By Laurie Gudim
Reading this passage from the Book of James, I have to laugh. I recognize myself so clearly in it. I am so like the people he talks about – an adulterer married to God who yet indulges in pleasures from other sources. I know that my relationship with God is the center, the core of my life, and that it fully satisfies me. But that does not keep me from getting all tangled up in other passions, intrigues and terrors. It doesn’t take away my petty worries, my insecurity or my lack of faith. I want what I do not have, and I lash out at those who have it. And if I add my subterranean racism, my unconsciousness concerning privilege, my cowardice in the face of conflict and a few other shadowy things that for some reason just seem to have slipped my mind at the moment, this is a pretty good portrait of me. I am almost always double-minded, very rarely pure of heart.
The God connection is seldom dramatic. It does not surge with the strong emotion that lesser desires carry. It is healthy, nourishing fare, but lacks the zing of the empty carbs of fear or anger. And so it is hard to stay grounded in God and true to my deepest commitment.
Realizing that and acknowledging it is difficult. But admitting my infidelity, my double-mindedness, is necessary, vital, for only then can I find my way home again. And, fortunately for me the way back to God is simple and immediate. It is something that can happen at each and every moment, and should. It occurs when, acknowledging where I am, I then turn around, turn back. Opening my heart to receive my relationship with God in this moment and then again in the next moment, I am salvaged.
We get all caught up in behaviors: behaving well, behaving abominably, behaving in ways that bring glory or in ways that make us want to crawl beneath the carpet in shame. But all this does is keep the focus on us, on our actions. The bottom line is that, no matter how hard we try, we are always going to fall short – always – unless we turn around, grounding ourselves in God.
God is an artist. The Creator uses the palette of our particular nature to paint an incredible work that is multidimensional and completely beyond our understanding or vision until, possibly, that instant after death when our comprehension expands. Therefore the question for us in each of our moments is simply this: where is our attention? Is it on God or is it on some petty intrigue? Are we, for instance, the instrument God can use right here and right now to make another human being feel less isolated, or are we too caught up in fear to act? Where are we? Where is our focus?
In the words of the Book of James, God yearns jealously for the spirit that God has made to dwell in us. Draw near to God, therefore, and God will draw near to you.