1- Reconciling God and myself–
” We only know a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled… —But for right now, until that completeness comes, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of all three is love.” – 1 Corinthians, 13, last verses…
“He was supreme in the beginning and — leading the resurrection parade — he is supreme in the end. From the beginning to the end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe– get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down the Cross.” Colossians, 1, 19-23 (approx)
“What is left for us to do is to act upon this forgiveness by decisively accepting Christ’s love as the organizing center of our identity, as the heart of our existence as a self.” Oates, CHRIST AND SELFHOOD, P. 41 ” He moves, with our permission, into three areas of profound conflict which prevent us from becoming the self we are in his design and that we can be in his workmanship… These deeper conflicts are the conflict between God and man, the conflict between flesh and spirit, and the conflict between self-surrender and self-realization.” ibid, P. 46
It is frightening to feel friends slip off, look down, change the subject when I try to be open about what I am experiencing and how I am being changed. Having so recently been in their place, I do understand, but my love for them drives me to stretch language beyond the limits of what can be expressed. But language only works based on a consensual understanding of the meanings of words. If I had not had an unmistakably real encounter with Christ/The Father/The Holy One, and repeatedly had such encounters since, I would have died 4 years ago, so unsatisfied with living I was. Amazing Grace is not just a beautiful song to me, it is a statement about a Truth which I have experienced and when I hear that song I tear up with grateful joy at that Truth which saved my life and makes it worth living. The shining, bright as the sun, impels me; how can I not sing? But I do dislike to be thought simply crazy, to be asked do I believe in Santa Claus, too? Walking along, gaily whistling, looking at the sky, with a feather in my cap, my possessions bundled and hanging from a stick held over my shoulder, heedless of the little yapper nipping at my heels or the cliff at the edge of the path— Am I crazy that I do not fear? I know I am not. I am a child of the Creator of all that is, who loves me and who protects me and who commands me only to love Him and all my brothers and sisters and myself. May the Holy One, bright shining as the sun, bless you and keep you and fill your cup with joy.
2. – Flesh and Spirit –
A friend and fellow truth-seeker once said to me– Why is it, do you think, that every time I get really, really high I want to smoke, which brings me down??? I am Thinking about the reality of Jesus actualizing the Christ. Now I am attempting the same, but since Christ did it already , He sets tone, pace, and most importantly, the example… I find the conflict between flesh and spirit the hardest to resolve. It is so hard, I find it hard to even think about, much less write about. There is so much of shame and humiliation and uncertainty and anger and fear in the history of how I came to be as I perceive myself to be, that it is hard to is hard to let go of my clinch around the idea that I must somehow make it all right. There is an old hymn that I sing a lot to calm my agitation about all this. I will quote the passages I find so very healing to reiterate: Just as I am, and waiting not To rid my soul of one dark blot/ To thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!/ … tho’ tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt,/ Fightings and fears within and without… / …poor, wretched, blind; Sight, riches, healing of the mind,/ Yea, all I need in Thee to find…/ Just as I am– Thou wilt receive, Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve; / Because Thy promise I believe, O Lamb of God, I come! I come! The wisdom here is in releasing to The Father the task, and the agency which makes that possible is the great working Jesus did to reconcile his human self and the divine being he also was and then redeeming all humankind by making of his fully realized human/divine self a living sacrifice, thus opening a doorway through Him to the Father’s healing embrace… Having won the battle over the evil forces of the world, He lifted his head and prayed Father forgive them for they know not what they do… And you and I were forgiven. Then came the triumph over the Great Shadow of Death. So the real labor left to me is to LET Him take all the broken, twisted, dislocated pieces of what I am and re-form, and “fit them together in vibrant harmonies”…. My fragile ego still seeks to avoid some changing but Paul addresses that by pointing out how little we can see of God’s Reality which is at work in us, and he advises that as we wait for the consummation we so ardently desire that we Trust God steadily, Hope unswervingly, and Love extravagantly– the greatest being Love. I’m working on the Love part…
3 – Self-realization vs Self-surrender –
This arena is spherical. There are no corners. There are no rounds. There is no bell to save us. And as we battle around and around ourselves, we realize this opposition is perfectly balanced in weight and necessity. I ask– what keeps me in this endless inner contest? And, questioning the contest itself: –As a polarity, the terms are in flat contradiction and thus there can be no resolution that doesn’t do great violence to Self. The situation demands a third term which allows a synthesis. Paul in his great explication of love, pauses to remind us that we can not fully know God as we are, with our human limitations; and that until such consummation is possible to dwell in Trust (faith), Hope (expectancy), and Love (over-arching acceptance).
