Combine that with the threat of punishment for "getting it wrong," for "making the wrong choice," and, well ... that's a recipe for angst-ridden, paralyzed, fear- and shame-based adherents to Performance-ianity. "Get It Right Or Else" doesn't set folks free.
Contrast that perspective with this:
Nothing is more practical than finding God, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evening, how you spend your weekends, what you read, whom you know, what breaks your heat, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything.
In my case, I had to let go of "getting it right" so that I could fall in love ... and then everything was revealed to me to BE "right". It was never about attaining, it was always about becoming aware of what IS.
Let's look at how Richard Rohr puts it, in his chapter, "Don't Push the River."
- All we have to give away is our own journey. Our own story. The only authority we have in other people's lives is what we ourselves have walked and what we know to be true.
(I notice that what I know to be true today, may not be "ultimate truth"... truth can be that which fits and works for me today, where I currently am, but it can change and deepen over time. Of course I "know" some things ... but I recognize that I know them "for now" ... what is truth for me now, may not be truth for me as I mature, as I'm able to bear truth at a deeper level. For instance, my husband travels quite a bit ... when he does, he calls home each night to say good night to the kids (takes a while, LOL!). My youngest, Benji, age 2, has thought for a while (and I know this because he's profoundly verbal), that when Daddy travels, he shrinks and goes into the phone - physically. He said, at age 18 months, "Daddy - come out of da phone!" Now, for Benji, for now, the concept of Daddy shrinking and going into the phone is his perceived reality ... for now, at this stage of development, that's his "truth." I meet him where he is, and join him in this perception -- I see no need to shatter his perception with a concept that's too far beyond him. As he matures and grasp concepts that are yet-beyond him, he will come to see the folly of that perception. But I let it be ... finding it rather charming that he sees it this way, and knowing that with time and maturity and experience, he will "lose" that which works so well for him now. I see spiritual truth much the same way ... God meets us where we are, showing us truth that we can "bear" ... drawing/dragging us into stretching, so that we can bear more and more - unless we presume that we now, at this stage, know "all truth", and thus become entrenched and resistant to whatever else He's showing us ...)
- My generation is still reacting too much. Maybe the next generation will learn how to put it together.
(Rohr came of age in the 60's ... I did so in the 80's ... so I'm part of the "next generation". I see us, those of us wanting to make a difference here and now, as those who span the bridge between a former consciousness, and an emerging consciousness. Much like those who lived between the two covenants -- for those who don't know, or haven't considered it, the two covenants "overlapped" for a period of 40 years -- or an entire generation. Is something like that happening again? Is the 40-year span from the late 60's to now, another "transition generation"? Is it folly to think of ourselves that way? Does every generation inherently think this way, or is there something to this ... dunno. Just pondering ...)
- The final stage of wisdom of faith is what we might call be coming the Holy Fool. Ironically, the Holy fool is one who knows he doesn't know, but doesn't need to either. Paradoxically, that's the liberating kind of knowing. I'm not saying the Fool sits in some kid of dull ignorance. I am saying he is in a state of inner freedom into which true wisdom comes.
(My heart sings with the longing to be free of the oppression of certaintude, and to embrace the freedom of *not needing to know*...! Ironically, it's in that open-state that true experiential knowing COMES..! It's a way of knowing that's patient with also not knowing. Not being able to prove, just being able to be. And being, when being is experienced, is ENOUGH.)
- I believe we can see a convergence of the Eastern and Western ways of knowing in faith. The Eastern world appreciates what it calls "big mind." or Unitive Consciousness, or "the mind of Christ," a mind that knows and receives all things. It's a kind of panoramic awareness, a fundamental openness and clarity. We recognize that the whole world is connected and we feel a part of it. The West has tended, instead, to emphasize "small mind." Small mind is not necessarily bad. It is just a different perspective. Big mind sees the whole; small mind sees the individual and the parts. The Greco-Roman culture gave us these practical gifts. We can analyze, organize and fix almost anything. Small mind needs big mind for context and perspective, just as big mind needs small mind or it gets lost in mystique and abstraction. When we combine both we have mature faith. Perhaps it is more than accidental that Jesus came from the crossroads between East and West.
