May 27, 2020

Change Is Hard

The word change normally refers to new beginnings. But transformation, the mystery we’re examining, more often happens not when something new begins, but when something old falls apart. The pain of something old falling apart—chaos—invites the soul to listen at a deeper level. It invites, and sometimes forces, the soul to go to a new place because the old place is falling apart. Most of us would never go to new places in any other way. The mystics use many words to describe this chaos: fire, dark night, death, emptiness, abandonment, trial, the Evil One.

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Families and Rituals

Rituals create families, in a sense. Any parent knows that when they do something at least two years in a row, the little ones wait for it in the third year. Children have a natural sense of timing, ritual, seasons, and feasts. Ritual is the key to re-sacralizing the home. I don’t want to suggest the particular rituals that a family should name and claim. Certainly, each family has its own customs, and there are a number of religious resources that suggest new family rituals for those who need ideas.

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Making the World a Safe Home

Healthy religion gives us a foundational sense of awe. It re-enchants an otherwise empty universe. It gives people a universal reverence toward all things. Only with such reverence do we find confidence and coherence. Only then does the world become a safe home. Then we can see the reflection of the divine image in the human, in the animal, in the entire natural world—which has now become inherently “supernatural.” That is the paradox, and all dualistic language will henceforth fail us. When the divine image is no longer present, why should I respect you, or anything?

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Seeing Reality with Compassion

There’s a moral realism in healthy and grounded people. They’re not ideological, on the left or the right. They can accept people whom others have judged for one reason or another. They don’t move up in their head and form great big explanations for why something is wrong or right. You can never shock them. They do not read reality, first of all, with their moral compass, but with the eyes of compassion. They don’t bring answers down from above, but find them within and evoke them from below. Also, for some reason, they don’t compare.

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It's All about Forgiveness

If we don’t get forgiveness, we’re missing the whole mystery. We are still living in a world of meritocracy, of quid-pro-quo thinking, of performance and behavior that earns an award. Forgiveness is the great thawing of all logic, reason, and worthiness. It is a melting into the mystery of God as unearned love, unmerited grace, the humility and powerlessness of a Divine Lover. Forgiveness is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the whole gospel, as far as I can see. Without radical and rule-breaking forgiveness — received and given — there will be no reconstruction of anything.

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The True Shape of Things

Our world is filled with contradictions needing to be reconciled, inconsistencies within us and between us. Life is neither perfectly consistent and rational nor is it a chaotic mess. It does contain, however, constant paradoxes, exceptions, and flaws. That is the shocking and disappointing revelation of the cross. It is also a great weight off our backs. It leads to patience, humility, non-judgment, and suffering love. Now we have the right sense of proportion, limits, and expectations, with no room for utopianism, ideologies, any “final solutions,” cynicism, or needless discouragement.

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