Deus in carne
reflections by troy cady
When I think of the human spirit, I think of strength and endurance. Disasters may strike, but we find a way to build once again. When a problem would seem to overcome us, we look for solutions and we do not give up until we have found them.
We will not just let life happen to us, as if we can only remain passive in the face of difficulty. No, we activate our will, we resolve to shape the world, we stir up the reserves we have within to make a difference…to heal, to help, to create.
This is part of what it means to be made “in the image of God.” That’s how the sacred writings put it. God, the Maker, has placed within us the very likeness of God’s own self, the capacity to be co-creators with God, the ability to have a say. God the good King shares the kingdom with us, shapes us to shape the world in love, just because of love.
But love can never be forced. It is an invitation. In that sense, it is one of many options. We can choose to be selfish and competitive, exclusive. Or, we can choose not to care, to remain frozen in fear, apathetic and victimized.
It never ceases to amaze me how even those who have been deeply traumatized find a way to carry on. The struggle to live continues even as the process of healing takes place. Healing may be slow, wholeness may be hard to realize, but we continue doing what needs to be done to lay hold of life, life and more life.
Life is stronger than death. We will not just lay down and die. And even in the face of death Christians proclaim the promise of a life-after-death, a second life. Hear the good news to a world submerged in trauma: life has the last word. By grace, this life is made available to all who would reach out for it in faith.
The Christian story is more than life-and-death. It is life-and-death-and-life. This matters because, before Jesus died and rose again, he lived the struggle that we are living. He lived it for more than 30 years before he died. And, though he was victimized in the struggle, he would not become a victim. Even in death he laid down his life willingly. If ever anyone had a say in how his life would go—in how his life would end—he did.
He was not only willing to lay down his life for others, he proved his willingness by actually doing it. He offered a work of untainted love from first to last. The world has never known love like that, never seen love as deep as that.
As someone who seeks to follow in his footsteps, I aspire to live out that kind of love, to give to the uttermost.
But I can only do this by faith. Faith is the process whereby I take Jesus’ life inside mine (to drink his cup) and I offer my life to be immersed in his (to be baptized in his baptism). Faith is infusion and immersion. It is like letting myself get caught up in joy.
Notice the mystery of faith: it is both active (something I do) and passive (something I allow to be done upon me and in me). But both the active and passive arcs of faith require a consent of my will. God never forces me to believe; it is an invitation, an invitation to be loved and to love.
I invite you to take a moment now and reach out by faith. Ask Jesus to live his life through yours and tell him (the living One) that you want to live your life within his.
When I give this consent to God, the wonder is: the very Spirit of God comes to indwell my whole being—heart, soul, mind and strength. It is by the Spirit of God that I am set free from fear. It is by the Spirit that we are relieved from mere self-concern and delivered from apathy. The Spirit moves, so the Spirit invites me to move with Jesus.
By the Spirit, Jesus is more than a mere historical figure who died on a cross. He lives—which is to say: he rose again and he can live in us by faith. By his indwelling work we no longer have to rely on some kind of deus ex machina, a deliverance by God from the sky, an image of God relegated to mere mythology.
The Christian God is no deus ex machina. The Christian God is Deus in carne, God enfleshed. The call to the Christian is not to look for some divine deliverance without; it is to be in touch with the deliverance God has placed within.
You are the light.
You are the hands and feet.
God has placed the solution to the suffering of others in our hands.
The answer is in you and me.
This seems like a hard commission but the Spirit gives us the power to do this if we will but ask for it. By the Spirit we are moved to act, to heal, to help, to create, to love. The Spirit of Jesus calls us even to lay down our own life, if it comes to it. And the Spirit gives to each of us special gifts—things that only you can do—to be part of this great redemption story.
I wonder: what is your gift? What is it that makes you who you are, uniquely? Are you artistic? Do you have special musical abilities? Are you good with your hands? Do you move others with your words? Some people are especially good at putting others at ease. Others are really good at listening and helping people understand their feelings. Some are gifted in leadership. Some lead us to find joy by making us laugh and I know others who are especially good at asking questions that stir up the pot, unsettling us in a good way.
What’s your gift? It’s true there are limitations as to how some of us can use our gifts but if we are thoughtful and creative about it we can all find an outlet to serve the common good no matter the circumstances. So, I invite you to wonder: how may you offer your gifts to others during this time? And, I wonder: what strength do you need?
You will need rest and grace, to be sure. You’ll need to tend to your own self-care—that much is true. But I believe in the midst of our current struggles we can all make a difference. Don’t lose hope! God is working in you and through you to effect healing, to bring about new life even in the face of so much death.
May it be so. Amen and amen.
Troy Cady is the president of PlayFull, a ministry that seeks to help people and organizations play from the inside out. He is the author of PlayFull: Play as a Pathway to Personal & Relational Vitality, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle edition. To tap into more life-giving content, you are invited to like PlayFull on Facebook or follow us on Twitter. Thank you for reading!