B is for Becoming
(This is the second post in my new "Spiritual Alphabet" writing series, in which I will offer short reflections on words related to spirituality. Feel free to suggest a word!)
B is for Becoming. This word comes up in just about every spiritual conversation I have, so much so that some of my soul friends have begun to smirk each time I mention it. Almost a decade ago, my friend Anne offered it to me as an alternative word to the two I was struggling to hold in tension: being and doing. The idea of becoming holds the tension of the questions of Who am I? (being) and How should I live? (doing) and moves it forward with another: Who am I becoming?
What is God doing in me, in this moment, that is shaping the person I am becoming, according to God’s good purpose?
This forward movement keeps me focused and hopeful when I feel stuck or unsatisfied with where I’m at. It also disempowers my all-or-nothing thinking that says my experiences are either the best or the worst. When life feels challenging or fearsome (or boring or uninspired), the question of my becoming infuses my present circumstances with a sense of future-inspired meaning and purpose. What is God doing in me, in this moment, that is shaping the person I am becoming, according to God’s good purpose (Romans 8:28)?
This is not about endorsing hardship or suffering as a God-ordained “learning opportunity." Rather, it is a spiritual practice of meaning-making in the midst of whatever life throws at us. Even now, if I were to look at my hardest wilderness experiences with a close-up lens, I would see only the suffering and loss and loneliness. But when I shift to a wide-angle lens, I can see how those experiences helped shaped me in profound ways into the person I am today.
When I felt hurt and angry, I had no choice but to shout it out in prayer and talk to God about it.
When despair and purposelessness threatened to overtake me, I learned to wrestle with God until hope and purpose returned.
When loneliness left me bereft, I pressed in to more intimate connection with Jesus.
When my outward path seemed like a dead end, my inward journey flourished with new pathways of creative exploration and self awareness.
When I thought I was experiencing a death of sorts, I found out that there was life and growth on the other side.
Mind you, I wasn’t always able to see those profound movements in the actual moment. Most of the time, I just felt stuck in my hurt, anger, despair, and loneliness. Every now and then, however, grace broke in and I got a sense of the subtle changes that might be happening behind the scenes:
If we can get through these challenges in our marriage, we can take whatever else life throws at us.
When we get a bit of extra income, we’ll remember what it felt like to be broke, and be extra generous.
If God can meet me in my anger and despair, I can be more and more honest and authentic in my spiritual life.
Someday I want to help other people who are going through this the way my spiritual director is helping me.
We can engage this question of Who am I becoming? as a spiritual practice while we’re in the thick of things. As the word practice suggests, it takes hard work. Meaning-making can be exhausting when our spiritual resources are depleted. It takes openness and flexibility, to explore the possibilities of what might be going on outside of our present awareness. It takes creativity, as we imagine the many ways our stories might unfold with growth, transformation, or even joy.
Sometimes, though, the work is too much and our imaginations fail us, and all we can see at the end of our stories is weeping, wounding, emptiness, or brokenness. This, too, is part of our becoming.
Weeping is part of our becoming people who feel deeply.
Wounding is part of our becoming people who seek healing.
Emptiness is part of our becoming people who long to be filled.
Brokenness is part of our becoming people who are promised the wholeness of shalom.
I am becoming the person God created me to be, in the process of being shaped and transformed into a truer version of myself, full of costly beauty and depth and wisdom.
Perhaps in these moments, the best we can do is (try to) trust that there is meaning in our lives, even if we can’t see it. There is something radically hopeful about simply declaring, “This is not the end of my story.” There are more chapters to come, even if we can’t even begin to guess at what they contain, and God, who loves me, is writing them. In the meantime, in our fear and desperation we may cling to the words of Jesus, who described the topsy-turvy nature of the kingdom of God:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope.
With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you.
Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less.
That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God.
He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care.
At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right.
Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.
That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
“You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution.
The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
“Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me.
What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable.
You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do!
And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company.
My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
There is something radically hopeful about simply declaring,
“This is not the end of my story.”
So, Who am I becoming?
I am becoming the person God created me to be, in the process of being shaped and transformed into a truer version of myself, full of costly beauty and depth and wisdom. The good news of the gospel is that God takes every good, bad, or hard thing I encounter, meets me there, and like a great Weaver, transforms the diverse threads of these experiences into the rich tapestry of my sacred becoming. Thanks be to God!
How might thinking about your becoming as a sacred process make room for the messy moments you encounter along the way?
As you think about your own process of becoming, what might be the divine invitation in this moment?
What might God be doing, growing, transforming within and around you?
If your imagination fails you right now, how might this experience of simply being present to the darkness of the moment also be embraced as a part of your sacred becoming?