Wrestle With This 2: You Are Not That Important

Note: These realities are taken from Fr. Richard Rohr.

There’s an interesting tension with this reality.

On the one hand, you are infinitely loved and cherished by God, an unrepeated and unrepeatable utterance of the Creator.

On the other hand, you really aren’t that big of a deal.

When you begin to believe that you are somehow more important than others, entitlement can begin to seep into your life (see the previous idea: “Life is Hard”).

But reality rightly perceived says that EVERY human being on earth is equally cherished and loved, and has equal value.

Are you more entitled than your brothers and sisters? Their hoes, dreams, aspirations and struggles are just as valid—and just as real—as yours.

In this is an opportunity for compassion and empathy for others, if you can check and deflate your ego enough to receive it.

Even more, to maintain that somehow you are more important—either better or worse off—than everyone else, you establishing an essential separateness from others, and this separateness does no one any good.

The goal of life is connection and unity with others, not division and separation.

God is a unified reality, so to pursue unity and connection is to pursue God’s life in your life, God’s reality in your reality.

But it all begins with disavowing yourself of the thought that you are somehow NOT just “one of the herd,” that you are really important enough to warrant special treatment from life.

Everyone is struggling through something, yourself included. Find unity and connection in that.

Wrestle With This: Life is Hard

Life is about maturity, growing in wisdom.

You’ve grown OLDER, but are you growing into being an ELDER?

You know first hand that it’s easy to be OLD without being an ELDER.

In fact, each of these concepts has little to do with a number: you can be “old”—rigid, bitter, and frustrated—regardless of the first digit in your biological age.

Similarly, you don’t have to wait until your 40s (or 30s, or 50s, or 70s) to begin the search for wisdom.

You probably waited longer than you wished, but at last you started the journey.

The search for wisdom means wrestling with the BIG questions and issues and concepts of life.

The ones that can both form solid foundations, or shake the foundations you’ve built for your false self.

One of these essential thoughts is “You Are Going to Die”. Another one is, “Life is Hard.”

YOu’ll have a tendency to laugh this off: it’s too simplistic, too obvious.

“Everyone knows that life is difficult.”

But then stop and think…

Think about how often you are shocked and frustrated that a project is hard, or that people don’t respond the way you’d like, or that you don’t get the promotion you really wanted.

And you react in anger, or resentment, or with some other defense mechanism (codependency, anyone?).

But internalizing the reality that LIFE IS HARD means leaving behind the surprise when things go south.

(Ironically, adopting this perspective can deeply help your practice of gratitude, since you have the opportunity to develop the idea of being surprised WHEN THINGS GO EVEN MARGINALLY WELL, which can help you say, “Thank you.”)

So consider how you approach your day: Are you expecting clear sailing, or some kind of cloudless day where all the traffic lights are green for you, and there is no inter-personal conflict, and you simply move along your path in a frictionless bliss?

Or are you prepared for the struggle?

(PS: a profound gift of life is the opportunity to struggle through it, to learn and to grow.)

LIFE IS HARD… AND THAT’S OKAY.

What Do You REALLY Believe?

You Are Going to Die.

How much do you think about that? It is certainly rare in this culture, even in the sub-culture of faith in which you often live, breath, and move.

And yet this is the ONE truth that is probably more important than any others, the one thing that can govern most everything thing else, if you let it.

Your human life on this planet will come to an end. There’s an expiration date on your breath, on your work, on your comings and goings.

Think about this, and then think about what you REALLY believe about it.

Does it produce anxiety? Anger? Fear?

It’s certainly understandable if those reactions are inside you. It’s no surprise. It’s difficult to think about saying goodbye, about leaving things undone, of time cycling on and leaving you as a memory or a footnote (at best).

The Hebrew Scriptures refer to it as “being gathered to your ancestors,” which is beautiful in and of itself, but death can be even more for you, more of an occasion for freedom and peace.

For you subscribe to a faith that says that death is TRULY a door to something else, even something MORE, and though you surely don’t know WHAT it looks like, you have SAID that you believe it.

This does not change the fact that it may be difficult to process “the last frontier” (and hopefully you will have ample time to do so), but if you CHOOSE, you can allow death’s reality to become the ultimate clarifying thought:

What do you believe about the world? Is this really it, or is there something more that is waiting for you on the other side?

