A couple of days ago, the daily reflection from CAC (Richard Rohr and crew) included the following:
Parker Palmer, a Quaker teacher and activist whom I deeply trust, reflects on his own “further journey”:
[There are] moments when it is clear—if I have the eyes to see—that the life I am living is not the same as the life that wants to live in me. In those moments I sometimes catch a glimpse of my true life, a life hidden like the river beneath the ice. And . . . I wonder: What am I meant to do? Who am I meant to be?
That stopped me cold. Parker Palmer put in to words something that has pushed at the edges of my consciousness for forever. I have so often felt that internal struggle where I am trying so hard to live a good, proper, useful life and fit into a vision I have set up while knowing that there is actually another path that calls. Life has gotten more peaceful as I have been able to listen a bit more to the life that wants to live in me.
It’s not easy to let go of those actions and things that make me feel secure. However, those moments where I can look inside and just accept the one who is struggling to be born in me that life starts to emerge. In evangelical terms, I am born again… or maybe I just continue the process of being born again, over and over, little by little.
Some written prayers repeatedly find their way into my site and my consciousness. This one has been in my heart of late:
Lord, Thou knowest better than I know myself that I am growing older and will someday be old. Keep me from the fatal habit of thinking I must say something on every subject and on every occasion. Release me from craving to straighten out everybody’s affairs. Make me thoughtful but not moody. Helpful, but not bossy. With my vast store of wisdom—it seems a pity not to use it all, but Thou knowest, Lord, that I want a few friends at the end.
Keep my mind free from the recital of endless details; give me wings to get to the point swiftly. Seal my lips on my aches and pains. They are increasing, and love of rehearsing them is becoming sweeter as the years go by. I dare not ask for grace enough to enjoy the tales of others’ pains, but help me to endure them with patience. I dare not ask for improved memory, but for a growing humility and a lessening cocksureness when my memory seems to clash with the memories of others. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I may be mistaken.
Keep me reasonably sweet; I do not want to be a sour old person—some of them are so hard to live with and each one a crowning work of the devil. Give me the ability to see good things in unexpected places, and talents in unexpected people. And, give me, O Lord, the grace to tell them so.
I admit that I struggle with “the Church” and with the apparent ideologies of parts of the church that I deal with… like the Cursillo Movement. I admit that I struggle to be inclusive, to remember and love these entities that I struggle with, even when we diverge on interpretation, or when I feel like I have moved on and I have shed some of these ideas. I admit that at times I do think I am more advanced or a bit superior. I’m not, when I look closely and honestly at myself, but I do struggle with those tendencies.
Last night I listened to a couple of talks at a Cursillo School of Leaders. These were well done, and well researched. The women who happened to be talking had put time, effort and thought into these presentations, and both admitted that the preparation had caused a change of mind and/or heart in themselves.
I listened to the words and a couple of things struck me: First, I was hearing with different ears. Same words, but very different meanings to me. That means I heard things I had never heard before, even if I had heard the same words proclaimed. One of the ideas that has been voiced is about being fully human. I’ve mouthed those words, but mostly they were a mystery to me. I hear words about “something superior to this world” and I bristle… until I begin to understand that what I seek is superior in as much as it is more, beyond, a unity of the physical world we see (and touch and hear) and the Spirit or power that animates not only humans but all the world. A unity in the universe.
The other thing that struck me was the simplicity of “method” talk and how the speaker shared her journey toward a better understanding of “the method.” She talked about “Make a friend, be a friend, bring that friend to Christ” and how the goal was “Bring a friend to Christ” not “Bring a friend to Cursillo.” That might happen that one would bring a friend to a Cursillo weekend, and that would probably be a good thing, but that is not the goal. Even before that, she reflected on what it means to make a friend and be a friend. I kept hearing the words to an old song “What a friend we have in Jesus…” as she spoke.
