A few weeks back we did this affirmation exercise in a ministry group I belong to. You take a piece of paper and write your name at the top. You pass your sheet to your right and take the sheet from the person on your left. You read the name on top and then write one or two words describing the gifts you see in that person that they bring to the group, and pass it right again. Then when you get your paper back, it has all these compliments on it. Warm and fuzzies all around.
Except I had a hard time with it.
I read the list of kudos and could not own them. I couldn’t help thinking that the nice words — “kind”, “wise”, “creative”, etc. — did not reflect the real me but some ego-motivated image I project, a false mask. The real me cannot be “extremely wise” and “very spiritual.” I’d like to be that some day, but I couldn’t own those things people said about me.
It was a whole week or two later in prayer that I realized that I indeed did not own the things on that sheet. I had just re-read Thomas Merton saying to me that I am spoken like a word from the being of God and therefore am a unique articulation of a part of Her Being. I may not have felt right when people wrote those things about me, but they are so totally right when you speak of God. And so, though I cannot own the compliments I receive, I can celebrate how God chooses to show Himself to others through me. Compliments are simply another way to praise the God you see through others.
And I also realize that I can know God in his infinite goodness by looking at the great qualities of the people around me. This brings me to my wife.
This week is Heidi’s birthday. It’s a time that I want to reflect on all she is to me. I’m trying to make plans for a celebration and gifts, but it’s hard for me because I cannot afford money-wise or time-wise anywhere close to a true appreciation of the goodness she brings to my life. So, as part of my lame attempt, this week is Heidi week on Overflow.
You may have noticed that when I talk about God I sometimes use the female gender. I try to give the feminine side of God equal time. I have no problem thinking of God as a woman because the person in my life who manifests God to me most often, whose qualities most reflect the divine in my life, who ministers more to me then any other human as Christ would, is a woman. I know that God is a woman, at least in part, because of Heidi, my wife.