By Suma Varughese October 2003 Do unto others as God does unto us I often ponder on the nature of God, and it staggers me to dwell on his infinite qualities. Who can praise him enough? It seems to me that he has, to the ultimate degree, every form of goodness feebly echoed by any part of creation. Creativity, intelligence, love, compassion, mercy, tenderness, agility, grace, dexterity, charm, innocence, spontaneity, joy, laughter, sense of humour, selflessness, generosity, acceptance—there’s no end to it. I love them all, but there are a few qualities that I cannot be sufficiently grateful for, for they are the cause of our salvation. One is his unconditional, profound and all-embracing love. God does not want us to be perfect. He loves us just as we are. Often, I have a terrible time accepting myself as I am, especially when my warts appear to gleam and glow in technicolour. At such times, I despair of ever becoming better. It is the steadfast belief in God’s love that eventually reconciles me to myself and keeps me going. God doesn’t judge us no matter what terrible things we may think and speak and do. Why then should we? How quick we are to judge and condemn. When we move away from condemning and judging, the wellsprings of our love and compassion get released and we are moved to help, comfort and listen How intolerant we are of other ways of being. How superior we feel to others. How doomed we would all be if God were like this. God’s love, on the contrary, is accepting, healing, redeeming. In his embrace, we never need to feel that we are hopeless or beyond repair. There is always, always, always, a second chance. How do I know this? Isn’t it obvious? He’s the Creator. If he didn’t approve of me, if he didn’t love me, would I even be? Yet, here I am, large as life, writing this. But God’s love manifests in far more profound ways than logic. Most of us live to experience that love in one way or other. Either through the tenderness with which we are shielded from life’s dire calamities or, often, through our very collision with these calamities, when we discover, with growing wonder, how huge we really are. The other quality is his faith in us. Even when we no longer have faith in ourselves, in our capacity to come out of a certain scrap, or in achieving our goals, God has faith in us. This was brought home to me through my personal experience. I received my wake-up call only after hitting rock bottom. And that’s not a pretty place to be. Because I had such a low esteem of myself and zero faith in my abilities, it seemed such incredible grace that I should have been granted the insights and truths that gave meaning to my life and that restored my will to live. It made me realise palpably that though I had written myself off, God had not written me off. He had a faith in me far greater than any I could manifest. It is this faith that keeps me going through my worst phases of despair. We can witness this faith in the dogged way the same scenario is presented to us over and over again until we finally master the lesson it must teach us. Are you afraid of failure? Failure will court you repeatedly until you can look at its iron face indomitably. Is anger a failing? Prepare to be irritated indefinitely until you can rise above it. Anything that we fear or resist will show up repeatedly in our lives. Only acceptance will defuse its power over us. Because that is the lesson we have to learn. If only we could keep faith in those around us. How often they flag and give up simply because we do not encourage and support them enough. We cruelly tell people that they will never change, thereby condemning them to not changing. Why not remember what God wants us to know; that we are all redeemable, no matter where we are? Third, God gives us total freedom. Imagine we have the power of not believing in him or reviling him. We have the power to murder, hate, rob, or rape. I don’t advocate doing these things, I only point out that we have the power to do them without antagonising God, or putting ourselves beyond the pale of his mercy. It’s another thing that karma makes us pay in exact measure for whatever we do, but God’s love remains constant. We may even turn away from God or lose sight of him, but he never reciprocates. When he appears distant, it is because we have moved away and not he. He remains ever loving, ever faithful, waiting for us to turn to him again. We have the freedom to think, say and do what we want because God wants us to love him in freedom and not because he wills it. Despite this, though, we never grant those around us this same latitude. As parents, we often decree our children’s curriculum, career and spouse, little considering their own inclinations. As bosses, we treat subordinates without respect. As religious leaders, we tell people what to think and who to believe in. All this runs counter to the freedom that is our spiritual and moral right. None has the right to take away this freedom. The fourth quality is mercy and compassion. The grace of God is a very real thing. Undeserved blessings flow our way. Heartfelt prayers get heard. Help comes when we are most in need. All of us have had that experience. It behoves us therefore to do likewise. Everywhere is misery and want. People long for love, for companionship, for food and for shelter. When we move away from condemning and judging, the wellsprings of our love and compassion get released and we are moved to help, comfort and listen. We will increasingly lend ourselves to becoming instruments of God, doing what little we can to heal the world’s misery. Knowing the nature of God is a small but important step towards becoming like God. N.B.: I apologise to all offended by my use of the masculine pronoun in referring to God. I don’t mean this literally—but it is convenient, and my Judeo-Christian background inclines me to it. My own concept of God is of the nameless, formless one!
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