Learning to Breathe

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Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure… We are not saved by any formulas or theologies or any priesthood extraneous to the human journey itself. “Peter, you must be ground like wheat, and once you have recovered, then you can help the brothers.” (Luke 22:31-32)

from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

I went through a ‘Peter’ experience a few years ago. I promised to love God, to be His child, to follow Jesus with all of my heart – and then I went and did something I was immediately ashamed of. I didn’t just do it once, either. It was a very messed-up time. I think I wanted to show God how unworthy I was of His love. I had been on the receiving end of so much hurt that I truly believed, deep, deep down, that no one, not even God, could love me, and that my behaviour would prove it. What did God do in response to this display of weakness and pain? He brought me, within months, to baptism by immersion (an amazing experience) and a few weeks later to the man who seemed to see the ‘me’ underneath all the hurt and loved me in a way that I never knew was possible (of course, I came to love him too, but Frank loved me first, in so many ways that I could never even have imagined). It was truly a match made in heaven.

When I read the words above by Richard Rohr this morning, I recognised their import and impact on my life. Suffering – for reasons I don’t claim to understand – and shared suffering, are essential for growth in Christ. Maybe we human beings can only truly appreciate (and participate in) the Light when we have experienced darkness.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matthew 5:14 (NRSVA)

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.

Isaiah 9:2

Looking for Love

After a few years… you will know that your deep and insatiable desiring came from God all along, [that] you went on a bit of a detour, looked for love in all the wrong places, and now have found what you really wanted anyway.

~ Richard Rohr, ‘Breathing Under Water’

“Set your heart on the kingdom and his goodness, and all these things will come to you as a matter of course.”

Matthew 6:33 (Phillips)

WHAT IS FAITH?

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from idpinthat.com

…the Christian world must ever thank Martin Luther for his courage and persistence in recovering Paul and the Gospel for the Western ‘can do’ world.

The only problem is that it devolved into our modern private and personal ‘decision for Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour’ vocabulary, without any real transformation of consciousness or social critique on the part of too many Christians. Faith itself became a ‘good work’ that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

In the above paragraph Rohr has summed up the largest elephant in the room of Evangelical Christianity. It’s about time we had a long, hard look at ourselves. And yes, I do consider myself Evangelical, partly because that is how I came to faith, mostly because I believe this is something so wonderful how can I not live it and breathe it (and thus share it)? That’s what loving Jesus looks like: loving my neighbour, seeing Jesus in the people I meet even if they have active antipathy towards Him themselves and, of course, sharing the Good News.

Live

…God [loves] us in spite of ourselves in the very places where we cannot or will not or dare not love ourselves.

God does not love us if we change, God loves us so that we can change.

~ from Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps by Richard Rohr

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from idpinthat.com

“Tell them that as surely as I, the Sovereign LORD, am the living God, I do not enjoy seeing sinners die. I would rather see them stop sinning and live.”

Ezekiel 33:11 (GNT)

“I came [so] that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

John 10:10 (NRSVA)

The Economics of God

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As the daughter of an economics professor and as a student of statistics/maths, I like metaphors that relate. The following is from the book ‘Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps’ by Richard Rohr:

The revelation from the cross and the twelve steps [as used in Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery]… believes that sin and failure are… the setting and opportunity for the transformation and enlightenment of the offender… It is a mystery that makes sense to the soul , and is entirely an ‘economy of grace’, which makes sense only to those who have experienced it.

Richard Rohr continually astonishes me with his words! He is so very astute. He makes me go back to the bible time and time again to reread passages I thought I already knew, and ‘opens the eyes of my heart’ to yet more wonder and yet more awe at the humble majesty of God. The ‘humble majesty’ about sums it up! There seem to be so many contradictions within the nature of God, yet Rohr points out that they aren’t contradictions at all – merely the workings of grace, which are above and beyond human understanding.

The economy of grace was exemplified in Desmond Tutu’s ‘Truth and Reconciliation Commission’ in South Africa after the fall of apartheid, where all had to take proper and public responsibility for their mistakes, not for the sake of any punishment but for the sake of truth and healing. In fact the healing was the baring – and the bearing- of the truth publicly. This is… unheard of in human history but is actually totally biblical, starting with the prophet Ezekiel… and dramatically lived out by Jesus.

Necessary Surrender

We each have our inner program for happiness, our plans by which we can be secure, esteemed and in control, and are blissfully unaware that these cannot work for us for the long haul – without our becoming more and more control freaks ourselves… what makes so much religion so innocuous, ineffective and even unexciting is that there has seldom been a concrete ‘decision to turn our lives over to the care of God’… wilfulness [runs] rampant… there are about the same percentage of people who have actually handed over their will to God in most church circles as there are people who I meet at many ‘secular’ gatherings.

 ~ from Breathing Under Water by Richard Rohr

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from idpinthat.com

I find that this is a process that sometimes needs to be repeated, especially when I fall into the mire of comparison. Our culture thrives on comparisons, we judge one another and we judge ourselves. I grew up in a very judgemental family. God has been showing me the patterns of behaviour that I have inadvertently perpetuated, particularly those that my children see, whether towards myself or others. Thinking myself better than others is a form of self-deceit. Thinking myself less than others is deceptive and equally destructive. As soon as I surrender my will to His, I begin to be capable of loving myself, and others, as God does – no more, no less. This is ‘through a glass darkly’. This is grace.

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. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face.

extract from 1 Corinthians 13:8-12 (NRSVA)