And all the musicians instantly knew what I meant.
SDG is an acronym Bach used to put on his manuscripts. It stands for Soli Deo Gloria, which is Latin for To God alone the glory. Or at least, that's the legend.
And that, of course, is the entire point of calling, encapsulated perfectly by three. little. letters.
To God alone be the glory.
Could we have said it any better than our old boy Johann Sebastian?
This semester I've been taking a class through my church called Perspectives. It's a class offered around the world, but there is one in Lubbock pretty frequently, which a lot of local churches participate in. The theme and focus of the class is God's mission in the world through us. During the first few weeks we focused a lot on God's glory, and let me tell y'all: my perspective (no pun intended) fundamentally shifted.
How do I begin to talk about the glory of God as presented in Scripture? I read about it regularly in Psalms; I've heard about it my whole life; and yet I have no earthly idea how to talk about this.
I think about blinding light and sapphire seas. I think about emeralds and shaking trees. I think about lightning and being blind.
I think and I wonder (as I wander) how we are supposed to glorify God through a thing that we enjoy. Through a thing that we love.
I remember the Jon Piper quote that we love so much: God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him. And I believe that to be true. But it just feels selfish to fall in love with something and that's the way we glorify God.
Because following calling is one long falling in love over and over and over again, every time we open our lips. Every time we sit at the computer. Every time we touch someone else's skin.
Truthfully, I don't know how to write about the glory of God. I wanted to, and it is an under-theme that is subtly flowing like a slow-moving river of gold underneath all the fast minnow-currents of my life. It's the slow walking bass underneath all the figuration.
I wanted to write about this. But how do we do it?
What i know is that we are image-bearers. That God has put a little chip of Himself into each of us. And I say "chip" like a little prism of iridescent rock, not like a computer chip. He's given us each a chink of Who He Is.
When He made me He put music into me, and story, and words, and adventure, and Joy the kind that C.S. Lewis writes about it: longing and depth and a craving for mountains and sunrises.
He gave me the parts of Himself that are epic and roiling and adventurous and courageous. He gave me the part of Himself that dances to Vivaldi and shines brighter when He gets to show off His talent.
Until I wrote that sentence I almost believed that the way I love performing wasn't from God. But the way I light up when I get on stage is the way God's phosphorescent glow throbs a little more when our eyes are on Him and He says, Watch this.
I am an image-bearer. Those parts of Himself that God attached to my limbs and heartstrings -- they bear Him out in some way, and until writing this I never realized what a heavy responsibility was on me.
Not heavy like burdensome. I mean heavy like it's got weight. Heavy like gravitas. Like substance, because if God has anything at all, it is substance.
And because we are little images of Him, so do we.
God says not to make idols or carved images for ourselves out of created things rather than the Creator, and we know why that is, but it is not lost on me that God made little images of Himself, microcosmic representations of Himself, and they are us, and they are lovely, and maybe He wanted us to know not only that He is God and will brook no other, but that we are His most beautiful creation, and maybe we shouldn't spoil our dignity.
That doesn't make sense, and as I write it it feels a little blasphemous, and if I am being a heretic someone will need to tell me -- but it also feels true in more ways than the poetic.
All this is to say that we are reflections of the glory of God in our following of calling, because to follow calling is to tune into the light God is shining through the prism that is us (thank you. Professor Tolkien, for this metaphor).
One thing I'm wishing in my life right now, more than many things, is that I would... that I, selfish, sinful I, even could bear God's image better into the world.
We are carrying it around. It's the sacred burden-that-is-not-a-burden. It has gravitas but gravity seems to have no pull on it, because it lifts us up.
Mom says that my writing kind of meanders, and I imagine this is what she means.
And I wish that I even had the capability to honor God the way I wish to honor Him, the way I would if my body was not broken and sinful and my desire to do good is perverted so that the desire strangles me with a noose of my own tying and the enemy's tightening.
How do we bear God's image when we do not know how? He has given it to us and we are here, stumbling around and chipping it like a little brother with heirloom china.
We are sure we have broken it.
And though I am sure of this, too, God reminds me that I have not. By divine grace, I am prevented. The Spirit of God is guiding me in ways I cannot understand --
and somehow I end up taking the image of God into the world almost on accident. My stumbling is somehow part of the Story.
And I think that's really what is to the glory of God. The way He turns our messiness and our inability to do it the way we wish we could into a way to carry His Him-ness into our world.
Maybe the way we wish we could do it is the worst way to do it. Maybe it's too much of us and not enough of God's God-ness through our helplessness.
I do not know how to write about this.
All I know is that it is true.
All we can ever do is meander through the glory of God. Through God in general, actually. Through God as a person.
And our inability to define it and nail it down makes us long for the definition more and more, and then --
we run up against Him.
And He IS the definition.
And when we meet Him the longing is met, measured, and exceeded. I see you... and I raise you.
Maybe bearing the image of God is just the story of the longing and the way God fills us up so much that it still feels like longing always --
maybe this craving in all its shades is how we bear the glory of God out into the world.
I do not know how to write about it, but I sense that it is so.
Maybe the glory of God is in the way we search for Him all our lives, though we know it not -- and when we find Him, all we do is want more of Him, all of Him, so much of Him that we eat it all and glow like Moses' skin and then we burst like Violet Beauregarde.
Maybe the way we glorify God is in the ever-longing for God, that thing that CS Lewis called Joy.
I don't know how this is.
But I believe that it is so.