I know, it hits me often, and I once almost walked away because of it. The problem, of course, is me (if I accept the premise that God is perfect). So to face any shortcoming I need to look inward and question the basis of my expectations.
This is a process of re-calibration -- adjusting my understanding to match reality. We all have poor perceptions, constantly bombarded by biased experiences, prejudice, cultural indoctrination, unthinking acceptance of what we've been taught, and of course our personal desires that tempt us into confirmation bias. I'm a perceptual coward ... many times I don't want to see what is in front of me. I can get so used to looking the other way that reality slips past like the proverbial elephant in the room.
Life is a constant process of re-calibration, and I wonder if those we call wise are simply the people better calibrated to reality.
So let's recalibrate our view of Christianity.
The Catholics have long framed Christianity around "doing"; going to mass, giving, confession, taking communion, etc. Then along came the protestants protesting, and substituted a new regime of doing; don't drink, don't dance, dress demurely, suffer in silence, do charity, etc. Well, maybe that is a bit generalized, because of course there are exceptions. However, it seems that in general we're measured by what we do.
Let's challenge that idea. Hamlet never said "To do or not to do", he said "To be or not to be, that is the question." If I focus on doing, then I have no energy or time to simply be. If I focus on being, then I can't help that all the doings get done; for to be is to do, but to do is not to be. Do-be-do-be-do?
Some examples, first from life and then from the thorny issue of the Bible.
If I focus on doing husbandly things, I've no time to be a husband. But if I focus on loving my wife, my husbandly doings uncontrollably follow.
It's like some medical students who want to be plastic surgeons, dermatologists, or obstetricians, all because its a prestigious career (sadly, there seems to be too many like this). But this doesn't make them real doctors inside. Sure they can do the work, but their motivation is not rooted in compassion for healing; they're doing it for ego, ambition, or something else. They are not being-doctors, they're doing-doctors.
Or training to be lawyers for the money, instead of being passionate about justice.
Likewise, I could try to do the things an engineer does, but that doesn't make me an engineer. I could learn the skills, acquire the knowledge, but I would simply be "doing an engineer", not "being an engineer". Doing engineering things might forcibly turn me into being an engineer, but only by killing off what I already was inside. The external does not easily dominate the internal, for the internal is always fighting to be expressed. But this sad world chokes our insides, and tries to clone us into crude replicates of an idealistic vision that has no grounding in reality.
It's about humility. Humility is to not try and be more than I am (by doing things that are not me), and humility is not to be less than I am (by not doing things that are me). Humility is to be merely what I am, and from what I am all the true doings will flow as naturally as a tail wags behind a dog (animals are so good at simply being). Humility is the process of recalibrating our being to reality, correcting the distortion of doing what we're not.
OK, you might say, "so what's this got to do with Christianity?" Well, lets recalibrate the distortions we've been taught.
So many times we see the Bible as the "do-things" for our life: "Go and make disciples." "Love one another". "Tithe your income". "Don't covet". We even apply the same mentality to God and say "Why doesn't God DO more?" "Why won't he intervene and DO something about this mess?" Its because it's easier to measure life by the doings. But the doings have little relationship to the beings, and relationship can only exist between beings.
Recalibrate: Is the Bible really about doing? Zoom out and look again ... the Bible is a story of being ... it's all about being.
Genesis: God says "Let there be ..." And when he gets to making Man and Woman he says "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion ..." Let, Be, Have ... not so much about doing. Of course there are actions involved, but they flow from being, they don't define being. The work is all about letting the inside out. God let his creativity be expressed. Man and Woman were fruitful and multiplied because that is their being. They have dominion because their being was authoritative. God first and foremost wants us to "be", he has no need for our "do."
Skip forward, consider Moses: a man of justice, growing up in a palace of power and authority, he reacted to injustice and killed a man. It was not a right action; he was badly expressing the "being" that he was inside. Yet throughout his life, and despite his failings, his focus on being was expressed in doings that changed the future.
Skip forward, consider Ruth: her nature was kindness, loyalty, diligence, and faithfulness. Ruth's actions express her being ... she lived outside from what she was inside. Boaz saw the external expression and knew her inside.
Skip forward, think of Hadassah / Esther: she was a national beauty, concubine, strategic, cunning, brave. She was willing to be these things, and from her being flowed actions that restored a nation.
Skip forward, remember Elijah. Fearful and exhausted from all his doings, God brings him to a cave to let him encounter being, and once he could be, the doings could begin again.
Ok you say, that's old testament stuff. What about Jesus' time and all the instructions he gave. Fair enough, let's look at that. Probably his first command was "follow me". What does it mean to be a follower ... it means not being firstly a do'er ... to follow is to be a follower. A follower is all about becoming. Or the Samaritan woman at the well ... Jesus says to her go and sin no more. Nothing about doing, only about being. Then there's Mary and Martha, the one focused on doing, the other on being. Guess which one was commended.
He says be perfect, be holy. I can't do perfect, or do holy. He says be salt and light. Salt and light don't do anything, they simply be and their very nature changes all they interact with. So when Jesus says "go and make disciples of all nations" ... he is saying "be salt and light in the world", because salt draws out the flavor, light reveals truth, and so to make disciples of all nations we only have to be.
Jesus doesn't send us out to do, he sends us out to be.
The Bible from start to finish is the story of people trying to recover what it means to be, and it's the story of God trying to open peoples eyes to what he is ... the ever-present-tense "I AM" ... his very name is all about being, not doing. Being exists outside of time, doing happens inside of time.
Sure some are called to a very visible doing purpose ... Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and others. But they were only really called the let their internal being be available to a greater purpose. They were called to be a leader, be a soldier, be a king, be a prophet. They didn't "do" leadership, or "do" kingship. And so our call is to live in the simplicity of "Be", according to God's first word to us: "Be ..."
Each of us does "Be" differently, because each of us is made uniquely. Some be a scientist, some be a farmer, some be an engineer, some be a minister. My own father wanted to "do missionary", but he learned to "be a doctor" and changed the course of lives and organizations. Each has a call on their life to be what they were made to be in the grace of God's restoration. By being we are able to be a light to the moths, be a salve to a wound, be compassion to the hurt, be a creator of new things, be a discoverer of knowledge, be a lover to the lonely, be a help to the helpless, be a leader to the lost, be a singer to the silent, be a scientist to society, be an explorer of the unknown, be expressive of what we are ... no more, no less, only ever on a journey of recalibration.
It's a journey to be.
The challenge is to know what I am meant to be. For that, first stop. Then I consider my desires, consider my capabilities, consider what I am when I stop doing. God has no urgency for me to do, only a desire for me to be what he made me. So I let myself be and become, and before I know it, my being will have accomplished more doings than I can imagine.
It's not an easy journey. It's hard to know what it means to be in God, and to be means giving external expression to what God has rooted on the inside. It takes a life of continued recalibration, but each course correction brings a joy and wholeness we've never known before.