My approach to Bible reading has varied widely over the years--aggressive & goal-oriented, study-driven, non-existent, argumentative...you get the picture. Of late, I've taken a new tack--I read a short section, basically just till I come across something that "sticks". Then I spend some time in stillness, sometimes reciting the words, sometimes thinking about them, sometimes just being quiet. I've found that this approach, more than any other, tends to let the words and ideas really filter down and begin to change me. This method, if you could call it that, is a really good fit, reflecting my deep interest in Scripture as related to transformation, of both my self and my world.
At this rate, I typically work my way through a chapter or two in a week. Except now. A couple weeks back I stumbled onto 2 Corinthians 5, where the writer "implores" the reader: "Be reconciled to God." Huh? What, exactly, does he mean? Reconciliation, in our world, is most often used in the context of two opposing parties--say, a perpetrator and a victim--finding a way into forgiveness and relationship. Or two ethnic groups agreeing to set aside past differences and move forward together. Two-way street sorts of contexts. Give-and-take sorts of relationships. Reconciliation with God seems a little more, oh, one-dimensional? Isn't God supposed to be doing the forgiving? Me, the accepting? What, exactly, does reconciliation look like with God?
I've thought about these words, been quiet with these words, prayed about these words for several weeks. They were playing as a sort of background noise when I started reading "The Covenanted Self", by Walter Bruggeman. And then they jumped to the foreground with a startling clarity.
In describing what Moltmann has labeled "the dialectic of reconciliation", Bruggeman writes, "I have argued that lament concerns the full assertion of self over against God and praise concerns the full abandonment of self to God. This drama of assertion and abandonment is indispensable for life with this God...Moving back and forth between lament and praise means always shifting positions, getting up out of our seat and changing roles...Live communion with an initiating and responsive Thou requires precisely such vitality, energy, freedom, and courage."
So, according to Bruggeman, reconciliation with God is not a static "position". It's not something I simply receive. It is an ongoing process, daily, of determining how to relate to an active, moving God. In Spanish, there are two forms of the verb "to be". One is ser, which means to always be. The other is estar, which means to be right now. It seems that reconciliation with God is probably more of an "estar" sort of activity. Each day, each moment, in the context of relating to a God who is suprisingly different than I expect, I find how to be reconciled.
This, I believe, is a compelling way to view reconciliation. It invites me into an active, dynamic sort of interaction, one which allows for the flux of real life and relationship.
One, in fact, that frees me up to move on to the next verse.
(Sculpture is "Reconciliation" by Josefina de Vansconcellos, at Coventry Cathedral. Image: Creative Commons)