Archives For December 2012

I finished up The Critical Journey a few weeks ago.  Over the next few weeks I hope to post up some thoughts, ideas and personal reflections elicited by this book.  In this post I am just going to cover some quotes that touch on what it means to be in Stage 3 of the journey and what it means to be caged there.  This will serve as a bridge to Stage 4/The wall – a stage that I will write about more extensively.

Description

Stage 3 is described as the “doing” stage.  It is the period of time when we most consciously find ourselves working for God.  In fact our faith is characterized as just that.  .  .  .

It is positive and dynamic, centered on being productive in the area of our faith.  It  nourishes us because it is so personally rewarding, even when the objective is to help others.  In helping or leading, we are also fed, so it operates on goals and achievements, building and creating.  .  .  .

For many, this stage describes the height of their faith experience.  It feels exciting, fulfilling, awesome, inspiring, fruitful. .  .  .  It seems to be an almost insatiable period because everything is going so well.  For some, this is captured in the phrase, “if God be for us, who can be against us?”

Caged (stuck in) Stage 3

Some who are stuck at stage 3 make others squirm.  We are so zealous and engaging.  No one can be around us without hearing our story and our trying to convert them, whether to a charismatic experience, a peace or justice issue, a born-again faith, or the latest spiritual seminar.  Hard to fend off, we leave battle scars.  We believe so strongly that others need what we have that we cannot rest until we are satisfied that they want it too.  .  .

when we are caged at this stage, we insist on personal acceptance of and participation in our experience because that makes us feel successful in our faith.  We take personal satisfaction in having saved others from some horrible fate.  They can become productive like we are, and we can get the credit.  .  .  .

We work so hard at whatever we are doing as part of our faith experience that we become weary in well doing.  We are burning out and frequently at the same time feeling unappreciated without knowing why.  People did not change in the ways we wanted them to or at the  pace we expected.  Or we feel our leadership does not result in the breakthroughs we desired from it.  Usually, someone else is at fault.  We tried as hard as we could to “make it happen.”  So we are very disappointed, sometimes even bitter.  .  .

The more successful we are at stage 3, or the more productive we become, the more tempting it is to slip into the cage of self centeredness, even self worship.  We feel indispensable to the group.  .  .  .  The harder we work, the more success we have, the stronger our faith must be.  We put our desires in the place of God and call it God’s will.  And if challenged we will deny it vehemently, frequently using Scripture or other evidence to prove us right.  We can parry the challenge by attributing jealousy or immaturity to the challengers.  .  .  .

Life becomes a performance.  .  .  We cannot be vulnerable or look weak in front of others because we would be out of control.  We are angry at God inside and very fearful of being found out, so our facade is stronger than ever.  We look almost perfect to those around us.  We are frequently worshiped as heroes.  We thrive on the audience reaction.  Their applause become addictive.  We go back for more and more.  We strive so hard to be loved for what we have done rather than for who we are.  We are ultimately very, very lonely people.

Moving from Stage 3 to stage 4

This transition becomes very difficult because the certainty of stage 3 dissolves into uncertainty and questioning at stage 4.  .  .  .

There may even be a time in which we sense the loss of God.  God appears to have abandoned us, disappeared without a trace.  .  .  .

This is clearly the most alarming place of all the journey.  While the doubts or crises are there, we frequently feel as though God is not there when we need God most.  .  .  .  It sets the stage for the inevitable, humbling, crumbling experience of rediscovering God again.  .  .  .

Our faith, our relationship with God, must change before it can be remolded.

“Our faith, our relationship with God, must change before it can be remolded.”  Oh how true I am finding this to be!  And if it does not, I believe that we are stuck in moving back and forth in the first three stages.  Because until we undergo this change of relationship, we cannot move forward.

Reading this book has given me the opportunity to reflect back on my own journey and better evaluate where I have been.  I can see more clearly where I get “stuck” and why it is that I am getting “stuck.”  And that if I can accept true grace, God can take me through my “stuckness” and into an entirely new relationship with him.

I can clearly remember the very first time I experienced the “Dark Night of the Soul.”  We had clearly felt God leading us to Denver Seminary, so we followed.  And then the wheels fell off of everything.  It felt as if he had brought us to Denver and then abandoned us completely.  God was no where to be found.  I remember lying on the floor of our bedroom, prostrate before God, pouring out my anger, disillusionment, hopelessness.  .  .  and then I began to swear at God.  Really.  Literally.  And then I felt awful.  Really, really, awful.  And guilty – beyond belief.  And fearful — how can one swear at the living God and not pay the price?  Surely lightning should strike me dead.  And I groveled – for my life.  But God is merciful and slow to anger.  And forgiving.

Since then, I have experienced this dark night of the soul twice more.  Most recently during this past year.  But I think I am finally getting what it is that God is showing me, where he is trying to take me.  A journey that I would like to share more about in the next post on stage 4 and “The Wall.”

Journey with me to the wall, wont you?  Together let’s learn how to take it down – one “brick” at a time.

 

An interesting excerpt from Fr. Rohr is posted over at Maggies Farm.  Here is a taste of it.  The full excerpt can be read here.

But at a certain point, we have to surrender to the fact that the darkness is part of reality, and my logical mind does not know why. But the only real question becomes how to trust the light, receive the light, and spread the light. That is not a capitulation to evil any more than the cross was a capitulation to evil. It is real transformation into the unique program of the Crucified and Risen Christ. This is the one pattern that redeems reality instead of punishing evil or thinking we can eliminate it entirely. Our main job is to face it in ourselves.

This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately.  Facing the reality of evil in ourselves.  That we are both darkness and light.  When we first begin our walk with Christ, we are overwhelmed by grace, by love, by the fact that he has rescued us from despair.  But as we progress in our walk with him there will (or should) come a time when we begin to realize that there is still a very dark side resident within us.  One that we are powerless to overcome ourselves.  One that we must face up to, own up to, and let Christ heal as we allow him to embrace us just as we are.  And we must except that he indeed loves us just as we are.  Then we are able to let go and allow him to redeem us in the reality of who and what we are so that he can then empower us and free us to become all that he created us to be.

Or as Paul says in Romans 7:

We know that the law is spiritual, but I am not spiritual since sin rules me as if I were its slave.  I do not understand the things I do. I do not do what I want to do, and I do the things I hate.  And if I do not want to do the hated things I do, that means I agree that the law is good.  But I am not really the one who is doing these hated things; it is sin living in me that does them.  Yes, I know that nothing good lives in me—I mean nothing good lives in the part of me that is earthly and sinful. I want to do the things that are good, but I do not do them.  I do not do the good things I want to do, but I do the bad things I do not want to do.  So if I do things I do not want to do, then I am not the one doing them. It is sin living in me that does those things. So I have learned this rule: When I want to do good, evil is there with me.  In my mind, I am happy with God’s law.  But I see another law working in my body, which makes war against the law that my mind accepts. That other law working in my body is the law of sin, and it makes me its prisoner.  What a miserable man I am! Who will save me from this body that brings me death?  I thank God for saving me through Jesus Christ our Lord!

The Journey continues.

 

Silence. Please.

Pilgrim in Progress —  December 16, 2012 — Leave a comment

I thought this was a great post over at the Internet Monk.

I am convinced more and more every day — and especially in the light of tragic events yesterday — that the wisdom Christians in the U.S. need to learn is found in the Book of Job.

Read the full posts here: Silence. Please.

 

You may recall that I blogged a bit on the book of Job here and here.