For God is working in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do what pleases him.
When I was a child, and even into adulthood, I have always admired and appreciated a good ventriloquist. I have tried to duplicate their skills, but failed miserably as I tried to pronounce words that included a ‘b, p, or m’. My lips move without fail, or else I emit some unintelligible mumble. I would have to resort to substituting letters or avoiding certain words entirely.
But it is still fun to pick up a puppet and breathe life into it; give it personality, and carry on conversations. As an imaginative kid, I could amuse myself for hours. As the puppeteer, I could make the puppet go anywhere I could imagine, do anything I could imagine, experience anything I could imagine, and be a totally different person than I was.
When I put the puppet, or sock, or toy away, it became inert. It was no longer alive. Does this sound like a familiar metaphor?
The puppet and puppeteer is not a new idea as metaphor between God and humankind. The Bible uses the potter and the clay as a metaphor; the idea is the same. Without God’s loving intervention, we are basically lifeless lumps of flesh and bone. Without God’s loving energy and involvement, we are just a sock. But when God moves through us – wow – we can be pretty amazing, and do some wonderful things. And unlike me and my sock puppet, when God expresses through us – there are no limitations; there are no substitutions necessary. God’s lips don’t move. There is no mumbling; there is only perfection.
The caveat is that we must allow God’s expression. Yes, God implants us with desires to follow His lead, but we have free will – we can refuse at any time. We can impede God’s flow through us. That’s when we mumble and stumble and reveal our greatest opportunities for improvement.
John Maxwell, businessman, author, wrote:
Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. It may mean giving up familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, and relationships that have lost their meaning.
For me, that is the most frustrating aspect of humanity: we are capable of so much, but we allow our little selves to get in the way. We get timid or doubtful or want to do it our way. We deny the puppeteer from guiding us and therefore miss out on experiencing new and novel places and people; we deny ourselves the joy of expanding who we are and what we can do.
Sadly, we stuff our ears with ego so that we cannot hear the melodic strains that Life is humming to us. We would rather cling to the security of the ineffective familiar than open our hearts and minds to the extraordinary within us.
But God keeps picking up the sock and playing through us. Spirit continues to lead us on new adventures, breathing courage and freshness into us and encouraging us to participate in Life.
And it’s not just us human beings that God likes to move through; it is all of Life: Every blade of grass, every animal, every tree, every atom, molecule, and cell.
Through all of Life there is a continual song resonating throughout the Universe. The tune may change from life form to life form, but the lyrics all sound the same: I want to live. I want to share all that I am. I want to grow and become all that I can be.
That is the song of life. It can be heard and seen and felt in all of Life. We watch as the seed bursts through the ground to feel the warmth of the sun. It is singing the song – I want to live; I want to be. The new born baby cries as it draws air into its lungs, and it starts to sing – I want to grow; I want to share all that I am and all that I can be.
I envision it as God’s tendrils of love reaching through every one of us, and every other form of Life, wanting to experience Life from all of Creation, sharing the entirety that Spirit offers. You will share differently than me as Spirit expresses uniquely through each of us.
God’s tendrils desire to reach out to each other, joining in the power of Life; weaving together, becoming stronger and more able. This idea reminds me very much of John’s mystical description of the Christ: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It is just slightly different: In the beginning was the Song; the Song is with God, and the Song is Life.
Yet, humans can tend to shy away from this God-power, wanting to rely more on the human mind. We hurt each other because of some imagined wrong inflicted upon us. We separate ourselves into small communities and grapple with each other over resources or land, or some other petty idea. From God’s perspective, it must seem so trivial; but God experiences our anger and hurt and unforgiveness, and continues to love us, forgive us, and transform us into something beyond our lowest cravings.
Judaism just finished their most holy of religious celebrations – Yom Kippur. The central themes are atonement and forgiveness. One of my Jewish friends sent me this Yom Kippur sentiment:
To those I may have wronged, I ask forgiveness;
To those I may have helped, I wish I did more.
To those I neglected to help, I ask for understanding.
To those who helped me, I sincerely thank you so much…
It seems to me that Yom Kippur attempts to get us back in touch with God’s balance. God is trying to sing through us as forgiveness and love, as service, giving and attention, and as gratitude. Yom Kippur helps us remember that we are Children of God.
One of the most important functions we serve while in body is to help other Children of God hear this song of Life. Carl Rogers, psychologist and counselor, made this remark: In my early professional years I was asking the question: How can I treat, or cure, or change this person? Now I would phrase the question in this way: How can I provide a relationship which this person may use for his own personal growth?
Intuitively we know what is nurturing to ourselves and others. It is in our spiritual awareness. We feel guilt and shame when we truncate Christ’s movement through us. Some of us have become so accustomed to those feelings that we believe they are a normal and natural experience. We don’t even slow down to think when we feel guilt; we may even consider it a sign of weakness.
But these feelings are pointers, indicators of a more appropriate behavior and thought.
Ephesians 5:1 says: Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. How can we best imitate God? I believe my best imitation of God comes from allowing God to use me like a puppet – guiding my life, putting words in my mouth, feelings in my heart, and thoughts in my mind. How much better can I imitate God than by singing that song of life: I want to live, I want to grow, I want to expand and transform. I want to be all that I can be, and pursue everything that God is excitedly pointing out to me.
When we are willing puppets to the Christ, we don’t see mistakes or lack. God’s lips don’t move; there are no tricks. Like Pinocchio, there are no strings, and we become ‘real’ children of God. When we surrender all of our doubts and fears to God, then we join in Life at its fullest, Christ at the fullest; all the best that Life and the Christ have to offer is available to us. When we allow God’s Song of Life to flow through us we become more than we can imagine. This is because it is not our imaginations at work, but the Imaginings of the Divine Puppeteer.