A question that has come up consistently throughout my ministry is: “Do we always have to go through trouble to learn and grow”. My answer has always been: “Yes, it seems to be the only way we really learn what we need to learn”.
The belief that if we really were faithful enough we would not get into trouble is not biblical. Trouble is not a punishment, but it may be a consequence of a bad decision. Richard Rohr recently posted: “We are not punished for our sins, we are punished by our sins”. Life has its ups and downs but we are constantly told that if we are good life can be just a movement from one good thing to another. And if life is complicated and difficult it’s our fault and someone has a product or a course that can fix it.
The place of good religion is to keep us centered and hopeful when life gets hard and the challenges threaten to overwhelm us. The place of good religion is to help us keep moving to deeper levels of consciousness and understanding of our place in the universe. I want to share with you Richard Rohr’s blog that came two days ago. He talks about the patterns of life that lead us through the valleys and show us the path to new life.
Reality Initiating Us: Part One
The Patterns That Are Always True – Sunday, March 29, 2020
In this time of global crisis, it may be that reality is revealing itself to us—through great suffering—universal patterns that are always true. A little over fifteen years ago, I wrote a book called Adam’s Return that focused on male initiation rites. These are the sacred rituals in indigenous cultures that marked the symbolic growth of a self-referential boy to a generative, compassionate man. While that book was written specifically for men, it seems to me that reality is “initiating” all of us to know and live by these same essential truths. This week I will be trying to present this global crisis as a global initiation into what matters and what lasts. Now women need this essential initiation just as much as men.
The work of sacred rituals like initiation was to situate life in a bigger frame, so nature, beauty, suffering, work, sexuality, and ordinary moments were seen to have transcendent significance. They gave life meaning— the one thing the soul cannot live without. Heaven and earth have to be put together or this world never becomes home. That integration is the necessary human and spiritual task, at which initiation rites succeeded, probably on a much broader scale than modern churches.
Initiation was always, in some form, an experience of the tension and harmony of opposites: of loss and renewal, darkness and light, the cycle of seasons, death and resurrection, yin and yang, the paschal mystery. Somehow initiates had to see the wide screen and, at least for a moment, find goodness and meaning in what was offered right in front of them, which is all we can love anyway. Universally, early cultures insisted on large doses of separation, silence, looking, listening, and various kinds of suffering.
In my cross-cultural research on male initiation rites, I perceived five consistent lessons or truths communicated to the initiate, meant to separate initiates from their attachment to who they think they are and reattach them to who they really are.
In this time of global disruption, these lessons can help us align to reality, our own belonging in it, and remain grounded in the infinitely trustworthy presence of God.
These five essential messages of initiation are:
- Life is hard.
- You are not important.
- Your life is not about you.
- You are not in control.
- You are going to die.
You may be shocked by the seemingly negative character of these five truths. Most Western postmodern people are, but there’s no way around these truths, hard as they may be. In fact, one could say much of the superficiality of our world is because we stopped growing up men. We will be exploring these five lessons in this week’s Daily Meditations, and their positive spiritual counterparts the following week. None of this is easy work. We typically want to flee from our current anxiety, grief and pain, but I encourage you to stay with these messages. They are truths for your soul that can help you find meaning and a sense of God’s compassionate presence inside of the chaos.
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My wife and I are self-isolating and so far, so good. We have discovered “Zoom” to keep in touch with our family and friends. We have a routine in the morning that works for us and then we read, Zoom, spend time on the internet. Sylvia works on websites she has made for some people, and we are getting to our “to do someday” list of things that have been waiting for attention around the house. How are you faring in this challenging time? What is getting you though?