“You can’t fill a cup that is already full. That means you can’t approach a new situation, relationship, or job with what you think you know will happen. When you do that, you’re not leaving room for the unexpected, the delightful, and even the miraculous. Try starting from a place of ‘Maybe I don’t know.’ It allows you to be open to something or someone being different from what you experienced in the past. When you approach life in this open way, you also allow the universe to conspire on your behalf. So be empty of expectations. The universe will always dream bigger than you will. Abundance comes when you realize that you can receive what you need-every day.” by Eden-Clark and John Germain Leto
This quote so speaks to my condition right now. One of the hardest things for me is to allow those I care about to hurt. I want to help them find joy even in times of suffering, both for themselves and partly for myself. But suffering is part of the fabric of life and brings opportunities for grace and each of us has our own way and timing for experiencing it and learning from it. And part of loving another person is allowing them to be themselves, even if we are totally convinced we know “better” ways to be. Not being able to help my husband accept the losses that come with his illness or to help him trust that death is only a doorway, not the end, is very painful. And feelings of inadequacy and failure easily become less painful when disguised as frustration and impatience. The quote at the beginning of this showed up as a memory on my face book page today reminding me that my way may not be the best way for someone else and to trust God who loves my husband more than I ever could.
I do relate this experience to Mary’s vigil at the foot of her son’s cross. She had tried to convince him to come home when she realized he was putting himself in danger. She must have struggled with anger when he wouldn’t listen, also with guilt that she had somehow failed him, and with unimaginable heartbreak as she watched him suffer.
In the quote at the beginning of this, I translate “Universe” as God. And however anyone understands salvation, I truly believe that Jesus showed us that this life is not all there is and that suffering has the potential to be redeeming.
And the most counter-intuitive truth he showed us about life was when he prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them. They know not what they do.” He showed us that forgiveness is the ultimate requirement for love, so that we too can experience forgiveness. Because forgiving others and accepting and experiencing forgiveness are inseparable.
Forgiving others frees us to forgive ourselves, particularly when we have not been able to consciously admit we need forgiveness. We all have the self-righteous belief that our way is the totally right way. And that blinds us to the harm we do. Forgiving others for their blindness both frees and heals us.
Forgiving others is at the core of the command Jesus gave us, “Love one another as I have loved you,” because forgiveness is the very essence of Good Friday.
My prayer for all of us this Holy Week is that we will find the grace to admit the limits of both our own understanding and of everyone’s human blindness, freeing us to both forgive and accept forgiveness. So then, on Easter, we can celebrate the love of God expressed in Jesus and truly rejoice and be glad in it.
The Love of God is the only thing
of any importance at all.
The Love of God is so incredibly different
and beyond compare
that it boggles our minds to believe in it,
never-the-less accept it.
No matter how much we have been loved
by family and friends,
no matter how famous and wildly adored
by the multitudes,
nothing has ever been more than
a barely glimpsed shadow
of the Love of God.
The Love of God is all that is necessary.
We need nothing more
than to know the unconditional love of God
with our whole mind,
to experience it with an open heart
until our spirit is so filled
with it, that we simply pass it on
by letting it overflow.
We begin to sense this Love of God
when we consider
the possibility that the creator of the universe
chose to walk in our skin,
to experience the frustrating and fearful limits
of being human,
being born under crushing political oppression,
a scorned minority,
bearing physical exhaustion and bodily pain,
of being abandoned and even betrayed
by his only friends,
publicly ridiculed, tortured and killed,
even taking the
leap of faith into the darkness of death
to show us there is more,
because of His Love.
The love of God can free us to see ourselves
exactly as we are,
to accept our own need for forgiveness
without guilt, just true sorrow
that brings a joy that sets us free from fear
and gives us grace to change.
The Love of God begins to free us to forgive
both ourselves and others.
The Love of God heals us of the crippling wounds
that stunt our growth in love.
The Love of God takes our mustard seed of good
and nurtures it with grace.
The Love of God builds our faith and sets us free
to die and live again.
The Love of God is
personal, unconditional, and eternal.
All else fails.
There is nothing greater than
the Love of God expressed in Jesus,
the Love of God for you.
