Monday, March 22, 2010

Who Cares about Your GPA? This Week's Watchword

"Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Phil. 3:13 NRSV

This week's Watchword is about making progress in the spiritual life. To do that, there's a certain amount of forgetting that's necessary. But Paul doesn't seem to be talking about forgetting the old self that is miserably captive to sin, or is he?

Paul seems to be referring to boasting in our own achievements or "confidence in the flesh." Concern over appearance, achievement, and affluence torpedo our movement toward God. And Paul sites a long list of success stories from his own resume that has given him reason to feel good about himself. I don't know, maybe you feel good about the way your Lent has proceeded.

The educational journey for most professions- clergy, medicine, teaching, law, etc. seem to have build-in processes for knocking you down just when you think you've arrived. Every few years, you get to start over, first as a new undergraduate, then as a first year graduate, then as a new intern, etc. And few people really care what honors you graduated with when you arrive at your first parish, or at your successive appointments.

As a Pharisee, Paul attained high status in the upper echelons of his faith community. So, for him, the forgetting is about letting go of the false self so that he may gain Christ and the life that heals and sustains. It's hard to do that when you're absorbed with sticking feathers in your cap. In coming home to Christ, we return to the person we are created to be in God's love, God's image, our own best self.

This is a hard "sell" in a world where we are our resume. So Paul, the consummate achiever, still talks about reaching the goal, but the goal is the prize, the continuing call of following God's guidance for today and tomorrow. Sometimes breaking with your past- that part that especially is all about you- is necessary in order to follow your call. We may be freer to respond to where God wants us.

And that's what spiritual life is all about- our freedom, through the gift of God's grace and deliverance, to choose God.

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