Last week I posted a quote that I love from True Christian Religion, which says, “God alone acts; man permits himself to be acted upon, and cooperates to all appearance as if of himself, although interiorly from God” (TCR 588). To me, everything comes down to this. When I am able to get some kind of sense of this, the world makes sense to me, I love people, I love the Lord, I see clearly, and I am happy. That’s how big it is. It’s tempting to get caught up in all the questions it raises: where is freedom, then? Good questions to ask, but endlessly trying to understand, running through a debate in my head, just makes me understand it less. Living it, I learn to understand it more.
I love this quote because it goes beyond saying “all good and truth are from the Lord.” When I hear that, I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the Lord is in “good and truth,” but not in little everyday things. The truth is the Lord is in EVERYTHING.
The first state of all who are being reformed and made spiritual is such that they do not believe that they are reformed by the Lord but by themselves, that is, they believe all of the will of good and of the thought of truth to be from themselves; they are also left in this state by the Lord, since in no other way can they be reformed. For if before they have been regenerated it should be said to them that they cannot do anything of good from themselves, or think anything of truth from themselves, they would then either fall into the error of thinking that they must wait for influx into the will and influx into the thought, and if this does not take place must attempt nothing; or into the error of thinking that if good and truth were from any other source than themselves, nothing would be imputed to them for righteousness; or into the idea that so they would be as it were machines, and not their own masters, or in control of themselves; or into some other error. It is therefore permitted them at that time to think that good and truth are from themselves.
 But after they are regenerate, then by degrees the knowledge is insinuated into them that the case is otherwise, and that all good and truth are solely from the Lord; and still further, when they are becoming more perfected, that whatever does not come from the Lord is evil and false. To the regenerate, if not in the life of the body still in the other life, it is given not only to know this, but also to perceive it; for all the angels are in the perception that it is so.
That highlighted sentence is key for me. ”Whatever does not come from the Lord is evil and false.” That’s plain enough, but think about what it means: whatever is not evil and false comes from the Lord. The conversation between the two women sitting at the table next to me. The coffee I’m drinking. The cars driving past. They’re all from the Lord. See why I say that when I realize this is when I’m really able to love people?
But there’s more. That first quote from TCR says that God acts, and man permits himself to be acted on. That’s not just talking about good. There’s an importance in acknowledging evil as the opposite of good, of realizing that it is not just good diluted. But even evil thoughts and actions come originally from the Lord. They are a reception of the Lord’s love, but twisted. When I see someone yelling at their kid, I can see that as a twisting of the Lord’s love. I can still see that person as being from God – there’s just something that’s gotten twisted around in their reception of Him.
If I leave it at that, I can still become self-righteous. But I need to honestly look at myself and see that I have just as many flaws, imperfections, twistings of the Lord’s love as anyone else. I can’t tell from looking at someone else what comes from an evil will and what comes from ignorance, from a good heart but a twisted understanding. For myself, I know there’s evil in my heart. Even if I’m thinking of other people as being from the Lord, if I still think that I’m a better vessel than they are, something’s seriously wrong.
And yet, with all my imperfections, as broken a vessel as I am, the Lord wants me. The Lord wants to bless others through me. The Lord loves me. By His grace and mercy, I can do His will. He dwells in me.
1 O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth,
Who have set Your glory above the heavens!
2 Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants
You have ordained strength,
Because of Your enemies,
That You may silence the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
The moon and the stars, which You have ordained,
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
6 You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands;
You have put all things under his feet,
7 All sheep and oxen—
Even the beasts of the field,
8 The birds of the air,
And the fish of the sea
That pass through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD, our Lord,
How excellent is Your name in all the earth!