towards forgetfulness.
It is always fun to listen to couples describe how they first met, or their earliest dates. There seems to be a sparkle about the memories of early love that brings us back to what has been most important. Likewise, after years of teaching, or serving in medicine or in the church there can emerge great distractions in institutional thinking, politics, disappointments, and endless details. But when any of these people can somehow remember and reconnect with the reason they began their journey, the moment of epiphany as to why this is important to them, the excitement that opened the door of possibility can again renew one’s hope.
Even in our own lives we can become disillusioned. It is easy to spend so much time helping others that our own deep longings go unheard. Or, we can get so caught up in our own good ideas, gadgets, desires, frustrations and wounds that we separate ourselves from others in order to get ahead or feel safe, when in fact we are only alone and wounded. St. Paul, in his appeal to the Galatians, says in chapter 2, “ I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Another way of saying this is that in God, we return again from our own desire, egos, distractions, busyness, panic and fear in order to finally find the place where we belong, where we are what we need to be, what we were all along – children of God and greatly loved. Christ living in us is the acceptance of who we were made to be, and accepting others for who God made them to be. It is also the accepting of our deep connection, of our being related.
Sometimes it takes remembering our early religious experiences; sometimes it takes remembering the moment of falling in love; sometimes it takes everything falling apart, and sometimes it takes simply time away from the distractions to connect again with the deep sense of being loved. Sometimes it takes the smell of cookies that one’s grandmother once made, the one who loved us so unconditionally, and sometimes it takes someone for the first time finally hearing what it is we are saying or saying what it is we have always felt. It has been said that “one cannot go home again”, or turn the clocks back to the way things were. But we can always go forward to a new moment of discovery of our purpose and connection that is not like it was because it is full of all that we now are as well.
I am coming to see, time and time again, that so much of our world and society is being challenged and changed in profound ways. It is unnerving and sometimes overwhelming. There are times I long for things to be as they were, but what I remember is very limited, not always accurate, and always impossible to recreate. The hope of glory, the experience of Jesus returning again, and the renewal of our faith is not in going backwards but rather in experiencing what Jesus said when he spoke of the Kingdom of God being at hand. Our experience of God in Christ is not a boost once a week; it is our week, and our life.