I operate out of the stream theory of life: Sometimes we flow fast and sometimes we flow slowly, sometimes we have to find our way around barriers and obstacles, sometimes we are sluggish, sometimes we are stagnant, waiting. But the path takes us to the sea. We follow the path in different ways at different times, but always the path. Different streams have different paths, but always the sea. It's good when we flow close enough together to call out encouragement from time to time, and share the joys and sorrows of the journey.
How Many Easters?
How many times have you died and been resurrected? How many personal deaths and resurrections have you experienced? How often have you been reborn? The Easter story is about you, don’t you see? “As above, so below.” As with Jesus, so with you. “(We) once were lost, but now we’re found, were blind, but now (we) see.” How many times has that happened to you? How many Easter mornings have you risen from the dead?
Ah, but. To get to those Easters, our Easters, we have to get beyond That Easter, and understand Easter is every time we wake up and come alive in our lives. We get there by understanding that the idea of “the Christ” is more important than the person of Jesus. We confuse the Christ with Jesus and close ourselves off from the ongoing experience and expression of the Christ in our lives and in the world. The Greek word, “Christ” and the Hebrew word “Messiah,” mean the same thing: “ the anointed,” or, “the anointed one.” The terms reflect the Jewish idea that God would send “the anointed one” after the manner of King David, to right wrongs and restore Israel to her place of leadership among the nations, in ordinary, historical time.
Clearly, this did not happen with Jesus, and the New Testament writers, with Paul leading the way, had to rethink Messiahship, Christhood, and come up with a new spin on an old concept, which they did with the idea of the resurrection and return. Jesus is coming back, they said, to fulfill the role of the anointed one and establish his kingdom of peace and prosperity upon the earth, in ordinary, historical time, for those who believe and are faithful. They further declared that their spin was the only authoritative and acceptable spin (because they knew Jesus personally and who was better positioned to say what he was about) and if anyone else tried to spin the idea of the Christ, the Messiah, they were to be treated as anathema and shunned, or worse. The question for us, of course, is do we buy their spin? If we don’t, is there a spin we can buy?
Here’s mine: The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, is anyone, everyone, who lives so as to bring forth God into the world. Ah, but, then we have to talk about God. God is the source of sense of the rightness of things, the right order of things, the meant-to-be-ness of things. God is the mystery at the heart of life.
God is the mysterious, numinous, source of the awareness of the rightness of things when they are how they truly ought to be, when we are how and who we truly ought to be, when our life is how and what it ought to be. Our place is to align ourselves with the rightness, the ought-to-be-ness of things—as Jesus did—in a “Thy will not mine be done” kind of way. When we do that, we live as those whose food “is to do the will of the One who sent us and to accomplish his work.” As we do this, we are the Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, living to bring forth what truly ought to be in our lives and the world. As we live to be who Jesus was in this way, we are Christians, or “Little Christ’s.”
Our lives are our practice. We practice bringing forth what ought to be. We practice being The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One, who brings forth what is truly right and needs to happen. As we bring forth that which is deepest, best, and truest about us, as we live aligned with the ought-to-be-ness of things, we grace the world with caring presence and dance with our lives.
Understanding the Christ in this way turns New Testament theology on its ear, of course, but it is quite compatible with Jesus’ treatment of the kingdom of God as metaphor, not political fact.
Jesus’ statement, “My kingdom is not of this world,” establishes the fundamental rift between him and the Jewish notion of the Promised Land and the messianic return of King David. The Messiah the Jews were looking for would establish a Kingdom with geographical and political boundaries, latitude and longitude, and all the spoils that go to the victors. But Jesus understands the kingdom in a spiritual, not political, way. The kingdom that is “not of this world,” is the one envisioned by the prophet Jeremiah: But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, ‘Know the Lord’, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more (Jeremiah 31:33-34). A kingdom in which all are the Christ.
Jesus’ understanding of the kingdom as being “not of this world” stands in opposition to the Jewish understanding of the Messiah and in opposition to the Apostles’ view that Jesus would return and establish his kingdom within the historical world of space and time. Jesus is the denunciation of those expectations. The Christ who Jesus is is not the Christ anyone expected or desired.
And our practice is to bring that Christ forth into the world. We begin with our lives because our lives reflect our alignment, or lack of alignment, with the source of the rightness of things. We are at odds with ourselves, remember? There is no better definition of sin. To overcome our at-odds-ness and live in synch with who we are is the practice that brings the Christ forth into the world.
The question is how well does our life exhibit who we ought to be, disclose “the face that was ours before we were born”? To what extent are we living our life, the life that is ours to live, the life that brings us forth into the world? Where are we not keeping faith with our life? What are we going to do about it? Our work is to know and do what is ours to do, to live the life that is our life to live. We have the rest of our lives to learn how to live the lives that are ours to live. Our work is to be reconnected with ourselves and our lives. To be restored to our life. To be resurrected from the dead. To wake up and live.
There is no instant recipe for waking up. See what you are seeing. Hear what you are hearing. Feel what you are feeling. Know what you are knowing. Think what you are thinking. Taste what you are tasting. Love what you are loving… Experience what you are experiencing in every moment for the rest of your life, including how what you have experienced impacts what you are experiencing, and you will be more awake at the end than you are now. But, you’ll never be all the way awake. Waking up is a process, not an achievement. Here are some steps in that process:
(1) Strong feelings are indicators of stirrings of soul. Something is stirring up something. Check it out. Sit with the feeling and interview it: “What is this touching in me?” “What does this remind me of?” “When did I first feel this?” “Where does this come from in my history?” “What is being remembered that my present situation is triggering that arouses this feeling?” “What is behind the feeling?” “What is beneath the surface of this feeling?” “What are the ideas around the experiences that give rise to this feeling?” “What wound is being exposed here?” “What do I need to make conscious in order to begin healing the wound?” “What am I being asked to remember that I would like to forget?” “What does this feeling have to say to me? What do I have to say to this feeling?”
(2) When you find yourself resisting something, dig in at the point of resistance. This doesn’t mean become more resistant. It doesn’t mean “stick to your guns,” “stand fast,” “hold your ground.” It means examine your resistance, explore your resistance. It means find your fear. What is the threat? Where in your experience have you felt that threat, have you been threatened in this way? What does this threat remind you of? What is being asked of you that you don’t want to do? That you don’t what to surrender? What is at stake for you personally at the point of your resistance? What do you stand to lose?
(3) Reflective conversation is the highest value. Conversation that doesn’t encourage reflection doesn’t engage the soul, and cannot bring us to life. Conversation that is restorative wakes us up and connects us with our-selves and our lives. This kind of conversation is the dialectic. The primal soup. The birth place of the clash of contraries. The seat of consciousness. The origin of life. The pathway to soul.
(4) The ultimate conversation is with our soul. To speak with soul, we have to learn the language of soul: metaphor, image, story, dream, symbol, symptom, intuitive sense, persistent drift toward or attraction to, disinclination or resistance… Soul comes at us in different ways with the same message until we wake up and get it and live aligned with soul’s idea of how life is to be lived. Generally, we can only do that when our idea of how life is to be lived has lived itself out, and we have nothing much left to loose. But soul keeps talking, on the chance that we are ready to hear what it has to say.
Soul is a white rabbit appearing momentarily in our peripheral vision and disappearing down holes and around corners while we try to decide if we saw anything and what to do about it. And soul will be “driving six white horses when she comes,” and it will be impossible to miss her. She will run us down, run us over, and demand that we get on board or else. That’s the way it is with soul. If we don’t give chase, we will be chased. Better the rabbit than the horses. Take my word for it. You do not want to find out the hard way.