The following lines were penned three years ago, as I finished up my first post-crisis round of therapy and tried to assemble various pieces of the puzzle of my life. I drag them out here as I have finished up my Antagonistes work, and need a platform for further reflection. I have the author's permission (sic) to edit freely.
What I have learned over the past 3 years (and 4 months)...that is worth passing on.
An Introduction to it all:
Pity - it wasn't working for me
I needed to see the Bible, religion, my faith, and the church, from the perspective of experience, not head tripping.
What would TWC say (the initials of my therapist - transference admitted and in view)?
1. It’s all about Grace – All of it!
I have been endeavoring to see all of life from the perspective of Grace. This is a limitless survey. The Antagonistes was an attempt to put Pure Grace up against Grace But. It is in this juxtaposition that most interpersonal and intrapersonal conflict takes place.
2. Evangelicals are people of the Word, and so are inclined towards legalism. (Human Nature corrupting the Word of Life)
In everything from three point sermons to Purpose Driven spirituality, we have our outlines, steps, diagrams, programs and other forms of accountability.
All Word based
All designed to deepen our walk
All attached (ie, I am this plan, outline, program, etc.)
All of it Law driven (Paul's Law of the Flesh)
The Fruit of it all is guilt, shame, failure, and feelings of inadequacy and the concomitant confusion, doubt and double-heartedness (the ultimate irony of social justice concerns)
I am leaving this section pretty much intact. It is a fair description of the Evangelical world....and much of the church world. Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants both default to some form of "what you have to do to be a good Christian", though they get there from profoundly different points of view.
3. Non-attached Love, Compassion and Mercy always deliver, always apply.
No self-advancement (we love in response- not in order to get)
No personal baggage ("So, what did you think about my book?")
Love, Compassion, and Mercy (chesed)
God’s nature and His response to human frailty and need
Jesus’ ministry - every step of the way
All Truth is God’s Truth
Universally, in every circumstance, every age, and every culture
Corollary: no need to fear the "other"
This is the heart of Evangelism and Mission
These seem to be universal truths. I find no exceptions. As such the topics of Evangelism and Mission come more under the heading of Daily Compassion than they do under the heading of "Spreading the Word". There is boundless Good News in this proclamation, yet it is not attached to any particular religion or ideology. It is, mysteriously, attached to a particular person, Jesus of Nazareth.
4. Mindfulness is a way for all people to engage with Radical Grace.
On a personal level
Compassion for self, or "belovedness" - this is critical, the opposite of "check list spirituality"
Grace/Silence meeting the noisy narratives of Law (NB - all our tapes engaged like a juke box)
On a relational level
Compassion for others
Grace/Silence meeting the Law narrative (the stuff we know is true in us, is likely active in those we are called to love and those we are drawn to love) before us
On a Cultural/Political/Historical level
It’s all about Grace
On a Spiritual level
Entering into the heart of Christ/God/Self - Meditation and Contemplation
Prayer - Silence is OK
Words - What are the Words of Life jesus speaks to you?
It is in Meditation and its correlative mindfulness that Self-Awareness and God-Awareness merge. PZ, Martin Laird and many others have said it so well: "As we let go into The Silence we find Ourselves and God - a blessed, compassionate, and mysterious unity." (That Jesus eternally mediates this unity is the great miracle. Come to that place where the mystery becomes tangible flesh.)
5. The Bad stuff, Hard stuff, Broken stuff are our best teachers.
NB We usually approach this stuff as we would an enemy, at arm's length - something to be fixed; and try to apply a mitigating program. There is another way.
Lean into these.
Get off script.
Pray, Listen, Be in the presence of the pain: “What is this?”
Bring Compassion to the feelings.
Our real selves emerge in the process.
“What’s this?” becomes “Who am I?” and “What do I seek?”
Which leads through the negative into Truth and Light
Apologies usually not necessary (or helpful)
"When in doubt, walk towards the cannons."
Thou art That. Google this phrase and find references to the Upanishads and Joseph Campbell. Listen to PZ's Podcasts and see this phrase bubbling beneath the writings of Huxley, Heard, Isherwood, Kerouac and others. We spend so much energy trying to run away from the suffering, loss, and bewilderment which plague our lives. To bring Compassion to the defeated soul is to merge with the Compassionate embrace of God.
6. I want to be a Child again.
Detaching from everything and everyone.
Let go of trying to be a grown-up
It is self-defeating
NB the defeat of negative self-assessment
NB – this does not imply escaping fear and failure
But it is saying “goodbye” to the fear of failure
I have spent much of my life defining and redefining who I am based on the reactions I am receiving, or perceive that I am receiving or have received, from others. This leads to emotional paralysis.
Interestingly this has caused my face to take on a tight mask of tension. Just in the past few weeks both friend and stranger have commented on how terrible I look. My therapist asked me to sit quietly and break a gentle smile. Impossible. The child, trapped by attached perceptions, is frozen out.
I had a massage therapist work on my face two days ago. The effect was amazing. I edged into as deep a rest as I have experienced in quite some time.
More evidence of this dynamic at work:
Mary and I recently attended my 45th boarding school reunion. I was looking forward to this. For some reason, and this is fodder for another reflection at another time, I was eager to return to a significant place of my adolescence striving. The experience was surprising.
I felt strangely and warmly embraced by the campus. It felt safe. From this surprising perch of peace I could see myself walking through three years of inner turmoil; on this walkway, in this hall, at this dining table, on these playing fields. My view now is one of compassion. My view then was terror (though I didn't know it was that then).
What a relief to be in a new frame of mind! There is hope that I might (as I am, in fact) find myself, my smile, my peace, and my place.
7. What does it mean to be a Child of the Word?
Keep reading it
Spend as much time listening in silence (with a non-attached mind) as you do reading and studying (with a working mind)
Explore – What does it mean that Jesus is The Word in the Flesh.
If Grace is what it’s all about, what is prayer all about?
In the end, what is the Word you would bring to those God puts in your life?
This one has me puzzled. I continue my Bible reading, though I am increasingly discomfited by some of what I read. Is this why Jefferson wished to get out his scissors and excise great portions of distracting text?
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Location:Kingston, NY - Courtyard by Marriott