I highly encourage my blog readers to subscribe to Richard Rohr‘s Daily Meditations. Rohr founded the Center for Action and Contemplation. The center offers a variety of program and resources to guide spiritual seekers and activists to join in an interfaith, Gospel-based and cosmic mission . They are “encouraging the transformation of human consciousness through contemplation, and equipping people to be instruments of peaceful change in the world.”
Rohr writes about many themes including forgiveness, love, prayer, and hope. For me, he is a mystic who provides pathways and tools for living more deeply into my life. He focuses on the intersection of contemplation (mediation and prayer) with action (discipleship, education, activism). Much of his writing is built upon what we learn from addiction recovery such as Alcoholic Anonymous’ 12 Step Program. “Stinking Thinking leads to Stinking Living.” Developing and practicing Mindfulness (contemplation) offers addicts and sober people alike sacred space for finding their soul’s truest desires, skills for accepting reality as it paradoxically is, and accepting (un)expected suffering and joy.
Today, Rohr focuses on what is a basic reason for why people are struggling with contemporary and complex realities. We don’t know how to abide in shadows of suffering, doubt, and grief. Life is hard and we want it to be easy. In Christian terms we look for joy and new life (resurrection and re-birth) without encountering or enduring injustice, and pain (Good Friday’s Cross) and/or uncertainty, death, and silence. (Good Saturday’s Tomb and Divine Intervention).
Rohr writes: “Mainline Christianity does not seem to be giving people access to God, to the soul, or to the joy and freedom promised in the Scriptures. Christianity is not doing its primary job well—moving people from the first to the second half of life.” (Rohr, Entering the Dark Wood, Sept. 4, 2017, para. #1). Life’s Second Half is all about becoming Easter Christians True soulful and spiritual living requires us, like Jesus, to discount the certain happiness of the world’s superficial allures and pleasures. Most of our economic, political, relational, and religious platforms are built upon the successes of being wealthy, safe, secure, and innocent. These are all good and desirable expectations. And, they present only the most comfortable and superficial realities of being fully human and truly soulful. Is it any wonder that the prosperity gospel is so attractive? Those persons who seek to live into their deepest dreams and their souls’ desires must descend and encounter the shadows and unsafe boundaries of our existence.
People, beginning with myself, are ill-equipped and unprepared to live into the second halves of our lives. Rohr and other wisdom teachers inform us that abiding and holding such suffering is the truest pathway for journeying into our truest means and reasons for being. One only look at our nation’s difficulties, especially racism, xenophobia, addiction treatments, and healthcare policies, to observe how we do everything we can to avoid suffering, encounter darkness, and set aside our presumed innocence. We are beholden to life’s first half even as the world around us calls us into second half realities.
We cannot live as spiritual or emotional adolescents anymore. Secular living appeases and allures us to remaining in search of seemingly life and light giving possessions in and of themselves. Well, we can choose to live in any number of ways. We can continue to consume too much food. We can elect not to observe how we treat one another across the planet. We can allow our egos to dominate our thinking. We can continue to believe that our political, religious, and economic leaders will take care of us. We can decide that we have no say or control over what is happening with us in our primary circles of control and influence. Essentially, we can remain in life’s first half and refuse what is necessary to become spiritually and humanly whole with God’s Grace and Blessing.
We will then assuredly continue to encounter all of the (un)intended consequences of such behaving and believing. Churches, communities of faith, and neighborhoods possess capacities for growing one’s and other persons’ faith in God, one’s self, and one’s neighbors. Doing this work is to live into Jesus Christ’s resurrection as he defines and establishes it. It is also through such sacrificial prayer and acts that we will experience love God graciously offers. To do so, spiritual, religious, civic, and healthcare leaders initiate these opportunities by demonstrating their faith and trust in learning and living in the shadowlands and moving into and beyond them moment by moment. Oh, my inference is that the world is going to move along these unfolding pathways with or without our involvement.
What does in mean to truly love God, neighbors, and ourselves? What does such love look like in days such as ours. For me, it is learning to gain a deeper sense of humility. Life is as it is and it is always evolving. I am who I am, just this for this moment. I possess a capacity to be more mature, aware, and honest about my own sins, wounds, and shadows aspects of my personality. Encountering these realities in God’s presence is a significant process. I can’t simply love the light or spend all of my time in the depths of my darkness. New narratives will emerge from dreary despair commingled with slivers of light as they merge with one another.
I wish it were as easy as to say – let’s all grow up. That is not the best solution. However, we can seek out teachers and companions to join us in the descent into the truths of writing second-half life stories – informed from our maturity and life experiences. We can pay attention to ourselves and note when our thinking is unhealthy and immoral. We can pray without ceasing in the manner that is most true to God and our spiritual pilgrimage. We can honestly & decisively decide to accept, enjoy, and engage soulful and secular shadows. To do so, we will hear our soul’s yearnings, become vulnerable to The Divine’s blessings and burdens alike, and re-create the world willing to come into being.