I’m listening with new ears. I’m hearing the same words and moving to a different understanding. If I truly believe that God is everywhere and in everything/person/creature/plant/situation, and that the same holds for the Body of Christ, then I’m approaching this idea of sharing the Good News differently. I only need to witness to the Love that is Lord of Heaven and earth and be led by that light. I don’t need to judge. I don’t need to worry that someone else is responding incorrectly. I can let go of the need to be “right.” I am free to evaluate the results of actions without judging the person.
Maybe those are the ears Jesus was referring to… for now, I’m going with that.
Not long ago the Sunday Gospel was the Transfiguration — Jesus takes Peter, James and John up the mountain where they see Jesus as he truly his. The gospel says “transfigured”, but in many ways it seems to be transformation or metamorphosis. Like the resurrection where Jesus becomes the Christ.
The interesting term to me is “metamorphosis” — that would be the Greek variant. Most of us are familiar with a couple of regular metamorphosis events: Caterpillars wrap themselves in a cocoon and emerge as a butterfly (or moth or some other lovely winged creature) and tadpoles grow legs and lungs and absorbs their tails and become frogs. In each case, it is movement from what is to what was always meant to be. Each creature is growing into its “true self.” That caterpillar was always meant to be the butterfly, the tadpole was always meant to be the frog, Jesus was always meant to be the Christ and, I believe, each person is meant to be a part of the Body of Christ.
How that happens is different for different creatures: the caterpillar wraps itself in a cocoon, goes into hiding and if I understand correctly, in that cocoon is an intermediate stage, a pupa, that in its time transforms into a butterfly. The transformation is made in the dark of the cocoon… and when the butterfly emerges, it must do it on it’s on. If someone tries to help it, or do it for the butterfly, then the butterfly generally dies.
That tadpole is a bit more transparent. You can safely watch as legs begin to grow. You can see the tail being absorbed. You can watch each step as it happens.
Some of us are caterpillars while others are tadpoles. Both are becoming what they are meant to be. The butterfly doesn’t get to say to the frog “Hey — you did it all wrong!”; the tadpole doesn’t get to say to the caterpillar — “Hey! You can’t hid while this transformation/metamorphosis is happening.” And Jesus didn’t say “My particular cross is the only cross…”
Let each one be transformed/metamorphosed/transfigured in the way that works. And rejoice in the many paths to the True Self.
Not sure how this all fits together. My first reflections this morning were on how to “let go” — I read the readings before mass; I thought of Solomon asking for wisdom and letting go of his own glory. I reflected on Jesus’ words about finding a treasure and selling all to be able to buy the field where the treasure lay. So many ways to let go of what is no longer useful.
I thought about the gospel and how the fishing net collects many things which are sorted later — and what is good and necessary is kept, and the rest thrown away. So many times I’ve not been willing to throw the net and see what is caught before I throw things away. I want to decide ahead of time what I will catch and keep. My judgement first.
As I listened to the choir practice before mass I realized that it was going to be difficult to “go with the flow.” I hear the music at a different tempo than those who lead it at church. I felt called to try to let go of what didn’t really matter, to let go of my own way and try to follow the timing of that other drummer without all the negative stuff. That’s hard.
You see, there is no closure. When I let go of the timing I hear in the music it’s a small death. When I can’t let go of my drummer and fail to enjoy the other drumbeat, it’s a small death. There is no winning or losing. I must accept both. So, I can get closure in either direction.
I can’t say I succeeded. The closing song was sung at a tempo that felt dirge-like to me. It might have been beautiful to others, but it sucked the life and energy out of me. I can say I made a stab at letting go of how I would have led it and in that way I could search for a certain beauty/joy in the way it was sung. Perhaps one day I will be able to appreciate it. Perhaps not. But certainly, it’s not an anger of frustration that deserves to hold on to my life and my spirit. It just is a different approach to the music. And, the music is what calls me and soothes my soul.
I’ll try to focus more on what’s good and important and let the rest of it work itself out.
Wish me luck.