Thursday, December 15, 2011

"I'm Not Playing, so I Already Won"

Catchy title, huh?  This is what my daughter used to say when the game wasn't going her way.  (we tease her all the time about it now)  In a strange way, this kind of sums up where my spiritual walk has taken me.  Grace seems like an easy thing to understand--"getting something you don't deserve".  But I think it's a tremendously deeper concept than that. 

The physical realm makes some pretty hard demands on us---it's a dog eat dog world, as they say.  It's frightening, really.  And on top of that, there is this tremendous desire to make something of ourselves, to prove win.  We want people to praise us, to notice us, to make us feel we are important.  This is utterly normal.  What child doesn't constantly say, "look at me, Mom!".  This is what the teachers of contemplative prayer call the 'false self'.  Psychologists would probably call it the 'ego'.  It seems to me it's what the Apostle Paul is referring to as the 'first Adam', or maybe even 'the flesh'.   Literalists really don't this kind of talk...your not allowed to question that an actual Adam and an actual Eve were the start of the human race.  For a fundamentalist, your not a Christian if you don't believe that-- because then, "you might as well throw out the whole Bible". 

I'm not trying to be mean; I understand because I used to think the same way...I'm just glad I not longer need the Bible to line up with science in order to believe it has a lot to teach us.  (side note: There very well may have been an actual Adam and Eve; to me, it's not important.  It makes much more sense to me that the creation story is speaking of spiritual truths.  Therefore, I don't believe in a literal 'tree of life' one that grows fruit you would actually eat with your mouth.  That doesn't make the story any less important to fact, it makes it much more important)  So, back to the first Adam.  Here's the scripture I'm talking about :

"If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.  So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man" 1Corn. 15:45-49 

It seems Paul is meaning for us all to identify with the 'two Adams', doesn't it?  We understand on some level that this 'natural' self needs to die, and not just physically.  The 'new' self, the one in the image of the 'last Adam' (a life-giving spirit/the Holy Spirit) takes his place.  How?  Well, that's a tough one, isn't it.  How do we "work out our salvation", without trying to earn it?  How do we trust in faith to save us, and then be told faith without works is dead?  How does being "determined to run the race" have anything to do with receiving grace?    I'm not saying I have it all figured out...but one thing has become pretty clear to me;  if I'm playing the game as the 'old Adam', I'm bound to lose.  If I'm playing with the new Adam, I've already won.  So, in a way, I need to stop trying to win in order to make any progress.  I told you grace was more confusing that you thought!