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  • Writer's pictureDr. Anthony Lilles

The Gift of Life and the Search for God

When life seems to be more of a drudgery than a blessing, it is well past time to search for God. It is before His Face that we come to learn just what a beautiful gift life actually is. The wonder of this creature alive before me, given to my gaze, by Someone who, with no ulterior motive, simply wants my happiness. This is always the deepest truth—that we are beloved by a God who has taken our side, who is not indifferent to our personal plight, who humbly comes to us, desirous to be with us.

To see such immense goodness is to avail oneself of a banquet of manifold living gifts, each nourishing my own existence in ways that words cannot say—if only I allow the sheer splendor of these encounters with truth into my heart. Restitution becomes no more than repaying love for a debt already forgiven and before such Crucified love, there is no condemnation, only joy that the missing coin has been recovered, the pearl purchased, the lost lamb found, the son come home. In finding God and daring to stand before His face, we find what lays bare the heart—our very life.

The vision of God is the project of a lifetime, and thousands of battles are fought to win this prize. Shame beats us down even as our quest begins. We play the blame game at the expense of never entering the arena of life. Unwilling to bear with our own sin, we believe that we can finally set the world straight once we convince ourselves that it is all our neighbor's fault. In the midst of the chaos of this age, where shouts for "justice" stir social wrath, we are vulnerable to all kinds of false myths that distract us from this search. Feeding this frenzy, the news cycle rotates not to meaningful encounters, but to confrontations of spiraling fear, rage and self-loathing, such pursuits as exhaust themselves in what is truly damnable: alienating self-contradictions ever deepened by fruitless gratifications closed off to life. When we do not seek God, we can only sow with rash judgment and reap the wind of righteous indignation. The voice of conscience goes unheeded when we consciously indulge calumny's self-justification. We sit on top of mountains of judgment as storms of destruction come bearing down. Perched so high on pillars of pride, we are unable to shelter under the wings of God. How do I safely descend such a precipice and begin to climb the mountain of God? The Lord allows his disciples all kinds of humiliations, persecutions and overwhelming trials- for without these, I might never learn to live. He even sends his messengers as broken beggars crying for a word of hope. Each cry invites me to come down, to descend to where the Lord is waiting. For my part, the mystery of Zacchaeus comes to mind. I must be on the lookout beyond the structures of sin in which I have enmeshed myself. As long as I am pulled to the periphery of perception, I can easily mistake a blessing for misfortune. With beams in my own eye, I can only see my neighbor according to his splintered sized faults. No, I must not be blind to the glory hidden in those distraught eyes who calls out, "I must stay at your house." The stranger who invokes me can never be an encounter with Author of Life as long as I see only a character playing out his role in the latest social narrative and political conflict. I must stop stuffing my sickly imagination with pig's slop and remember the food of my Father's house. I must be open to what is unfamiliar, uncomfortable and inconvenient—for love is of these things and God is love. The wonder of life will never astonish me if I fail to welcome the friend in need with an open heart—for one treats the Giver just as he treats the gift. It is time to seek the Lord. We risk losing the beautiful gift of life as long as we submit ourselves to any voice other than His. He is never far away—the ears of the heart know the melody of his call even when only a whisper and the eyes of the soul recognize His mysterious radiance even when it's hidden in distress. Yet, even at one's last breath, to hear His Voice and to seek His Face is at last to have finally lived.

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