Will you love the “you” you hide if I but call your name? Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same? Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around, through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?
Christian mystics have understood for centuries that one way we come to understand more of who God is is through a deeper understanding of ourselves. We may be far from perfect, but we are all created in the Image of God, to love and be loved. Which means that there is some good within us, even if it is buried far beneath the surface.
This is perhaps my favorite of the verses from John Bell’s beloved hymn because it admits that an essential task of faith is the love ourselves as we truly are – who God has created us to be.
Our world is drowning in fear. And one of the easiest ways to promulgate it is to encourage self-loathing. Now, I am still a Reformed pastor, so I do believe that we are all fallen, inheriting the sin of previous generations through the education we receive from systems that strive to keep us apart. I also believe, however, that God resides within us, calling to us even before we understand it – wanting (and equipping) us to be better, to think better, and to do better.
As the writer of John’s letters said, “Perfect love casts out fear.” We have far more power within us than we think and many scholars have pointed out that we fear our light far more than our darkness. Darkness is easy. It is comfortable. It is the way of the world. Light takes courage. It uncovers what is hidden. It creates life out of the shadow of death.
In order to serve God fully, we must quell the fear within us and love the self that God created. It is beautiful, however marred it may have become, because of its Creator. And the wonder of the walk of faith is that God is constantly reshaping us into the one we are meant to be.
The other great thing about this verse is that it also draws our attention to another important lesson from the mystics: all of the prayer and contemplation in the world is nothing if it does not lead to action. In essence, the writers have summarized the remarkable poem of Teresa of Avila, which states:
Christ has no body but yours, no hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands; yours the feet; yours are the eyes. You are his body. Christ has no body now but yours.
“It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)
Learn what this means, and then go and do it.