Hope in the Age of Darkness: Gifts of the Incarnation
The ultimate gift of grace is this: we belong to God. One of the most beautiful passages in scripture is found in these verses:
But now thus says the Lord,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
Brené Brown says that belonging is different from fitting in. To fit in, we must modify something about ourselves. We modify the externals in the clothes we wear or the cars we drive to feel like we fit in with people whom we hope will like us or want to be with us. We modify the ways we think whether it is how we view ourselves, how we view others, or how we think about who is “in” and who is “out.” In doing so, we sell our own souls in an ever-increasing search for a place to fit in.
True belonging does not have the anxiety that trying to fit in brings. Belonging is the assurance that we are seen, and Dr. Brown says it is rarely a large group of people who see us as our most authentic selves. She says that it is usually a very small group, and belonging to a small group that truly sees us and loves us is more than enough to calm our souls and remind us that we are enough.
We live in a world that beckons us to fit in. We tend to be fueled by the anxiety that we will not have enough or look good enough or be enough. In times when our anxieties are heated to an even higher temperature … as they are in a pandemic … the stress leads to some very unhealthy behavior.
But the gift of grace is that God says, “I have called you by name. You are mine.” So as we walk through the flood of a deadly virus, high rates of unemployment, and the isolation this pandemic has brought, we can walk without being overwhelmed. As we face the fires of hate-filled rhetoric and violence directed at Black people, immigrants, the poor, and those who live in the margins, we will not be consumed by the flames. We can do these things because God is with us.
The greatest message of the Incarnation … God made flesh … is the message of solidarity. When God was made manifest in Jesus, it was God’s message to us that we are not alone in this. God comes to us as Emmanuel … God with us!
As followers of The Way, we then are called to see how Christ is enfleshed in us. As we journey through whatever darkness we may face, we are called to look into the faces of those with whom we share a sense of belonging, and it is there that we find the face of Christ … the face of God … looking back at us. When we look and see deeply the suffering and the feelings of being overwhelmed or utterly scorched in the lives of those around us, we offer a sense of belonging by reminding them that their suffering is seen and heard.
It is then, my friends, that grace becomes redemption.
Lord, may we experience belonging with you as we ourselves create spaces for others to belong … most especially in times of darkness and fear. Amen.