I know this is a pretty deadpan delivery, but the intensity of process is desperate and I periodically get lost in it and Jesus has to rescue me when I fight myself to the point of collapse… By His Grace, He patiently does this; and as I recover, I wryly, ruefully reflect that at least I don’t do it so often anymore and I am grateful once more to feel the compassion and strength which cradles me and heals the consequences of my mistakes (sins). Jesus found Christhood, by his Father’s Grace. By His actions, then, He became the third term by opening the door between me and God, walking through into the infinite and eternal, turning and beckoning me to come and accept the boundless Love of the Father. I too must suffer the Cross and sacrifice my earthbound self. I too must submit to God’s realization of my whole, cleansed, and balanced place in God’s intention. I too must act in accordance with what I am in God’s creation. Jesus shepherds me through the steps as long as I remain open to God’s love. God does the action just as quickly as I can bear. And I am given to drink of the Cup of the Holy Spirit to the limit of my thirst.
I thank God for Scripture and the other records left my those who have followed Christ’s beckoning. Reason, my human mind, my puny understanding, my emotional self can not even begin to encompass this mystery. Paul is right– Steady Trust, unswerving Hope, and extravagant Love– it is my constant prayerful practice, limited only by my constancy. I often fall off this horse and have to dust myself off and humbly ask assistance to remount Constance.
— 4. — How it is—
Now comes the hardest part. Recounting my own history– my fall from Grace; my long journey of self-centered suffering; my flight from powerlessness and lust for power; my reluctance to declare my salvation through Christ; my childish clinging to my own way; my continuing struggle to stay the course toward the redemptive Light. Growing up in God’s Love has not been easy; relaxing into God’s loving reformation comes in fits and starts and restarts…
What a friend we have in Jesus, / All our sins and griefs to bear! / What a privilege to carry / Everything to God in prayer! / O what peace we often forfeit, / O what needless pain we bear, / All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer!
SONNET XXX- Shakespeare —– When to sessions of sweet silent thought / I summon up remembrance of things past, / I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, / And with old woes new wail my dear times’ waste: / Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow, / For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night, / And weep afresh love’s long-since cancelled woe, / And moan the expense of many a vanished sight: / Then I can grieve at gievances forgone, / And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er / The sad account of fore-bemoan`ed moan, / Which new I pay as if not paid before. / But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, / All losses are restored and sorrows end.
I THEN SHALL LIVE AS ONE WHO’S BEEN FORGIVEN… It is in Christ, experienced as the friend who walks with me into the fearful radiance, supports my resolve to accept God’s working, loves me when I cannot love myself, pulls me when I falter– it is through Him I am set free. When I finally crashed into the pit of my powerlessness and reached out to the only source of light and cried out for help from my helplessness, it was He who came and rescued me. He counseled me: Be as a child before our Father. and he will restore your rightful self; I will help you, brother. I often stumble and fall as my old self reflexively fights to survive in the old way; again and yet again I must reach for the Shepherd’s hand, and there He always is. I have been reasonably happy since this all started, four and a half years ago; that is the mean between highs and lows and a state unprecedented in my life history. I do not achieve this, nor do I sustain it. I enjoy the love of friends unlooked for and even am sometimes aware of having participated in the lifting of others. Yes, I must work to maintain my spiritual health , spiritual awareness, willingness to be guided on a path of God”s defining, and praying the His will be done in me, not mine…But I don’t have to do it alone–Jesus walks with me and provides sustenance on the journey. I am content. May all who read this find the help they need on their journey…God bless us, each and every one.
“What is left for us to do is to act upon this forgiveness by decisively accepting Christ’s love as the organizing center of our identity, as the heart of our existence as a self.”
That particular phrase from Oates’ book changed my life about thirty-two years ago. What an amazingly specific piece of spiritual counsel – accept Christ’s love as the organizing center of my identity…..that could continue to be the only item on my to-do list to this day, and I would stay profitably busy.
Unless we have in previously unknown ways plumbed the depth of our own sins and flaws and failures and expectations and assumptions (not as theological concepts but as reality) and come to the place where we were willing to, as the old Pacific Garden Mission intro narration used to say, “face ourselves and think….” – unless we have done some of that, on purpose, we will be hard put to see how incredibly challenging “accepting Christ’s love” will be to our fragile egos. Good stuff, Spar.
Spar, I hope this finds you well. I haven’t seen you post in awhile. I just wanted to let you know that Sharon’s DH lost his battle with cancer this past week. I knew you would want to lift her up in prayer. Sundance posted about the end of journey and everyone left comments, music, and prayers for Sharon. Take care and God bless and keep you in his everlasting loving arms.
Let me express gratitude for the persistence of your concern. You consistently reach out when I am in need of lift. I am writing from home; I just got in. Everything musty from a month away, but it looks like I won’t have to return to Asheville after all. Our has been only a phone relationship and turbulent even so, so I knew being with her 24/7 would be difficult, and it was… we had a blowup this morning which decided her that she could make out without me… just as well, from my point of view… I just don’t cotton to being ragged by a mom at my age, and she had no tolerance for my occasional outburst of irritability. I am a conflict-avoider, and hold my reactions inside, so occasionally I burst out inappropriately from pent up ya-da-ya-da. Makes me feel like crap to do it, too.
Anyway, it feels good to be home though I worry she will hurt her recovery from surgery, trying to do to much…which she is prone to do…accept the things I cannot change… God help me be serene. May she receive as much serenity as she will accept…
Thanks again for your loving care. Spar