Heaven AND Earth
“For God to be born a human being, born in a stable among the poor, shows that we already have redemption. Christmas is already Easter because if God became a human being, then it’s good to be a human being! The problem is already solved.”
Those are not my words; they belong to Richard Rohr. But they help me get started on several thoughts on the matter of Incarnation, which for me is even bigger than the matter of Resurrection. If we would do a better job of holding the Incarnation on equal footing with the Resurrection, I think the world and the Church would be drastically different. If God became a human being, then it is good to be a human being! The problem is already solved. Not by us, of course, but by God himself.
If God became a human being, then the here and now is as important as later on; earth is as important as heaven; this life is as important as life after death. One of the big reasons the Christian faith has held me all these years is its honest approach to pain and struggle. The Christian faith doesn’t offer a way around pain and struggle; it offers a way through pain and struggle. Life involves suffering, the Cross tells us. Any notion that there is some magic formula out there that will eliminate the struggle does not hold water. Christ embraces pain and death. You and I must do that as well.
But somehow, as the Church has been honest about pain and death, we have de-valued this life and put more emphasis on the next life. Life is hard, we acknowledge, but there is a payoff later on. Yes, there is more to come, always more to come. But the more we talk about the more to come, the less we value what is here and now. Can we see that this life is as important as the next one? Can we see that God dwells in both? Can we dwell here and now, while we wait patiently for what comes next? God becomes a human being to help us value the here and now.
If God became a human being, the journey is as important as the arrival. The more we are focused on where the path will take us, the less we value the path itself. As we focus on where we will end up, the more we miss along the way. As we focus on where we will end up, we immediately start judging the paths others are taking. They won’t get to the right place, we think, and so we try to get everybody to take our path. But we don’t even really value the path ourselves. We only care about where the path leads. The best preparation for tomorrow is to live fully today. If I keep missing the wonders of today, how will I see the wonders of tomorrow?
If God became a human being, we can embrace vulnerability instead of trying to concoct invincibility. We prefer to think of God as one who will give us power over our adversaries, one who will rescue us, one through whom we can gain control over our environments. But invincibility is a ruse. In this moment, all I can ever really choose to be is vulnerable. I can admit who I am, what I fear, what is real and true. We’ve all tried to choose to be invincible. It doesn’t work. It’s part of the reason we pray and worship, because we can’t gain power ourselves. We need help. To admit that opens a whole new world. To be vulnerable is simply to be honest and real. Pretense keeps some pain away but pretense creates more pain and makes joy impossible.
If God became a human being, we can embrace the struggle instead of living only for success. I don’t think I’ve ever learned anything through success. It is the failures, the losses, the mistakes, the stumblings that have led me to any wisdom or peace. We want the victory, we want the win, we want the gain. When faced with struggle, we avoid, we medicate, we ignore, we pretend, we hide. When we hit the wall and have to face the struggle, then we see that this painful moment is sacred and that it is part of the healing and wholeness we desire.
If God became a human being, we can live into accepting our circumstances instead of trying to conquer them. We’re so busy trying to solve the problems in our lives that we typically create only more problems. There is a universal truth in relationships: The more I try to fix you or change you to suit my needs, the more you stay the same. When I accept you as you are, suddenly you are free to grow and flourish. The more I try to change myself, the more stuck I become. But when I just admit who I am, the whole world shifts. Grace slides into that opening. I become free to grow and flourish.
If God became a human being, I can let go of the outcome of all my efforts. I can invest in the place I stand. I can take the next step in my life without the anxiety or the pressure of where or how things will end up.
If God became a human being, then being human is as important as being divine. “We’re only human”, we apologize and rationalize. Rather than claim the gift and responsibility of being human, we slough it off and wait for the magic solution.
If God became a human being, what we do here matters. How we treat each other is important. How we care for creation matters. The material world is as important as the spiritual world. We’ve separated them and we imprison God in the spiritual world and dismiss the holiness of this world. What we own, what we share, what we waste, what we misuse matters. How we construct economic systems matters. Everything matters.
If God became a human being everything matters. You and I matter. If God became a human being, then it’s good to be human! The problem is already solved. And there is faithful work we are called to do. The more we live into being human in this world, the more like God we become.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.