4even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. 7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. 8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. 10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
This passage begins with Paul almost sounding a little arrogant, as if he is presenting his resume’ for being a church leader and quashing anyone else that might think themself better for the job than he. But then his tone changes quickly. It’s as if the resume’ is just not enough. The resume’ is not going to get someone to the point in this faith journey where they need to be. So Paul’s words become a treatise on faith itself, rather than on Paul. In fact, Paul is almost disputing that claim that being better-versed or better-practiced in the faith brings one closer to God. I think he might even say quite the opposite. Paul would discount any blind following of the rules and order of religion and opt instead for a bare openness to what the faith journey itself holds. In fact, my guess is that Paul would claim that any reliance on our resume’ will get us nowhere.
I saw a feature on one of the news shows this week that talked about the “new” look of resumes. With the changing economy coupled with the changing needs of the job market, the traditional one or two page, neatly blocked listing of one’s accomplishments just doesn’t cut it anymore. Oh, it’s not bad, per se, but it will probably not get one farther than the myriads of other one or two page, neatly blocked presentations that get tossed into the same pile. It just doesn’t work anymore. Instead, prospective employers want to get a sense of who the person is. People are now posting on Facebook and tweeting their presentations. They are providing PowerPoint and You Tube media releases that either augment or replace their resume’s. One guy called the company that he was hoping would hire him and asked for his resume’ to be pulled because he had another offer. They called and talked him into interviewing and then hired him. The point is, a resume’ is now more than a list of accomplishments; it depicts who the person is. (Gee, I thought I was being stupendously cutting edge by printing mine out on cream or ecru colored paper!)
But, face it, we are a list-driven people. We want to neatly and systematically check off what headway we’ve made and our faith journey is no different. It’s really sort of a “catch-22” when you think about it. Our religion and our belief system provide the necessary grounding that we need for our journey. They point us in the right direction. They start us on our journey and they keep us with at least some modicum of framework of what that journey entails. And yet, if we rely on them, if we turn them into some sort of spiritual resume’, we are lost. In fact, they just downright get in the way. Religion does not provide the answers; it provides the questions. The “prize”, if you will, is not the attainment of the goal. It is not being “in”; it is not finally and forever getting the position that we so desperately want. The prize is the journey, the opening of our lives so that God can weave through and truly become for us the One in which we live and move and have our being. And in order to do that, as Paul says, we have to leave ourselves (and our resume’s) behind and journey into who we are rather than what we’ve done.
So, on this Lenten journey, forget who you are and journey toward who you are called to be. (And don’t worry about your resume’…we’re all behind the times anyway!)
Grace and Peace,