30 August 2007

Profession Ring, "Power perfected in weakness"

This ring is the prototype for the profession ring I had made, and will be given this weekend. The difference is that the motto which is engraved on the ring is in Greek, and therefore does not cut all the way through the white gold to the yellow as Hebrew script allows. (Greek is composed of circles, so if they cut all the way through, most of the letter would fall right out!)

Also, it is taken from Paul's 2nd letter to the Corinthians, and is an abbreviation of his statement that, "My grace is sufficient for you; my power is perfected (or made perfect) in weakness." This is, of course, the way Paul characterizes the sovereignty of God being revealed in our world through and in the Christ Event, but for a very long time now, I have known this verse also characterizes my own personal story.

So much of spirituality is a matter of "staying out of God's way" and letting him work in us! By that I simply mean that self-assertion gets us into more trouble in the spiritual life than we can ever guess! But we are indeed, poor, fragile and ultimately ineffective individuals (ineffective in the sense of doing good of ourselves, though not in the sense of doing evil!), and to succeed in the spiritual life we really do have to learn not only notionally that God's grace, his powerful presence, is sufficient for us; we have to really let that be the case.

We may be tempted to hear this motto that God's power is perfected in weakness in a cynical way --- as though God enjoys lording it over us, or takes advantage of our weakness, but the real meaning is far from such a reading. Where we are weak, broken, and godless, God will step in and make us strong, whole, and holy. Where we are unable to save ourselves, God will step in and save us, and in all of these cases he does so by assuming a position of ultimate weakness and loving vulnerability himself in Christ. Where we are wont to resort to self-assertion, God shows us the way himself in kenosis or self-emptying. Where we grasp at life (which is not at all the same thing as receiving life as gift!), God submits to death, so that ultimately life-as-gift may win out over sin, and even over death.

This was the story of Paul's life, and it is the story of most hermits I know (admittedly, this is a fairly small group!). Certainly it is my own, and is one of the key things being celebrated this weekend! (Postscript: I want to thank my sister, Cindy, who bought this ring as a gift for my perpetual profession! She has always been generous, and once again, she demonstrates that; it is just one of those characteristics that has made her so very special to me through our lives as sisters.)