Origin and Destination
It’s hard to love someone who hates you. It’s hard to serve someone who criticizes or rejects you. And yet, this is at the heart of what God calls each of us to do. We are called to forgive spouses, serve co-workers, and love even our worst of enemies. How do you love someone who is actively seeking to hurt you?
Jesus faced this. Near the end of his life, he knew Judas was going to betray him, and yet he still chose to wash his feet. This story is captured in John 13, and I recently spent time praying with the passage. What stood out to me was the way John describes Jesus’s inner awareness. He knew Judas was going to betray him and many of his disciples were going to abandon him. And yet, his relationship with the Father empowered his act of love.
Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. ~John 13:3-4
As I prayed through this, I was struck by the phrase, “he knew where he was from; he knew where he was going.” This is a grounding awareness that freed him to love and serve others. I marveled at it for a while, and I then wondered, could I pray this prayer too?
My sense from the Spirit was “yes, I can. You know where you come from and you know where you are going.” As I continued to sit with this prayer, I was ushered into a consoling communion with the Father. This felt like confirmation that this prayer is from God. So I’ve continued to pray these two phrases, and here is what I’ve been aware of:
I know where I come from
This is an acknowledgement that I am more than a physical, material being. I am also spirit. I have a non-physical center. This is the place where my spirit dwells with the Spirit. The truest part of me is the part that comes from this spiritual center. When I think about who I really am, it’s the me that exists in this spiritual core. It’s the part of me where I generate deep desires, my loves, and my longings. It’s the place where my will exists. It’s also the place where I commune with God. It’s my dwelling place. It’s the part of me that feels like home.
When I think about how this spiritual life inside of me came to be, I’m aware that I didn’t create it. I’m also aware that it wasn’t always there…or maybe it was just dormant for a while. Then, it came into existence like a spark of light igniting a fire. My spirit was born of the Spirit. When I pray, “I know where I come from,” I am aware of that genesis moment when my spirit came into being. God did that. The part of me that is most alive was born of God. This is my true self’s origin story. I’m aware of this truth and so I pray: I know where I come from. I come from the Father.
I know where I am going
When I pray, I often find the essence of my prayer is rooted in accepting my life as it is coming to me and believing in faith that God is with me. The opposite of this acceptance is resistance and clinging. I can’t pray when I resist reality and cling to something or some outcome I can’t have. At the heart of prayer is surrendering enough to welcome what I resist and releasing enough to let go of the outcomes I cling to. I’ve learned that entering into a deep resting in God requires this radical surrender. I must welcome and release as I turn towards God in surrender.
As I surrender in this way, I settle into God’s gracious care for me. The longer I rest in that grace, the deeper the stillness becomes. All the activity of resisting and clinging fades away, and I can simply rest in the stillness of God’s grace. As I stay in this prayerful place, things become more and more still.
If time is the measure of motion, then deep stillness can feel like a place that exists outside of time. When I pray and experience this deep stillness, it seems to me that I am touching eternity. There is a taste of the life that is to come, the life that exists outside of time. I can experience a trans-temporal pulling forward of my death so that I can taste of my eternal dwelling with the Father, which is my destination after I die. I know this sounds weird. Words are insufficient to describe what I experience. My best attempt is to say that in some mysterious way, as I dwell with God in prayer, it can feel as though my death is in my past and my future life with God is in the now. I’m also aware that I will go on to die, but I know where I am going because I’ve experienced a transcending of this temporal world and tasted that which is to come.
All this means that I can pray this same grounding prayer that Jesus prayed. I know where I come from and I know where I am going. This is all grace. I did nothing to be born. I was born by the will of the Father. I do nothing to bring about my eternal dwelling with Jesus. I enter his transcendent presence through surrender and faith in his gracious choosing to love me. So, I pray this prayer in faith and with deep trust. And when I do pray it, I experience consolation. I am re-oriented around the deeply formative awareness that I know my origin and my destination.
As I experienced pressure and criticism recently, this prayer echoed through my head. Without any willing it to be, I heard over and over, “You know where you are from. You know where you are going.” This word to me grounded me so that I could see the resistance and criticism directed my way without feeling the typically reactive impulse to defend myself. Instead I was free to love and to serve the way Jesus did as he washed the disciples’ feet. This was a grace.
I write this because I wonder if you might be helped by this prayer. Would you try to pray this prayer?
“I know where I am from. I know where I am going.”