Friday, February 10, 2017

Before I Formed You: Identity & Purpose


When my wife was pregnant with our older son, one of the most exciting moments was the first ultrasound. Despite the fact that the image looked more like a weather map than an unborn infant, I had tears running down my cheeks. This was the first moment that I got to see my son. 

This image came to my mind instantaneously when I read my favorite prophet, Jeremiah, when he wrote, "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you . . ." (1:5). How beautiful it is to grasp this with all of your being. What God is telling Jeremiah, He is telling us. "Before you knew, you were known." Meditate on that. Before we were ever formed, God knew us. Before we had a physical shape, we had a spiritual one.

Isn't that amazing?

Before we were ever born, we are spiritual beings. From the time we are born, we are on spiritual journeys. God is found in every particle of creation. All flowed from Him and was formed by Him. God is in our DNA, in the core and substance of our very makeup.  And, as the second part of that verse tells us, ". . . and before you were born I consecrated you . . ." 

Consecrated in Hebrew is qudash and it means: become holy, declare holy, dedicate, keep the holy, manifest, sanctified, set apart, transmit holiness, be hallowed. Be honored or treated as sacred. 

The word was used in connection with the shew-bread used in the temple by the priests.

Before we were ever born, before we were pushed through the birth canal, we were consecrated by God just as the shew-bread was consecrated by the priests. Before we were given our names, before we were cleaned of all the amniotic fluid or the umbilical chord was cut, before our parents set eyes on us, God said, "I have a plan for you. You are mine."

We always think of newborn babies as miracles, but do we ever stop to see them as God sees them? As consecrated? We were not only formed by God, we were not only created in the image of God, we were not only known by God, we (before we ever wailed our first scream or took our first breath outside our mother's body) were consecrated by him.

He declared us holy from before even the moment of conception.

Do we look at ourselves that way? Do we look at others that we come across each day in this manner?

When Moses saw the burning bush, he stood there long enough to realize the bush wasn't being consumed (typically this happens after 5 to 10 minutes) before he grasped that this was not just a burning shrubbery, that this was Divine Mystery in action. Once this beginning to grasp the reality of the moment happened, then God spoke to Moses. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." The place where you are is consecrated.

Do we approach others in this manner?

Do we see that God has consecrated each one of us with a purpose, His purpose?

I know I don't. I barely can register when I'm doing his will.

But it is because we have all lost sight of this truth, that God consecrated us before birth, that we spend so much of our lives stumbling and fumbling and groping through the dark to make sense of who we are, what our purpose is, and why we make such a fallen mess of the very lives that God gifted us with.

"The only true joy on earth," Thomas Merton wrote in New Seeds of Contemplation, "is to escape the prison of our own false self and enter by love into union with the Life Who dwells and sings within the essence of every creature and in the core of our souls."

Sin is what keeps us from being the consecrated beings He created us to be. We believe in the false self, the self that is disconnected from the understanding that Christ meant when he said, "The kingdom of God is within you." He was not only referring to himself, but that we were ultimately created to be the kingdom of God here on this very earth. We were consecrated for that holy purpose.

Yet most of us cannot or will not believe this. We will settle for the cheap baubles that our culture dangles in front of us and markets as happiness. If you drive this car . . . If you wear these clothes . . . If you have this job and make this much money . . .

Consecration is discarded to pursue the fantasy that keeps us from the very reality we were created for. It's as if we were children happily eating mud pies outside when our loving parent has prepared us a chocolate cake. "I have better things for you." God says but we just keep ingesting the mud pies.

"Consecrate yourselves," Joshua told the people of Israel, "for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you" (3:5). How many of us need to hear those words in our own lives?

Set yourselves apart. "Be holy, because I am holy" (1 Peter 1:16). "Offer your body as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God." Why? Because that was how He created us. He created us as consecrated and when we live in the manner our Creator meant for us then we will begin to see that He is "going to do amazing things" among us. As Watchman Nee wrote, "Consecration is not how much we can give to God. It is being accepted by God and being granted the honor of serving Him."

Once we begin to see that we were created in this fashion, we will not only begin to see ourselves differently, but others as well. How would our attitudes be towards those around us if we realized they were consecrated by God? That is no less miraculous than a burning bush. Yet we are dulled to the miracle of that reality and we see the brokenness we have in this world because of it. We see the disconnection and lack of community and compassion that our culture suffers from.

That is why we must read a verse like Jeremiah 1:5 and grab hold of it tightly. Cling to the truth that we are consecrated before we are born. We are known by our Creator who has not only formed us but engraved our very names on His palms.

How much different will the world be when we start living in a consecrated manner?

"On earth as it is in heaven."

Amen.






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