May 25, 2018

PUCC Holy Week Devotion – Wednesday, March 28, 2018

 

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. – 1Corinthians 13:4-8

 

[Here in the middle of Holy Week, as we continue with our Lenten journey with our whole selves and a particular focus on our head/mind, it is important to ponder old and new ways of thinking… maturing in the faith.]

 

Growing in Love’s Likeness: Falling into Mercy by Richard Rohr

 

The transition to the second half of life* moves you from either/or thinking to both/and thinking: the ability to increasingly live with paradox and mystery. You no longer think in terms of win/lose, but win/win. It is a very different mind and strategy for life. In order for this alternative consciousness to become your primary way of thinking, you usually have to experience something that forces either/or thinking to fall apart. Perhaps you hate homosexuality and then you meet a wonderful gay couple. Or you meet a Muslim who is more loving than most of your Christian friends. Or you encounter a young immigrant who doesn’t match your stereotypes at all. Something must break your addiction to yourself and your opinions.

 

Your first reaction is a struggle: “What do I do now? I don’t like this. I can’t deal with this. I want to go back to my familiar and habitual world.” You know your lesbian daughter is good and you love her and don’t want to reject her. So you ask your minister, “What will I do?” (Hopefully you have a wise, non-dual minister!) Inside such “liminal space” is where real change happens, where your self-serving little dualisms must fall apart. It might be called growing up.

 

Jesus always honored and often idealized good, holy non-Jews, like the Samaritan man (Luke 10:29-37), the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30). But even his disciples struggled to accept that the outsider could or should be accepted. If you’re stuck in the first half of life, with your explanation about why you or your group are the best, you will hold on strongly because it’s all you have, and any change feels like dying.

 

Often the only thing that can break down your natural egocentricity is discovering that the qualities you hate in others are actually within you. You’re not so moral after all. You’ve imagined doing “bad” things; and if you could get away with it, you know you’d do it. Perhaps the only reason you don’t is because you’re afraid. Fear is not enlightenment. Fear is not the new transformed state of the risen Christ that we’ve been promised. Fear keeps you inside of a false order and will not allow any reordering.

 

Unless you somehow “weep” over your own phoniness, hypocrisy, fear, and woundedness, you probably won’t let go of the first half of life. If you don’t allow this needed disappointment to well up within you, if you surround yourself with your orthodoxies and your certitudes and your belief that you’re the best, frankly, you will stay in the first half of life forever.  Many religious people never allow themselves to fall, while many “sinners” fall and rise again. Our greatest sin is not falling or failing, but refusing to rise and trust ourselves-and God-again.Make sure you are always in need of mercy and you will never stop growing.

 

* = Most of us tend to think about the second half of life in terms of getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life. But the transition can happen at any age. Moving to the second half of life is an experience of falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness and we are consciously connected to the whole.

 

It is not a loss but somehow a gain. I have met enough radiant people to know that this paradox is possible! Many have come to their human fullness, often against all odds, and usually through suffering. They offer models and goals for humanity, much more than the celebrities and politicos who get so much of our attention today.

 

Helen Keller (1880-1968)-an author, pacifist, suffragist, member of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and a woman who was deaf and blind-was such a model. Once she discovered her own depths, she seems to have leapt into the second half of life very early, despite considerable limitations. She became convinced that life was about service to others rather than protecting or lamenting her supposedly disabled body. Keller’s Swedenborgian mysticism surely helped her grow and “fall upward” despite-or maybe because of-her very constricted early experience. Helen had to grow; she had to go deep and broad. She clearly continued to create herself, even though she could have so easily complained about how little she had to work with. Where did God end and where did she begin? It is an impossible question to answer. Helen and God somehow worked together.

 

Prayer: Holy One, help me to continue to mature in my faith, growing into the fullness of love in all directions. Amen.