In our spiritual walk, we often will hear teaching and sacred text speaking about the "glory" of the divine. Many easily admonish one another to not be taken up in human glory but rather to be focused on God's glory instead. Well, what does that look like? The spiritual booby trap for today I want to discuss is ascribing to God a more human like notion of glory.
Spiritual Booby Trap III--A Gory Glory--by LA Jamison
To put it quite simply, we are taught human glory as something that is haughty, showy and competitive. Our desire to shine isn't always dirty but it can be addicting to have the approval and eyes of the crowds. The Biblical balance is said to be walking in the glory of God rather than so much human glory. However, we really aren't taught about this divine replacement, God's glory much. Ask yourself, how do you define God's glory? Many don't realize that they subscribe those very nasty human like characteristics of glory over to God. Subjectively we are taught that ONLY God has the right to 'show off', 'take credit', or 'be called #1', etc. After years of seeking God, I personally never gave a second thought to the awe of God and acknowledging God over self. I san't say I was perfect at it, but I was pretty good at it. Keeping this street real, God get's the "street cred" not me. Makes sense to most us Christians, right? Yet, something never felt right about that to me, down in my core.. Truly, the Bible itself says "my people parish due to a lack of knowledge" so let's clear this up a bit.
Here are a few definitions of the word "glory" (taken from Wikipedia)
high renown or honor won by notable achievements.
praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to God.
magnificence; great beauty.
a luminous ring or halo, especially as depicted around the head of Jesus Christ or a saint.
take great pride or pleasure in.
synonyms:take pleasure in, revel in, rejoice in, delight in;
congratulate oneself on, be proud of, boast about, bask in;
informal get a kick out of, get a thrill out of
exult in unpleasantly or boastfully.
Now, note something about these definitions. In #2.2 of the definition of the word glory, you will see that there are a set of antonyms to the word glory, "lowliness, modesty". There are definitely some things about these definitions that easily relate to the divine. However, what is missing here and often in our understanding is that God's glory came in lowliness, modesty--the very antonyms that supposedly counter the actual definition of glory itself! Henri Nouwen in his book "Show Me The Way: Daily Lenten Readings" says
"Human glory is always connected with some form of competition. Human glory is the result of being considered better, faster, more beautiful, more powerful, or more successful than others. Glory conferred by people is glory which results from being favorably compared to other people...,"
How often do we say or think people who say they know God should be seen as "better", "more beautiful", "more successful"? How often do we think of God and glory as something to do with being powerful or that those who know God are those who are more "favored" compared to others?
"How then do we come to see and receive God’s glory? In his gospel, John shows that God chose to reveal his glory to us in his humiliation. That is the good, but also disturbing, news. God, in his infinite wisdom, chose to reveal his divinity to us not through competition, but through compassion, that is, through suffering with us. God chose the way of downward mobility...The glory of the resurrection can never be separated from the glory of the cross. The risen Lord always shows us his wounds." (quotes taken from http://soulstream.org/gods-glory-human-glory/)
There is greatness in the Divine. There is majesty that is due reverence. Don't get me wrong. God is not a wimp. God is beautiful and powerful but God's glory is in His restraint from abusing this beauty and power over creation. I wonder when we sing God's praises and say things like " give God the glory", if we are still thinking of a human ego in God that is arrogant who sees us as less than and demands we acknowledge "HIS" achievements, his fame, and power. Yet, as the quote above says "The Risen Lord always shows us his wounds." Jesus never "lorded" himself over anyone, nor did he come to us in a way to make himself appear so much greater than us, leaving us feeling like wimps. All that would do is primes our human egos for a show of our own power over those less fortunate--just as we would see God doing to us? Not a conscious level (because that would conflict with our beliefs) but a subconscious level that comes out in real funky behavior. Who hasn't seen that funky behavior at Church of the "chosen" over all the rest?
When we exact on ourselves a diluted, misplaced view of glory, it resurfaces in other ways, in gory ways that hurt and divide. It is an act we can feel called to do because we know human glory isn't allowed but we don't know what to do with that. If we stay with just suppressing that or carrying it along, our ego can't handle it. We will subvert our need for human glory and instead project that on a God. We will portray God as haughty and fame hungry. We will give God the human glory we won't allow ourselves to have. When we feel we are in God's favor, then we get to be in that human glory again, its just re-labeled and re-packaged as "God's glory". We send it on over to God and then reconnect with it later and in parts when we are on spiritual highs.
What we need to do is get a real concept of God's glory to replace human glory with. I've seen the result of subverting our human need for glory and projecting it on God time and time again in Churches. I've experienced many congregations over my 20 years of spiritual worship giving the most exuberant worship with everything followed by a "Glory to God!" and "Praise the Lord". Yet, those very same congregants subjectively emulate a competitive God. They do this through fighting over church positions, control, being seen as super spiritual or as the establishment of a ministry that demands protectionism by sheer longevity. By looking at the outward, you would think they were super spiritual. Yet, on the inside they are but death as you experience these people on a personal level. We all have experienced that. People who don't really care about people, but more or less there to do their spiritual duty. It doesn't come from the heart but rather 'In Jesus name" only. In this way, their human glory can live on somehow in the God of their imagination. Be ware if you get in their way of getting in on God's glory (really their glory) because they will let you know it!
Divine children like Jesus hung out with oppressed, poor and handicapped people. Think about that the next time you see these multi-million dollar preachers or denominations that say heaven's highway starts down that yellow brick road of their idea on how the world should be seen, or by buying that prayer cloth. God humbled him/herself to the manger, to a donkey for a valet, and to death on a cross...not so God could later come back to say "see how humble I can be? bow to me!" It wasn't about committing humble ACTS: It was living it and being it for all time. Why? That is where real authenticity is. When comparison and competitiveness go out the window, than you are just living and loving with no boundaries to it. You can then worship a God who is loving, beautiful and awe inspiring, full of majesty and respond to that just because God is, not because God is holding anything over you as a "greater than".
Is God greater than creation? Well, we know this logically in some sense of what that means. However, I don't think God even looks at it that way because parents don't focus on being greater than their children, only perhaps more experienced. I believe God rejoices most when our realness connects to divine realness and then we participate with glory rather than a part from it--as something other than us. Why? Wherever I see this I see God moving in great acts of love. Remember: We are "new selves", "new wine skins", not "no selves" or "empty selves". God hasn't called us to be nothing in the light of his greatness. God's glory is different than human glory and it is greater, but we are part of that greater now if we want to be. It is a new idea of glory but a much better one than many of our present limitations and human definitions.