(I was fully entrenched and dominated by the West, by the "small mind." So, I currently find all things Eastern to be quite fascinating -- it draws me. We tend to seek that which we've been lacking, in order to find wholeness. However, I notice something -- it seems that when we first encounter the "other side of the equation" we can tend to swing to the opposite extreme, which is just as "unwhole" as where we first began. And yet, that pendulum swing may well be a necessary stage in the process of becoming-whole. Perhaps we need to experience the far extremes in order to see what balance looks like at all.)
- The Buddhists call the small mind the "clinging mind." It wants to attach itself to everything in order to figure out everything, in order to control everything, It doesn't have a high tolerance for mystery or even for ambiguity. Small mind is preoccupied with clarity and control. It deals with specifics and prefers problem-solving. It is pragmatic and goal-oriented. Though both the rational mind and the mystical mind are needed for wholeness, they are not easy partners.
(Out of the small mind has flourished the Western church ... it demands allegiance to doctrines declared by man, and will not believe that which cannot be proven. It doesn't suffer mystics gladly. At its best, it has produced great thinkers. At its worst it has squelched the Spirit.)
- A lot of what is happening in the New Age movement is an attempt to get back to big mind. That's why it is so intriguing. But you've probably met New Age people you'd like to bring down to earth and nail to the floor. They often describe God in shapeless words. They have no accountability system for what they believe, so ego can believe whatever it wants and needs. It can be too eclectic.
(I've had this concern, and yes, I've met folks who are entirely too spiritually minded to be of any earthly/humanly good ... and we ARE, here and now, having an earthly/humanly experience. Yes, the deeper reality is the spiritual reality. But, if that were the goal, why wouldn't we have stayed in the spiritual state it seems we began in? Why even *have* this current "earthly/illusional" experience if it doesn't *matter*..? Are we really meant to enter a spiritual reality and ignore/forsake the seen reality around us? Or were we meant to take what we learn in the spiritual realm, and bring it back to defragment the delusions of the system of blindness that operates in the seen world? It seems to me that any sort of enlightenment that allows us to see and experience the *deeper* spiritual reality, should make us better at living this human life. We should be enabled to better connect, better relate, better enjoy, this beautiful gift-of-seen-life - including all the other humans - for having engaged the deeper and experiential truth. If we turn instead into a disconnected isolationist who is now unable to relate to the rest of mankind, including speaking a language which they cannot comprehend, what good is it...? If we say we love God, but have no love for our brother, what's the point?)
- We need to recognize there is enough temperamental, theological, cultural difference in the world so that we have to be pluralistic to survive. WE need to know that there isn't only one way to look at or serve God. What we know about God is important, but what we do with what we know about God is even more important. Too often people think it is necessary that we all see God in the same way (which is impossible anyway), but what is really necessary is that we all follow God according to what God tells us. The fact that God has given us so many different faces and temperaments and emotions and histories shows us how God honors each unique journey and culture. God is not threatened by differences. It's we who are.
(It's so clear, isn't it? If we look, just really look, at the world and universe created all around us, we will *get* that God is not limited to our skewy perspective. We will get that we keep projecting our stuff, our fears, our misperceptions, our judgments, our pettiness onto God. We keep making a god in our own image.)
- If we can learn to trust God, the next movement of our soul is to trust ourselves. Apparently no one has told many Christians that they could trust themselves. What an unsafe and unexciting world we have created. Jesus tells us in the Gospels, "don't be afraid." He's saying it's radically okay. You can trust yourself because God trusts you, using your journey, your experience. Nothing will be wasted; all has been forgiven; nothing will be used against you. In fact, God will even use your sins to transform you! "Sin shall not be a shame to humans, but a glory - the mark of sin shall be turned to honor." (Julian of Norwich) If that's not good news, what else could it be? What else could be good except that kind of freedom, that kind of spaciousness, that kind of embrace from God that says your life matters? Your journey matters, and God's covenanted love toward you is always unconditionally and unilateral! If you accept this good news, the universe suddenly seems to be a very safe place.
