Franciscan Spirit Blog

Lent with Richard Rohr: Decision Precedes Depth

Thursday After Ash Wednesday | Readings: Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Luke 9:22–25


I once wrote a book on non-dual thinking. This is the way the saints and mystics think, not either-or but both-and.It is the inner hardware which makes them able to forgive, overlook offenses, show mercy to all, care for the poor, and even to love their enemies.Most of us know we should do these things, but frankly we do not know how.

As I began to teach on this subject, many rightly pointed out that the Bible seems to have a lot of dualistic thinking in it too. We will see this today in both Moses and Jesus who set before us clear and urgent choices. We have only one life, and great teachers know that we must discover our true destiny, which we call “saving our soul.” At some point in life, this calls for some clear choices: “blessing or curse” in Moses’ language, “true self and false self” in Jesus’ terms.

Only people who first choose “dualistically” for the Big Picture, the life adventure, the journey with God, eventually proceed to non-dual thinking or “mercy.” Sort of a paradox, isn’t it? You need both to go the full distance. Clear choice and decision gets you started, aims you on the right course, and then if you stay on it, that very path will open you up to subtlety, nuance, shadow, contradictions, inconsistencies, brokenness, and variance in almost everything. One soon realizes that what Jesus said is indeed true: Nothing is entirely good except God alone (see Mark 10:18). The choice for this all-good God allows us, ironically, to deal victoriously with non-goodness.

So first we must place our bet, set our trajectory, make a choice, surrender to the Great Love. That is the initial dualistic call and clarification that we hear in all the Jewish prophets and in Jesus: God or Mammon, sheep or goats, the narrow gate, the sharp and painful sword of discernment and choice. But just be ready for the trials and confusion that this clear choice will lead you into. Yes, the field closed down, but it also opened up. The main difference is that now the issues are real!


“I call heaven and earth to witness this. I now set before you life and death, a blessing and a curse. Choose life then, that you and your descendents will live, by loving the Lord, heeding the voice, and clinging to God.” —Deuteronomy 30:19–20

“Whoever would save his life must first lose it, and whoever loses her life for my sake will find it. What profit does she show who gains the whole world yet destroys herself in the process?” — Luke 9:24–25


“Lord, show me how to make good decisions and then be willing to learn what they really ask of me.”

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