If religion is not primarily a belonging system, but is truly a transformational system, one would need, it seems to me, a very different kind of authority. One would need the guidance and conviction of one who has actually walked a journey of transformation himself or herself. One would need the authority of a person who can say, “I know what God does with pain. I should be blaming or bitter, but because of God and grace, I am not.” Not just the authority which says, “You must believe in this and you must believe in that” when often there is no evidence that the authority has ever drunk “of the cup that I must drink” as Jesus put it.
This utterly changes the nature of all true spiritual authority. I will offer you a simple litmus test to determine whether a person has healthy or unhealthy religion. What do they do with their pain—even their daily little disappointments? Do they transform their pain or do they transmit it? People who are practiced in transforming actual life pain, like Jesus on the cross, are the only spiritual authorities worth following. They know. They can lead and teach. The rest of us just talk.
Richard Rohr, OFM, Adapted from The Authority of Those Who Have Suffered
I had been meaning to write some notes on this, but I find that not only has Missy at St. Anne Pray for Us posted it also, but Fran has written an excellent meditation. You should click over and read.
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees… It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” (Psalm 119:67-68;71 NIV)