In the interest of expanding the voice of “In A Spacious Place”, I have invited Ernest Morrow to offer a post in this space as he feels moved.
How do we make God’s light available to the average bloke?
This question was posted in a comment by Kim in last Thursday’s blog post on the Future of Church. http://inaspaciousplace.wordpress.com/2011/07/21/the-future-of-church-6-with-cynthia-bourgeault/#comments I have been thinking about it ever since.
I can’t presume to know the intention behind the original question so can only share my own take on it. For me, the question asks why more people do not experience the light of God. It asks why “God’s light” sometimes seems so elusive and inaccessible for the average bloke. Why do we seem to be scrabbling around for crumbs of Light while the world goes to hell around our ears? How do we make the Light available to the folks who aren’t saints or spiritual adepts like Thomas Kelly or Cynthia Bourgeault or Christopher Page? Once again, this might bear no resemblance to the original intent of the question but these are the strands that have emerged for me in reading and reflecting on it.
Here are a few reflections that have surfaced for me:
1. Pain and suffering are not evidence of God’s absence. The Mystery of the cross is the most misunderstood symbol of Christianity because it speaks the unfathomable truth that God is with us in pain and suffering. This is why Paul writes that the cross is “a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles” (1 Cor 1:23). The cross means that we are never separate from God’s Light no matter what our experiences of darkness are. This is not a very comforting religion on a lot of levels. Jesus did not fix the world, did not stop pain and suffering, did not even get rid of the Romans. Some God, eh? Instead, his life and death proclaim one un-understandable truth – that Life and Death are both held in the one Love that sustains the universe. This Love is available no matter how pleasant or unpleasant our life or death is at any moment.
2. It’s all ok. Actually, more than that, it’s perfect! Our inability to deal mythologically for at least the last millennium has resulted in us taking too concretely the story of the “Fall”. There was never a time in history that did not know suffering or pain! The force of Love from which time and space emerged is not somehow less involved or less in control than it ever was. We are all held in this Love no matter what our experiences are and whether we judge them to be good or bad.
3. Ok, sure Ernest. Sounds like you have been reading too much Thomas Merton and Cynthia Bourgeault. What about the average bloke? What about the guy who is hurting himself and hurting others because the Light is not part of his experience of life? How do we make that Light available to him?
Step 1: Stop believing that the light is not available to him. “A problem cannot be solved by the same consciousness that created it.” If we deal in dualisms rather than in unity then all we get are dualisms. If we think the Light is not already available to him but requires some action on our part to make it available we have created a universe in which we are God and God’s Light depends on me to shine it. Usually in my experience this turns out to be a pretty dark universe. See #2 above.
Step 2: Do not be afraid. The experience of God’s absence does not mean that God is absent – see #1 above. Sometimes we make a mistake and call Fear “love” or “pity” or “compassion.” We are sometimes moved to try and take away pain from another because it triggers our own pain, our own fear about death and anxiety about God’s absence in our lives. Fear takes us back to believing that the Light is not already available and any action taken from that space risks being a blind one. Without fear we know that the experience of pain or death does not define our brother or sister eternally just as it does not define us.
Step 3: Just live. Without fear and in faith that the Light is available, our hearts will do the rest. We will be led to the right actions or the right non-actions at the right time. We won’t be led into passive individualism, I guarantee it.
4. If these 3 steps don’t do it for me, perhaps the far more famous 12-Steps is a place to look for inspiration. Average blokes the world over have been learning to experience the ocean of Light we are all swimming in with this approach to spiritual awakening for 70+ years now.
5. If I find I am more of a One-Step kind of person I think all of what I have written so far is distilled in the ritual of Eucharist: Life and Death are one, we are all held in love, we ask for forgiveness, set aside fear and live in thanksgiving (Eucharist is Greek for thanksgiving). The Mystery is that as we take the elements into our bodies with the intention of the community gathered in thanksgiving that we become the Mystery that is laid out before us. Each time we live in gratefulness we simply cannot be afraid or anxious and we touch the unitive Christ consciousness that sees that all is held in an ocean of Love.
We cannot make God’s light available, all we can do is practice its availability.