Friday, June 29, 2012

Not seeing in the dark...

The path of descent is the path of transformation. Darkness, failure, relapse, death, and woundedness are our primary teachers, rather than ideas or doctrines...

Ladder-climbing Western culture, and the clinging human ego, made the Gospel into a message of spiritual advancement—ascent rather than descent. We hopefully do advance in “wisdom, age, and grace” (Luke 2.40), but not at all in the way we thought. Jesus again got it right! He brilliantly and personally taught the way of the cross and not the way of climbing.

We come to God much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right. God absolutely leveled the human playing field by using our sins and failures to bring us to divine union. This is surely the most counterintuitive message of the Gospels—so counterintuitive that it largely remains hidden in plain sight.

Richard Rohr, June 2012

This is hard for us to accept, or even understand. Even within the life of faith we expect to be able to say, "Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better..." We look for concrete progress in holiness, deepening commitment to church responsibilities, significant achievements in evangelism and what used to be called "corporal works of mercy". The Buddhist teacher and writer Chogyam Trungpa famously called this attitude "spiritual materialism", and we Christians are as good at it as any,

The paradox is that if we do follow Jesus on the way of the Cross, we will grow in holiness, and all the rest of it - but only so long as it is our Lord whom we're following for his own sake, and not for what we might receive. (This I think is perhaps what Jesus meant at when he said (John 6.26) that people were looking for him for what they could get.)

I know myself - but only in retrospect - that the times in my life when changes, transformations as Rohr calls them, have taken place have been low  times, times when I often haven't been able to see God's hand in events at all, but only darkness and shame and confusion. Perhaps this is what faith is: to hold on to God, to love him best of all, when nothing shows him to us, and the road is black with loss.

Sometimes, unteachable, I have wondered how to hang onto these depths of faith in the good times, like now, when all around seems to be going well, and happiness is a daily fact. It isn't possible. God knows when, and how much, we need these shadow times, these times of hollowness and pain. Even if we were able to administer this medicine ourselves, we would probably destroy ourselves. Like seeds, we can only really grow in darkness - and we can't see in the dark...

4 comments:

  1. Wise words there, Mike.

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  2. "The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain."

    Khalil Gibran

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kahlil_Gibran

    Hi there

    Just wanted to shar this major thought I was lucky enough to read recently.

    The holy ghost comes in mysterious ways and anything related to U2 is one of them I guess... I stumbled into your blog out of curiosity while I was looking for info on a guitar effects pedal (the Behringer rv600 for that(un)godly shimmer effect)

    I have been graced with listening to Deepak Chopra last year, and he states that joy for living and GRATITUDE are SACRED FORCES at the root of existence and its miracles. A hen and egg kind of virtuus circle. Owe so much to this great man even if I'm not into everything he states.

    I must confess that I'm going to extremely rough times, tremedous family problems on so many fronts.

    But I've taken to this art of waking up and going to bed thanking life for the good things in the day - and even thanking IN ADVANCE. It works... wonders. I've never been more at peace than right now in the eye of the hurricane. People that don't know of my predicaments think I'm a merry guy with a great life. Cause I smile so much and get to "see beauty in everything".

    According to U2 again, that beauty is Grace.

    One may call it God or whatever. But it's out there, and it's beautiful.

    "Even when we are in the most ridiculous circumstances there are blessings involved. Be willing to recognize them and give them gratitude. For when the storm subsides, an even clearer picture of the Divine perfection of it all will come shining through. ♥"
    Kirsten Brennan

    Yes, we feel so intensely in times where our very souls are tortured. And it is there that we pray the most and ask for salvation, guidance, a breather... and we sort of lose it afterwards.

    I read a phrase last year that mentioned how selfish it is to pray only when we are in need.

    Thing is, the mind and our nervous system are also organic, and maybe all we need is developing new habits. It HAS to translate into new neural connections and one must keep at it daily for that to happen. Dr Chopra, a neurologist, has two great principles summarized:

    REWIRE YOUR BRAIN FOR HIGHER CONSCIOUSNESS
    &
    NEURONS THAT FIRE TOGETHER WIRE TOGETHER

    Actually, this phenomenon called neuroplasty is what helps people's brain recover after a stroke. My father did - he had to relearn to speak at age 77. So why do we wait for a catastrophe to take advantage of this incredible abilty of the most incredible organ in the known universe that we were endowed with free of charge just by being born?

    Outrun the routine that slowly kills us. And blinds us.


    You're right, we need to stoop very low and nearly be crushed to rise and keep rising.

    But I couldn't say anymore that "It isn't possible.I have wondered how to hang onto these depths of faith in the good times, like now, when all around seems to be going well, and happiness is a daily fact."

    All it takes is precisely the same verb: to WONDER at life, everyday, to make it a new reflex. Every time you enjoy a taste, a smell, a sound, a smile, a great thought, a call from a dear friend or relative... we have to LOOK at the FULL HALF OF THE BOTTLE in the eye and practice it every day.
    (For instance I'm grateful I stumbled unto your blog while drifting around for info on a guitar effect pedal.)



    ...I find it's like getting backstage passes to God :o)


    Cheers from Paris, France!

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  3. Oh and full quote of Khalil Gibran's

    'On Joy and Sorrow'

    "Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
    And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
    And how else can it be?
    The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.
    Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter's oven?
    And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
    When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
    When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

    Some of you say, "Joy is greater thar sorrow," and others say, "Nay, sorrow is the greater."
    But I say unto you, they are inseparable.
    Together they come, and when one sits, alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed.

    Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.
    Only when you are empty are you at standstill and balanced.
    When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall."

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