In WHATEVER time you may have left, what is worth your focus and energy?

Can you embrace it, even look forward to it when your time comes, trusting that there can be no resurrection—NEW life—without releasing your hold on the old one?

It’s the core promise of the life you profess to lead, to aspire to.

PS Some may say that this is ridiculously ill-timed for Christmas (“read the room!”), but I would disagree. I believe that every day of our life is a cycle of Advent/Christmas/Epiphany/Lent/Pentecost (plus a LOT of “Common Time”).

We are invited to live the fullness of the Christian year (not the culture’s) each day of our life.

Goals

In just a few days, 2018 will become 2019 and you will embark on yet another year, with the requisite goals, and hopes and dreams.

You know that some—maybe even most—of these will remain undone. It’s been your struggle for a while now: you set goals and then “life happens” and you get distracted, and then your focus becomes diverted and what you intended to happen is still waiting come May, then August, then September.

At the essence of life, you need to remember that this is okay.

Life is more than accomplishments, more than achievements, more than your goals.

However, you also know, at a very deep level, that some of these goals are more than just “things to do”; they are actually calls and invitations to BE something else in the world.

Which is vocation.

That’s why you don’t just give up and quit writing them down. This is why you struggle with them each year.

So you put them on paper, and you do your best, and you make some progress. Most importantly, whether you accomplish them or not, there is growth in the striving, and so you say prayers of gratitude for the growth, and you keep on pushing.

Christmas, Day 2

To the degree that you can lean in to the natural rhythm of life (in this case, measured by the calendar year), you gain the opportunity for reflection and rest and re-consideration of your life.

You recognize the arrival of Emmanuel, “God-With-Us”, as a truly NEW thing (though not entirely divorced from the long, rich, salvation history of God), and in this short exhale before the launch of a new year, you can take some time to ponder how this “new-ness” affects you.

How will you partner with it? How will you express it in your own unique context, with your own unique giftedness?

As the world turns from Christmas to New Years, relish these days. Marinate in them, and allow your thoughts to drift into dangerous territory of new-ness.

What can you BEGIN to do in this next season?

What should you STOP doing?

What will you STAND for?

What kind of person will you BE?

What kinds of things will you MAKE?

Obviously, there are more questions than this, but these will surely get you started. The important thing is not to rush them: you don’t need to have an answer in an hour, or even in a day. Let the answers bubble up over time. But let them come.

When Rest DOES Come

Be grateful when and where you can.

It’s not a bad idea to savor the gift—the grace, literally—of rest when it comes. First of all, you should now understand that it’s not a given, and so it makes sense to say “Thank you” when it comes.

Second, when you are rested and your mind is relatively clear, it becomes just slightly easier to give the half-smile, to practice your breathing and deliberate thought, to direct your thoughts.

In other words, it is easier to arrange your inner world so that God can reside in it.

So take advantage of that.

Seek to Know (But not THAT kind of “know”)

You “know” lots of things. With the ubiquitous presence of the internet, you can instantly find the answer to any question you’d ever have.

You can research the Ignatian way of prayer.

You can discover the method of centering prayer.

You can find theological commentaries and reactions to every possible subject and instance under the sun.

But this is not the only type of “knowing”, and it is surely not the type of knowing that your soul desperately needs.

What you need most is the Biblical/Jewish way of “knowing”, which is really “knowing-by-experience.” Knowing-by-experience is when you set aside the things you know ABOUT God and fully embrace the PRESENCE of God (or, even more accurately, allow and recognize the fact that God fully embraces YOU).

This is the type of knowing that truly changes you.

It’s the difference between how I might describe my wife and children versus what it feels like to hug them, to be with them in moments of unscripted love.

Wikipedia cannot take you there (though you should donate some money to wikipedia.org).

The path to experience it is through surrender, through quietness, through silence.

The path is through shutting off your tendency to evaluate and comment on the things of God, and just embracing the deep mystery BEYOND the theology.

(NOTE: Yes, you DO need to know things about God: this is not an invitation to make up whatever you’d like to about the great Mystery. This is simply a reminder that there is MORE to the spiritual life than facts, doctrine, and dogma.)