A friend recently posted a quote on Facebook from the spiritual giant Meister Eckhart: “Do nothing for God.”
The quote shocked me.
Really? Nothing? It sounded self-centered, narcissistic, like sitting on the couch for the rest of my life eating potato chips and watching football.
I questioned my friend. But, if we feel gratitude for what the Creator has gifted us, wouldn’t we want to express that gratitude by doing acts of love and charity, like why we give gifts at Christmas—to express love outwardly?
Certainly, my friend explained, but what Eckhart’s saying is that our actions need to flow from God through us, not from our obsessive attempts to somehow win God’s (and others’) favor.
Our actions, my friend helped me understand, need to flow out of a deeper listening, out of our quiet times with God, our times of receiving his nudges, his inspiration and direction. Then we become God’s prayer, praying in and through us.
In other words, she explained, being must come before doing.
Being—sitting alone in the quiet with God and simply letting him love us—must come before our actions so we can hear the quiet whisper of God’s voice within our hearts. By taking time alone to simply Be with him, like sipping coffee with a friend, we learn to trust his Voice, know its unique tone, its resonance within us. And then, after we’ve allowed our hearts to touch God’s, we’re ready to move into action and respond to his invitation.
Eckhart’s quote spoke deeply to me. Wow, I realized. I’m still the little catholic boy trying to please God and others. Trying to get that pat on the head, that ‘atta boy, from a God who already knows and loves me just as I am. I keep trying to find him by doing, trying to get his attention. Look at me!
And my most recent Don Quixote escapade for God was trying to set up a website to invite others to meditate and enter into spiritual mentoring. I had convinced myself in a knee jerk reaction to a Facebook ad that creating a meditation website was what God needed from me. Inviting others to mediate and then walking alongside them as a spiritual director, I thought without thinking, was how I could use my gifts and talents to serve God.
But my friend and Eckhart’s words challenged me to step back and ponder: what was my real motivation? Did God come down from on high one morning and tell me he wanted me to build a website, like he told Noah to build an ark? Or were my actions being driven by my own desire to do something for God, something he never asked me to do?
I then pinpointed it was that familiar army-tank energy inside of me that had convinced me to try and become a cyber savior. It was my ego, not my discernment, that had become my motivation. It was as if I was pushing God aside with my project, telling him, “Don’t worry, I’ve got this salvation thing handled.”
Eckhart’s words and my friend’s post, invited me in that moment to a deeper Being. To taking another step inward. To become still and empty myself of my constant need to do something for God out of my neediness for approval.
So, after spending a few days holding Eckhart’s words in my heart and pondering where God was really inviting me, I pulled the plug on the website project. Poof. Gone. Suddenly I felt an inner freedom, a breakthrough, as I let go of my compulsion to try and get God to love me by what I do.
I realized Being is perhaps more important than doing.
As I sat in my Quiet-time the day after I shut down the new website, I checked in with God again to make sure he was really okay with me dropping the project. And as I listened, I felt the Creator’s gentle smile in my heart whispering, “Don’t worry. I’ve got this salvation thing handled. Just Be.”
—brian j plachta
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What’s grace? What metaphor can give us a better understanding of what grace is and how it operates in our lives?