Christmas and “The Scandal of Specificity”

12 12 2009

Christmas is coming!

So it’s the perfect time to talk about one concept (which is more than a concept) that has shaped most of my thinking and learning over the past four years, been foundational to my understanding of how to be a counselor, and influenced almost everything I have written or ever will write on this blog: The Incarnation.

To get started, I’ll share a clip from one of the most profound artistic statements about the Incarnation that I have seen: The movie Bruce Almighty.  (Skip ahead to 5:25 of this video, and watch to 6:27.)(Or click on this link to have it cued up to the right point for you.)

Why do I think this is profound?  And why do I think it has anything to do with the incarnation?

Because in this video, God is slowly, patiently mopping the floor; an activity that has some value, but not what you would expect God to be “wasting his time” on.

One of the most beautiful – and suprising – things about Christianity is the specificity of it.  In our culture, we tend to think the most valuable things are those that are most universal.  We value abstract ideas and broad concepts.  We prefer to think of God as a nameless “force” that infuses everything equally with its love and goodness.  God, we think, can’t be pinned down with specific ideas, and “Surely”, we think, “There can’t be just one way to God.”

Christmas challenges all of these notions, and, as C.S. Lewis says, shows how un-Democratic God can be.  God did not reveal himself to all the world!  Instead, he chose one man (Abraham) to become the father of a nation (the Jews) that would carry the knowledge of the one true God.

“Within this nation there is further selection: some die in the desert, some remain behind in Babylon.  There is further selection sill.  The process grows narrower and narrower, sharpens at last into one small bright point like the head of a spear.  It is a Jewish girl at her prayers.  All humanity (so far as concerns its redemption) has narrowed to that.” (C.S. Lewis, Miracles)

Contrary to all of our intuitions about what God must be, God was, in the Incarnation, not everywhere, but somewhere.  He was “over there”.  He got hungry and ate some lunch.  He sometimes ran out of time and couldn’t minister to everyone he wanted to.  If he ever “wasted” his time doing one thing, it meant there were hundreds of other things he would not have the time to do.

And yet, he doesn’t seem to have ever been distracted or in a rush.  He engaged fully with each moment and each person he encountered.  Every moment, he was fully here, fully now, fully present.  Incarnate.

In our frenetically-paced, workaholic world, this makes no sense – which is why it can be called a “scandal”.  There is so much to do! There’s no time to just sit and “be”!  But in Christ, this is just what God did.  He took the time, in a sense, to “mop the floor”.  Slowly.  Patiently.

Some have said that Jesus came, in part, to teach us what it really means to be human.  I think this is what they mean.  He shows us how to really exist, how to really be alive.  How to be a specific person at a specific time and place, fully incarnate.

You may remember that at the end of Bruce Almighty, Bruce learned what God wanted him to learn when, instead of revelling in the infinite power God had given him, he slowed down enough to really listen and engage with the prayer of a single person.

This is what it truly means to be God-like.

In the end, Bruce learned to “mop the floor”.

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One response

15 12 2009
Scott

Tim, Through my yogic practice and meditation, “mopping the floor” is something I have found to make so many things happen and come to fruition. So much more than being so busy I can barely see before the task list before me. What does one do when he doesn’t have time to meditate or pray? Why, meditate and pray of course. By becoming aware of our humanity, we can become so much closer to God as he is inside each one of us. I love that you found this basic precept in “Bruce Almighty”.
Cheers, have fun,
Scott

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