I’m pretty sure that law and the concept of sin and consequences were created to try to help us live in the groups we need to survive and prosper. Society is a two edged sword. It keeps us from having to do everything for ourselves from fighting off wildlife, planting, harvesting, to creating clothes and shelter, thus giving us time to think, create, explore, and ask questions about the why, not just the how. But, since humanity is a work in progress…..the old adage, that there’s both a goody and a baddy to everything, holds true for society. Society helps us survive physically, but it also challenges us to learn to love.
The commandments were first of all, simply practical. The laws were aimed at keeping us alive, both as individuals and humanity, long enough to become loving. Whatever the Intelligence called God is, that created and nourishes life, it lives within each of us. It is a source of grace to become more loving, than competitive and combative. And we are like cells in a body. Each of us not only affects those closest to us, we affect the whole for better or worse, even the generations following us.
Self-honesty and understanding, rather than guilt, are the beginning of learning to love. And those take courage and grace. The divorce rate makes it obvious we haven’t become enough like Jesus to even love those closest to us, never-the-less those different from us or even “against” us. The commandments are the basic tools of survival for society. But, Jesus showed us the next level through teaching and living the spirituality of the Beatitudes. They call us beyond the fundamentals of the Commandments and just survival. They call us to freedom, the freedom to love others.
Caring is prayer. Prayer is in the intention, whether expressed in words, thoughts, feelings, candles, symbols, acts of kindness, or forgiveness. There is power in prayer. But both wisdom and love are needed to use the power for others, to understand that all creation, without exception, is one.
Jesus is a turning point in humanity’s journey. He fleshed out a love that sacrifices for not only the weakest physically, but the weakest spiritually. This is not survival of the fittest.
His resurrection also illustrated that this life span isn’t all there is. Jesus is the living example of the potential of God’s grace even within our own humanity.
His resurrection shows us death is simply a door to eternity. When we believe this, it gives us a very different value system than death as the finish line. And His openness and love for all show us the way to overcome the finality of death.
WHEN LOVE BREAKS THROUGH, WE ARE SUDDENLY ABLE TO ACCEPT OUR WEAKNESSES AND FAULTS WITHOUT COMING UNGLUED.
“Hungers of the Heart” by Richard Watts.
Watt quotes David James Duncan, who tells about his search that finally brought him to hollowing out a place in his heart about the size of a thimble. Duncan continues, “When I was twenty, in India one day, I turned to God with embarrassed sincerity and said, ‘ Would you care to fill this little thimble with anything?’ and instantaneously, -almost absurdly really, – an undeniable, unimaginable, indescribable lake of peace and love landed on my head in reply.”
Watts continues: “This experience that Christians call grace breaks into the anxiety, confusion and self-doubt that trouble us and frees us to journey along a path toward becoming a real self. ….It need not be as sudden or dramatic as Duncan’s. We need not be “born again;” we live in God’s grace simply by virtue of having been born. Whether for us a breakthrough comes as we look up to the stars, ponder the mysteries of DNA, find someone who loves us, help heal another’s hurt, take a risk for justice, (recognize our limits and helplessness, hit bottom, are forgiven by someone we have harmed* my additions) the experience of being accepted restores us to our real selves.
The paradox is this: that when love breaks through, we are suddenly able to accept our weakness and faults without coming unglued.
We come to accept that even our best impulses are tainted by self-interest, that we pretend to know more than we really know, and to “have it all together” when we really don’t. We begin to see that our strengths are really also our pitfalls: ambition that enables us to achieve can result in a stunted personal life with little time for love and friendship, the pride that allows us to walk in dignity may also keep us from acknowledging our mistakes; the charm that opens doors for us may lapse into shallowness on which we depend without seeking deepening, growth and newness; the intellect in which we trust may mask a denial of the emotions, which one day erupt in us in discomfiting force. (Our tendency to respond to life emotionally may help us understand and reach out to those who are suffering, but since emotions are short term, we may make our choices based on them with consequences that are destructive in the long run.* my addition )
The wonder of grace is that we are increasingly able to see ourselves as we really are without despair.”
And that is the first step to becoming free to grow and change in ways that give us more balanced, appropriate and grace-filled responses to life.
The Beatitudes Describe Spirituality rather than Religion or Law. The word ‘blessed’ is translated here as receiving grace.
