Samuel David Belt (b. Jan 6, 2019), our fourth grandchild. Amazing.
I started 2019 with Martin Laird’s book Into the Silent Land. I hope to do better this year at practicing silence and resting in the present moment. I have a few phrases I use to bring myself back into the present when distractions sidetrack me – the Jesus Prayer of course is one, but also the ‘Abba, Father’. I speak it along with the rhythm of my breathing. ‘Abba, Father’ is as constantly running in my mind throughout the day as anything now.
Anyhow, as I was in prayer this morning, a phrase came out of me, or so it seemed. It wasn’t the result of a discursive train of thought I was pursuing. I wasn’t crunching numbers or trying to solve philosophical puzzles. In silent prayer you exit discursive thought and rest in the present moment. I pretty much suck at sustaining it. I feel like I spend my time kicking the world’s noise out of my head. But occasionally there’s a moment when the house inside is quiet and (Ps 46) I ‘know that he is God’. The thought was “I am your gift to me.” You can see why it can be spoken with ‘Abba, Father’. It’s the same relation. As I breathed that in and out for a few moments, another similar phrase was born: “I receive myself as a gift to you.”
Now I was pondering this thought more intentionally. Was this just more noise trying to interrupt my silent prayer? Or was this the content of that prayer? Strange content, no? To be a ‘gift’ is as wonderful a thought as any, but a gift both “from God” and “to God”? I seemed to be caught up in someone else’s conversation, someone else’s gift-giving. A third phrase mounted in portions: “I am in you…,” “I am in you, from you…,” “I am – in you and from you – for you.” That is I am in God, from and for him.
I was out of my chair by then looking for pen and pad. As I winded my thoughts down, a final line appeared on the horizon: “You are God’s gift to himself.” This was familiar, for I’ve said it before to others, but this morning God said it to me.
Salvation is participation in God’s relation to God (Rom 8.15 – we are given, by the Spirit, the Son’s own cry of ‘Abba, Father’). Creation is intra-trinitarian gift! Is it so fantastic a thought? As I thought about my own kids it was clear to me in each case that in having a child Anita and I were giving ourselves to each other, and that each child was our gift to each other, but also that we were giving ourselves to each child. All the relations were implied and fulfilled in each other.
You are God’s gift to God! Prayer is about experiencing yourself as that.