"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Goodness Hidden in Plain Sight

By Micky Wolf

With great care, my beloved and I planted the bulb exactly as the directions described and placed it in the picture perfect spot to receive the most and brightest natural light. It sat there. And sat. And sat some more. Weeks went by and nothing seemed to be happening. 

While "shy-marylis" may not have been sprouting signs of new life, it became obvious God was speaking to us through this humble bulb. Finally, one day in my regular foray past the table—there, barely above the ragged, rough, layers of green and brown, a small, pale, stem—our shy one is growing!

One of the greatest challenges for any Christian is to believe God is at work—for our good, the good of those we love, and for that matter, the greater good of mankind. It is in our nature to want signs as clear indication that He cares, that He truly has our best interests at heart. 

It is hard to believe goodness may be present when there seems little evidence it really exists. Interestingly enough, however, believing in its simplest form means to have a firm conviction of the goodness of something. And therein, a challenge. What is good? Where is good? 

Outward appearance—only part of the picture 

By God’s design, the tough, rough, exterior layers of the bulb serve to protect what is beneath the surface. Such structure works well for the amaryllis.  You and I, on the other hand, have been given a physical body to serve as an earthen vessel bearing a most precious aspect of who we are as beings created in His image and likeness—a soul, a heart, and a spirit—all of which have been designed to beat in harmony with the indwelling presence of our good God. And yet, how often does our outward appearance give a completely different impression?

The rough, raggedy edges you and I carry about are often not of Divine creative design. Over time, we accumulate layers of unloving and sinful attitudes and behaviors of our own making, believing it necessary to act on our own behalf to provide protection against the painful realities of living in this fallen world. As a result, the goodness within each of us is hidden. Allowing God to peel away these layers of self-protection will take time, but when we cooperate with His work in us, good is brought into the light to thrive, bloom, and be a blessing in a world desperately in need of its presence and beauty.

Goodness—God’s perspective is always objective

Our perception and understanding of what is good is usually limited by the lens through which we view God, others, and self. Our wherewithal to see and know the goodness we carry in plain sight is affected by the story—in all its messiness and seeming “ugliness”—of our own life. In our persistent efforts to self-protect, we end up masking our goodness and in the process, fail to see the good in others. 

Making the choice to acknowledge and accept God as omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent is a good beginning in trusting Him to nourish and bring forth the good He has planted within us. But remember—He has also imbued us with the gift of freewill. We, unlike the amaryllis, can also choose to stand behind the layers and the walls and the locked doors of our hearts, even as He awaits our invitation to enter in.

Evidence shown forth—God’s time, not ours

Our tendency as human beings is to grow impatient with what we perceive to be a lack of progress or action. The spouse isn’t changing, the toddler isn’t potty-trained, the day is cloudy rather than sunny—and oh yes, the bulb is taking too long to sprout and grow. From the sublime to the ridiculous, we allow ourselves to get caught up in the it-is-not-happening-fast-enough syndrome. 

While we struggle with feeling compelled by unseen forces to move, and move more quickly, God is only too aware of our need, whether we accept it or not, to savor, appreciate, and live in the moment. We like to talk about the slower pace of the good old days, yet the reality is our parents and the generations before have all faced concerns and issues of too much to do and too little time.

God’s goodness is evident all around us—in the people we encounter, in the tiniest creations of nature, in the muted grays and blues of a cloud, on the wings of the sparrow at the backyard feeder. If we persist in moving through our day with haste, we may miss some the most precious evidence—and gift—of that Divine goodness.

Four big, bold, and beautiful blooms

To believe—have a firm conviction as to the goodness inherent in something or someone—is a choice we are called to make in each moment of each day. When we begin to realize God knows not only what is good, but the manner in which the good is to be made manifest, we open ourselves to untold blessings of a twofold nature: first and foremost in being a vessel of good to others; secondly, in receiving of the great good that is all around us.

Do I tend to decide what is good by outward appearance?

What are some of my rough, raggedy, self-protective layers?

How do I feel about allowing God to peel those away?

Will I trust God to gift me with goodness in the way He knows best?

What goodness do I need to believe for, in God’s time, not mine?

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