Burden of Myself

Ran into Fr. Gary over at Holy Trinity Sunday… well, he almost chased me down when I walked past him. I thought he was busy, and didn’t want to disturb him. Guess I was wrong.

Reminded me of the prayer he laid on me last spring:

Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will.

or maybe he says

Relieve me of the terrible burden of  myself, that I may better do Thy will.

Yup. Last year, it made a little bit of sense. This spring, it runs deep. I struggle with letting go of the bondage of protecting myself. I am more and more aware of the times I do so.  As I practice yoga, especially Yin, I find how difficult it is to let go physically. Move into a pose — a pose that requires you to relax and let go so that you can get a deep stretch. Sit with it. Do a self-check while you locate those muscles that are holding on tight to protect other things. Relax, let go and allow the earth beneath you to support you. Breathe. Oops! those same muscles start tensing up again. They don’t really accept that it will be ok to relax and be supported. The cycle repeats, each time with a bit more success.

How does that apply to the prayer? For me, it is the physical embodiment of my spiritual and soulful life. Can I find those things that hold me tight and protect me from God’s love and support? Can I then let go and rest in God’s love and presence? It’s not easy for me. I might let go a bit and rest, only to discover that I have picked up that baggage again, and am using it to insulate me from freedom. The physical practice has given me a way to work through these things, to experience the letting go and the picking up and letting go and picking up and letting go… I seek to move with this experience and apply it to my emotions and my prayer life.

Jesus came to earth and walked among us as one of us. That must mean that God experienced life in the physical body of Jesus. The physical body is animated by the spiritual and emotional self. I’m doubtful that they can be separated successfully. Incarnation, to me, means that God is indeed here, in muscle and bone as much as in spirit. The experience of one must integrate with the experience of the other.

Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. 

And help me to live fully and freely. Amen.

A Taste of Gratitude in Holy Week

Over the past 15-18 months, I have struggled in with my feelings and relationship with another person. He is far away now, but in a place where I will surely encounter him again in the next few weeks. He is someone that I care for, care about and really like. If you asked him about that in the past year or so, he would probably inform you in no uncertain terms that I bore false witness against him and that I was the cause of much unwanted change in his life. I’m pretty sure he has himself convinced that I was out to get him, and successful at doing so. I’ve lived with and walked through the anger he left behind and as we enter Holy Week, I can say “Thank you.”

I’ve been through my own defensiveness, my own battle where I have wanted to scream [at him] — “Look, Jerk, I wasn’t trying to hurt you, but I saw someone who needed some help.” or “I’m really angry that you think I was out to hurt you.” I’ve gritted my teeth, and hurt, as I became an invisible person in his presence. I’ve sat with the anger when I heard from others that he had told them that I was the reason he was moved away. I have taken comfort in another friend suggesting that I pray the Psalms, because they contain all of the emotions I have passed through.

Sunday, I listened to the Passion as recorded in Luke’s Gospel. It sank in that through the troubles of the past year I have also looked at myself. I have opened a small opening to let the Light of God’s love shine in and illuminate my actions, my thoughts, my feelings. I have asked forgiveness for the contempt I have felt. I have attempted to step outside the situation and see the whole thing. I have examined my motivations for what I actually did do and tried to be honest about the parts that were on the track of being loving and caring as well as the parts that were driven by hurt and anger. I have come to appreciate at a deeper level that “Doing the right thing isn’t always the easiest thing” (Thanks to my favorite TV Shrink, Dr. Danny of “Necessary Roughness”). I have finally accepted that sometimes you must say what you believe, even though it will likely put you into very uncomfortable places. I am at peace with knowing that I wasn’t perfect, but I did try to do what I thought the Spirit was calling me to do.

In so many ways, this whole mess has helped me to accept that I am loved: even when I push back at God’s love and try to distance myself simply because God can see me so clearly — which can be very uncomfortable.

And so, I say “Thank you” to my friend (and I truly still consider him a friend, no matter what he thinks) for helping me to grow closer to God. I pray that he too will find it in his heart to let the walls come down and let go of his own hurt and anger — because that makes this life so much more joyful to live.