The phrase "before God" appears in our canonized scriptures just over 200 times - which should not have surprised me, but it did. The following general categories are among the descriptions I compiled of what happens before God:
Things"are found" (discovered or found through examination).
We "are brought" (freely or bound).
We do or act in some way.
We are changed or become.
We bow or worship.
As I read the references mentioned above, I was struck by something I had not considered previously:
In all of these passages and verses, there are two broad categories into which the descriptions fall. The first is comprised of those instances where we are brought before God, while the second is comprised of those instances where we proactively, freely act before God. What struck me quite hard as I contemplated that distinction is that the first category is said to be universal - a moment all of us will have occur as we stand to be judged; the second category, however, does not carry with it a sense of judgment or compulsion of any kind. The instances where we freely choose to act "before God" present an image of God, in those instances, not being a "judge" but rather a father, a companion, a guide, a friend, a Lord or Master, a mentor, an example, etc.
The act of "walking" before God ALWAYS is presented as something that fits this second category - something that we CHOOSE to do outside of and prior to the formal judgment. It is what separates the manner in which we eventually will "stand" before God at that judgment ("uprightly" or "with head bowed down in shame") - and it affects most importantly the person we "are" or "become", which, in the end, really is the actual judgment itself.
The image that came into focus for me as I pondered all of this was two-fold - and the first one turned a traditional image completely around for me. "Before" can mean "in front of" in two very distinct and different ways: first, in front of someone who is behind you; second, in front of someone who is facing you. I always had pictured the second image (as in standing before a judge), and there is great power in that image, but there also is symbolic power in the first image (being "ahead of" someone else) - and it is that image that was new to me.
1) In the famous and popular poem, "Footprints in the Sand", the image is one of the Lord walking beside someone and then, during the particularly difficult periods, carrying the person instead. What I saw as I contemplated the verses I read this week, however, was radically different. In this image, the person was walking "before" (in front or ahead of) the Lord who walked along behind - listening for directions as to the path to take, avoiding many pitfalls as a result of those directions, stumbling and falling occasionally as obstacles got in the way but rising as a result of the encouragement and strength of the person following along behind, steadily walking and learning and experiencing and "becoming" by walking "before" (in front or ahead of) the Lord.
In "Footprints in the Sand", the person is carried through the most difficult parts of the journey, but in the journey described above the person gains far more strength and ability to navigate those difficult parts of the journey specifically as a result of the assistance he receives to be able to continue to walk and, thus, not just make it through but **overcome** those most difficult parts.
2) I also envisioned someone walking along a path, speaking on a cell phone with someone in front of her - someone who had walked the path already and had turned to face those who were walking that already-walked path. By turning to face the other walkers, the person had placed them "before" himself - allowing them to face him and be "before him" or "approaching him".
As I said in a couple of my most recent posts, I believe the core factor in our judgment will be how diligently we strive to hear God's words to us and follow them (or to ascertain God's will or path for us and act upon it, for those who struggle with the idea of hearing God's words) - no matter what those words or that will might be. "Blame" carries a strong sense of acting differently than one knows he should act, since it is commonly understood that we can't "blame" others for things that are outside their control and/or comprehension. Thus, the image that arose for me this week is one of someone who walks with a listening ear and attempts to walk according to what she hears as she listens.
To have a more listening ear and a more seeing eye (discussed last weekend), and to act according to what I see and hear, are my goals thus far for this month.