(This message is radical. It's dangerous and threatening to those who have embraced and defend the human tradition that says we blew it, God is pissed, and someone has to pay, and even then God is still mad and has to be appeased, or ELSE! Having been taught to walk this tightrope of pleasing God-who-is-pissed-and-waiting-to-smite, and believing that it's all about doing the "right thing" or having the "right belief", and having come to tell themselves the story that "Hey, I'm doing a good job here - I'm one of the exclusively good ones," they are highly assaulted and offended at the notion of a scandalous grace-message that says, "you're all IN, no one is excluded, all is forgiven, and it always was." Those who rely upon achievement and merit [and make no mistake - having the "right belief", making the "right decision to accept Jesus as Savior" is a "work," coming back down to "what WE do" rather than what God has done!], are the very ones Jesus highlighted in his parables ... they resemble the prodigal's older brother, the ones who worked the vineyard all day, and the man who beat his breast saying, "thank God that *I* am not like that *other man* because *I* have done all things *right*. Grace is scandalously and offensively UNfair -- and it rankles our desire to *earn* favor to the core!)
- Jesus continuously received the story [the person] that was right in front of him and oriented it toward light and freedom. Jesus is the revelation of the heart of God - you do not need to be afraid. You need not fear; your life will be honored and used in your favor! "Sin is behovenly [it 'had to be'] but all shall be well." Nothing inside of us is as bad a our hatred and denial of the bad. Hating it and denying it only complicates our problems. "God comes to us disguised as our life." Everything belongs. God uses everything., There are no dead ends. There is no wasted energy. Everything is recycled. The people who know God well - the mystics, the hermits, and those who risk everything to find God - always meet a lover, not a dictator.
(Can you let yourself entertain the possibility of believing that? What would your life look like if you could? How would your relationships be, if you could? Does something in you want to embrace that, even while something else warns you that it's "too good to be true?" Which, do you believe, would be the Voice of the Spirit? Can you hold that tension inside of you, that tension of having conflicting responses, and allow God to show you what this means, without squelching it, ignoring it, denying it? Can you acknowledge both voices, and let God teach you by sorting it out, with and for you?)
- Could God's love really be that great and that universal? Is life just a school of love? I believe it is. Love is the lesson and God's love is so great that God will finally teach it to all of us. We'll finally surrender, and God will finally win. That will be God's "justice," which will swallow up our lesser versions.
(This is the meaning of "apokatastasis" -- the belief in the early church that everything came from, and would return to, God. Universal restoration -- they believed that the real meaning of the resurrection of Christ was that God's love was so perfect and so victorious that it would finally win out in every single person's life. Apokatastasis was never condemned as heretical in the history of the church -- and we may believe it if it strikes us as true in the intersection of spirit and Spirit.)
- We want to create a system inside of which we can succeed and win and in which forgiveness has no role. WE want to earn salvation and prove ourselves superior. But forgiveness reveals both God's nature and ours. [pause and think on that...] Forgiveness has nothing to do with logic; it is the final breakdown of it. It is a mystical recognition that human evil is something we are all trapped by, suffering from, and participating in. It calls forth weeping, humility, and healing much more than feverish attempts to root out the evil. The transformation happens through tears much more than through threats and punishments. If you look at your life, and I look at mine, we'll both see that we have taken delight in holding people in unforgiveness. There's something sickeningly sweet about holding on to that - it keeps us up and them down. it keeps us with the power and them without the power. It gives us a strange, perverse moral superiority. But that is exactly, I believe, what God does not do! When we go into God's Presence, we find someone not against us, but someone who is definitely for us! "Someone is holding me," "Someone is believing in me." "Someone is for me more than I am for myself." Someone is with me more than I am with myself." "God is closer to me than I am to myself." God is a lover. And all relationships are a school of communion.
(What more could I possibly add to that?!? Yes, I have indeed felt that sickeningly sweet sense of moral superiority ... yet another illusion-appearing-as-real. And yet, as I recognize that, I do not sense condemnation, I sense God saying, "good, you're seeing it - wonderful, I'm proud of you." As I see it, as I really see it, looking closely at it, with the aid of the Light, that dark thing becomes absorbed by the Light, and it's a nothing, a no-thing. It disappears ... and if it ever appears again, I can look at it again. Without the shame and blame game of the ego's dramatics...! Actually, even then, when I come to recognize that shame/blame game, I can *use* my ego as the revelational tool that it's meant to be ... not something to kill off, but something to use for transformation ... see? ALL things are ultimately good!)
Next time, I'll explore God's most dangerous disguise ... using sex as a metaphor for understanding/experiencing God ...! ;)