As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable. Just as you who were at one time disobedient to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience, so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you. For God has bound everyone over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all.
I have been struggling to put God into an evolutionary world view. Creation is God’s love and mercy flowing forth and yet we live in what Merton describes as existential dread. We strive to become better, to become more faithful followers of the Gospel and yet, like Paul, we continuously do that which we would not do. Paul had an intense experience of the Risen Christ on the road to Damascus and but he still does that which he would not do. Like Paul, we feel helpless as we come closer and closer to our own nothingness, our total inability to become more than we are by dint of our own effort. This is the stuff of despair; however, Paul’s assurance of divine mercy grounds us in hope.
The highlighted passage from Paul helps me make sense of our aloneness, frustration and alienation. Creation is groaning forth toward the Omega Point when the Kingdom will become total reality. It is groaning forth because the evolving nature of the cosmos and all in it is characterized by both grace and chaos. The instinct for survival that drives our reptilian brains consigns us to disobedience. Instead of answering to call to love as the Creator loves, we disobey—we fail to listen to the call of love. We serve our own interests, our false selves, instead of loving and giving as we should. We strive to assure our own survival.
Why chaos? Why survival? Why disobedience? Paul says it is because God has bound us over to disobedience so that we might know the unfathomable love of God—hesed = mercy, loving kindness. In our anxiety and dread, perhaps even our despair, we come to a place of nothingness, an abyss. It is the desert. It is the dark night of the soul. It is bottoming out. No wonder AA has had such a dramatic impact on our society. AA gets it. AA understands what Paul is saying. We have to come to the place of nothingness, emptiness, and dread so we can discover the mercy of the Creator who lives buried deep within our being, as our very true being, as our face before we were born. Total surrender to the Creator who comes to us countless times each day disguised as our life is the way up and out. But, first of all, it is the way down. We have to fall in order that we might arise, that the glory of the Creator hidden in our being may blossom into the Cosmic Christ living within us. As creation surges forth, we learn to accept the “will” of the Creator as we experience life as it is—not as we want it to be. The grace AND chaos in our lives spurs our divinization, but only if we let go and let God. Partial surrender, lip service will not suffice. Total surrender is the way up and out.
It is love—the capacity to give and care for others and for creation. Blake says that we are born to bear the beams of love. Bearing beams of love does not come naturally. We have to surrender to become the beam bearers of Divine love. The Creator throws us into grace and chaos so that we might become who we truly are.