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.
I am certainly guilty of this… sometimes I can only see the “eye” in this picture; sometimes I see a butterfly wing. And, when I am whole, awake and aware, I see both clearly. The point of view colors the the way we see our world, our friends, our universe, our God.
Today’s Gospel is the Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-36) — Paraphrased it goes like this:
Jesus takes Peter, John and James up to the mountain to pray. As usual, they doze off while Jesus prays and is transfigured ( I think transformed might be a good word for the event) as he hears from Moses and Elijah about his mission and what is to come. The sleepyheads come full awake and behold the Jesus in his glory. They of course want to stay in this wonderful time/space and make a memorial. But, God says — “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.” In the end, the leave the mountain and keep their mouths shut about what they have seen, at least for the time being.
My first thought was that the Transfiguration says a lot more about the disciples than it does about Jesus. Jesus was still Jesus, but he was being seen in a new light. They began to get a glimpse of what was really happening. They saw the light. They were touched. They began to see differently. And God spoke to them.
Upon a second reading, I begin to see that Jesus was changed — I think that as he prayed, he came to see himself differently and more clearly and that change just couldn’t be hidden. It had to shine. It had to show.
Along my current path, where I find myself questioning the institutional church, its teachings, its functioning, its place in my life I also heard the words that God said: “This is my chosen Son. Listen to him.” In the Gospels, I am having difficulty finding any references to Worship Jesus. I find the verbs listen & follow. It’s proving difficult for me to reconcile the stories of the biblical Jesus with current church practices. I know it must be possible because people like Pope Francis seem to be able to live out the Gospel and still work within the Church.
Still thinking. Still praying. Still seeking.
A few weeks ago I was in a small group sharing, and one person began to share about recent a Bible study session where the subject got around to wrath. What is wrath? Is it okay to be angry? That sort of thing. Some folks of course thought it was ok to be angry and others thought is was sinful.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines wrath as extreme anger with the Full Definition of WRATH as:
- strong vengeful anger or indignation
- retributory punishment for an offense or a crime : divine chastisement
I found this whole pattern a bit unsettling. Anger is. And asking if it’s okay to be angry or is it sinful is just the wrong question.
Anger alerts me to the fact that I feel threatened, or hurt or disrespected. Or that I sense that someone or something I love is in danger or hurting or being disrespected. Anger can fire me up to take action. The classic example of that might be Jesus turning over the tables of the money changers in the Temple.
The first step, IMHO, is to step back when I am angry and look deeper. If I accept that I am God’s beloved child, then often the anger begins to subside — after all, what that other person did or said cannot actually kill or harm that part of me that is God’s child. Or, I can move beyond anger to sorrow that someone else is so broken that they would do some of the horrible things that are being done in this world. If I can move beyond anger I might just get to a place where I might actually be able help in righting a wrong, or healing a hurt.
Yes — anger is a big red flag. It is a sign that something is wrong. Might be something wrong inside me, or something wrong in the world around me. But asking if it is a sin? That’s just the wrong question.
A part of my daily routine is to read Richard Rohr’s Reflection that arrives in my inbox each morning. Some days it seems we are on totally different roads. Other days, we are both in a place where it feels like I can sit and listen, share and reflect and grow toward God. Today, was one of the “Aha!” days.
Today, he mentioned the admonition not to “eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” That particular section of Genesis has always bothered me a bit. Why not? Isn’t is good to know good from bad? As I have grown [older] I find it less bothersome. I find that judging what is good and who is evil is a task best left to one with better vision, understanding and compassion than I. Life is much more of a joy if I leave as much of that judgement up to God and simple attempt to love those around me, wherever, however I find them. Maybe not simple, but certainly less oppressing.
The older I get, the more I realize that we all are both saint and sinner, good and evil. I find that the mailman who is deemed to be difficult and disliked by one set of neighbors is the same person who carefully delivered the mail to the door for another neighbor who was weak from chemo as she fought cancer. I find a priest who has caused me great personal anguish and pain through his own anger to be the same person who so often led me to great insight and spiritual growth. I must learn not to just the parts, just try to love the person.
The “Aha!” moment — seeing this “forbidden fruit” as something that will truly cause us more pain and suffering… a sort of warning that doing this, eating of this fruit will not work out so well as we imagine. Of course, like most children, we don’t really believe it until we make the mistake for ourselves, and then it can be hard to let go of it. Trying to be judge and jury and getting trapped brings to mind a story of a friend’s son.
They were at a mall and he kept trying to poke his head through the railing to look down at the level below. His mom instructed him repeatedly “Don’t do that! Don’t put your head through there!” Of, course, as a eight year old boy is wont to do, he did it anyway. And his head got stuck. Panic ensued. Mall security and more was called in to extract him from the railing. The resulting extraction was unpleasant at best.
When he was finally freed, his Mom turned him to face her an asked “Why did you do that? Didn’t you hear me tell you not to? Didn’t you know you weren’t supposed to do that?”
His response: “Yes, you told me. But, I didn’t know it would HURT!”
Ah — how often have I had that same reaction?