Friday, March 18, 2011

I want to be good, but good is being simple ...

So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments of the Lord your God and his decrees that I am commanding you today, for your own well-being. Although heaven and the heaven of heavens belong to the Lord your God, the earth with all that is in it, yet the Lord set his heart in love on your ancestors alone and chose you, their descendants after them, out of all the peoples, as it is today.

Circumcise, then, the foreskin of your heart, and do not be stubborn any longer. For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who is not partial and takes no bribe, who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and who loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall fear the Lord your God; him alone you shall worship; to him you shall hold fast, and by his name you shall swear. He is your praise; he is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things that your own eyes have seen. Your ancestors went down to Egypt seventy persons; and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in heaven.

- Deuteronomy 10:12-22

“Circumcise the foreskin of your heart?” Now that’s a really disturbing mixed metaphor! Yet I get it. Don’t just mark yourself as God’s own in an outward way. Change your heart. Let go of your stubborn refusal to become vulnerable and human and less than Godlike. Understand the role you play. Know your place.

Knowing our place isn’t very popular. To our ears, it smacks of repression. It sounds like God doesn’t want us to be the best we can be. But let’s try it another way: “You are God, and I am not.” Knowing our place means being humble. It’s doesn’t mean underachieving. It means being realistic about our realm of influence.

It means relaxing and enjoying the party, instead of constantly trying to look like the coolest kid in the room.

The prophet Ezekiel writes at one point that God will replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. You can’t circumcise a heart of stone. You can’t change it. It is unyielding. We need squishy hearts, as the Judybats put it in their 1993 song “Being Simple.” This song presents us with the entire dilemma of choosing to be vulnerable:

I want to be good/
But good is being simple/
Simple is forgetting/
And I simply can’t forget.
I want to be great/
But greatness is giving/
Giving leaves me empty/
Oh great emptiness

Do we need to forget in order to let go of our stubbornness? If so, what do we need to forget?

Does giving leave us empty? Is that a misconception of the stubborn heart? Or do we need to become emptier in order to receive God?

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