Graced are the poor in spirit for they are not filled with self, so they are able to be open to God.
Graced are those that accept the pain of loss for they will find the Comforter within instead of seeking an escape.
Graced are those who do not need to own or control anything, for they are free to enjoy the beauty of everything.
Graced are those who know and regret that they are imperfect, for they are free to accept Jesus as their righteousness.
Graced are those who recognize the log in their own eye, for they will seek the love of God and become able to love the unlovable.
Graced are those who are focused on God, for they will find God everywhere.
Graced are the peacemakers, because no cause or group owns them; they belong only to God.
Graced are those persecuted for Jesus’ sake, for they know Jesus.
Graced are the falsely accused and rejected, for they learn to need only God.
Spirituality is foreign to us because it is paradoxical and few of us have had training in grasping paradox. We’re faced with having to lose to win and to die to live. That takes grace more than intelligence, morals, or ethics. And opening to grace takes admitting we need it. That’s the leap of faith that jump starts our spiritual journey.
The Originals are in Matthew 5: 3-11 These are my own paraphrases.
I did not manage to pray or meditate on peace exactly last Sunday. But I was praying and working my way through articulating a request for forgiveness from the Elders (Session) in my church. I have been alienated from my church for over two years.
I have prayed and struggled with this the whole time, but only recently saw that I have made choices that increased the mutual estrangement, instead of moving us toward reconciliation.
Several times over my seventy-six years, I have taken offense at what friends said and cut off the relationships. Two particular women, a decade or more older than I was, had done many kind and generous things for me and my family, but unfortunately they said things that hit me where I felt most vulnerable. And I let them literally die without ever saying I was sorry or even telling them why I became alienated.
I realized when beginning to be a part of B4Peace and the Sunday night prayers/chants for peace, that since I have had several small strokes and three clogged arteries in my head recently, I might not get a chance to reconcile, if I postpone saying that I am sorry very long.
Asking to be on the agenda for a Session meeting, sitting waiting for it to begin, feeling like the elephant in the room that nobody was mentioning, trying not to say anything accusatory, just to take responsibility for my part, was just about the hardest thing I ever remember doing.
With some encouragement from our minister, most, maybe all, said that they accepted my apology. But the response was less than warm and no one volunteered any apology for their part in the conflict. By the time I got to my car, I was in danger of getting angry once again. What I realized is, that forgiveness takes one side, reconciliation takes both sides. And that forgiving them was my problem, because forgiving them reconciled me to God. Their being sorry was their problem.
In working through aspects of this estrangement, I have realized that an area of oversensitivity caused by my own inability to admit a weakness, blew everything out of proportion. Admitting to the reality of that particular limit has set me free of a source of fear and defensiveness.
Another outcome of this spiritual struggle has been recognizing how my idealism often gives me a critical spirit. The truth is that God is much more realistic about our human limits than we are. Yes, we aim for the ideal. Yes, we encourage and share insights with others in our spiritual journey. But, at any given time our vision may not be the same as God’s. He/She may have an entirely different agenda. Letting go of our preconceived ideas, at least holding our vision lightly with fingers open, is the only way we will ever hear God and the only way we will ever have peace.
I have already forgotten the source, but a quote helped me at a crucial point in coming to grips with how destructive my unrealistic expectations have been: “Do not let the perfect become the enemy of the good.”
I do not tend to see the glass as either half empty or half full. I see it as a challenge. I start imagining possible ways to fill it to overflowing. There have been times that this trait was perfect for my situation/job/project. I was in the right place at the right time with enough resources and talented support people who shared my vision.
But recently , I’ve recognized that the situation I am in now does not have the resources or people with the shared vision. And I cannot accomplish my goals alone, nor should I, even if I could. If God wants it and I’m willing to do whatever, God will supply what else is needed. Otherwise, instead of either trying to force my oughts and shoulds on others or silently judging them as falling short, I need to wait on God. He may know that here and now, a half empty glass is all that is needed to accomplish His purposes, which are more important than my need to feel important or successful or smart or superior.
My wanting to always make everything bigger and better is like having only a hammer, when what may be needed is only a dust cloth.
How peaceful it is to be still and know that He is God, and I am not.
What a gift!
Thank you, God, for setting me free.