Thoroughly Alive

We must hunger after the beautiful and the good...


In tension

Can motives ever be pure? This was the question a friend and I debated on my bed last night. I said no and she looked at me askance. "How do you ever do anything then? How do you live without constantly suspecting yourself?

In answering her, I talked myself into articulating a truth I abruptly recognized as one of the rock and brick base understandings of my life: I live in tension. I exist in a state of change, in the taut pull between what I am and what I am becoming.

I am fallen, and my frailty twines and twists through every cell of my being and vein of my thought. I want to love, but every drop of my loving is cupped in my own need to be loved. I yearn to do good, yet my motives are inevitably driven by my unceasing need for acceptance, affirmation, some sense of my being right with God and the world. I yearn to love purely, and I know God loves through me, yet whatever purity of God's goodwill pulses through in my love is inextricably tangled with my own fiery need for love returned.

But frail as I am, the grace of God rises like the slow swell of morning in my darkness. His love is present, pure and untainted by need, and it runs through the veins of my fallen self in a remaking stream. His love does purify my love, his grace heals my need so that I can offer something of myself without demanding something in return. God grows slowly in me, a fullness of Love and slowly, I am remade. But it's all in progress, half done, just begun, and not yet finished.

We yearn for absolutes, I think. We want the black and white assurance that if I do this or believe that my motives will be absolutely pure and my actions will be right. But the black and white, the gem-cut answers of diamond clarity are rarely to be had in human life.

W live in the broken place, in an earth bruised and blackened with grief, yet still pulsing with the beauty that began it. Brightness is all about us, light and love, music and friendship, an air that fills the lungs of our souls with life even as our feet are mired in death. We breathe it, dying into life as our God draws us to himself. Grief is the music to which we are born, yet joy is the rhythm by which we walk our long way to all that God intends us to be.

And all is lived in the tension between the broken now and the brilliant soon-to-come.

In so many ways, nothing stays and nothing is sure. Not our motives, nor our goals, nor our knowledge of ourselves. For God is moving us on toward his own life and we must simply follow the river flow of grace. We follow one slim, golden cord of God's changeless good through all the changing of our lives. We walk on toward the rising of his day light in our darkness, even as we journey on through what Lewis called "the shadowlands."

So no, I don't have a pure motive in me. Only a self being slowly made pure and a God whose love draws me forward through the tension and into his own eternal good.

Sarah Clarkson11 Comments