Another day, another counselling session

After the storm yesterday morning, I am calmer today. My thoughts are a little less rapid – when it gets dark I often have thoughts on top of thoughts. I am seeing my counsellor today which is always a very encouraging and transforming experience. My walk this morning was much more relaxed and less emotionally intense.

So all I am going to do is share a verse from Matthew that has been running round my head:

… for God all things are possible.

Matthew 19:26

I often think of that verse when things get dark. And, for me, that is “hope”. No matter what, no matter how dark the world might seem, God has a way. In Jesus even death itself is no longer the end. And that helps me make one more step in the darkness. And then another, and another.

So today is another day in which all things are possible. Today is another day with Jesus!

The crowd and the single individual

Now at the festival he used to release a prisoner for them, anyone for whom they asked. Now a man called Barabbas was in prison with the rebels who had committed murder during the insurrection. So the crowd came and began to ask Pilate to do for them according to his custom. Then he answered them, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” 10 For he realized that it was out of jealousy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas for them instead. 12 Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you wish me to do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” 13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified.

Mark 15:6-15

I read the Passion in Mark’s gospel this morning. It is the Palm Sunday reading for Year B.

I was struck by the role the crowd plays in the sentencing of Jesus. And the reason given for Pilate’s handing over Jesus to be crucified, “wishing to satisfy the crowd”. The faceless crowd doing the bidding of the religious leaders against The Single Individual. Jesus stands alone while the crowd shouts for Him to be put to death. The crowd is often an obstacle in the gospels to people meeting Jesus, to being healed, to seeing Him. The crowd is fickle. The Processional Gospel for Palm Sunday reminds us that the crowd acclaimed The Single Individual as King and Messiah.

It is easy to escape into the faceless crowd. And the modern age has made it a virtue to follow the will of the majority. It is easy to do what I am told by those in authority. It is easy to blame and to push the guilt unto someone else – never have to look at myself and my actions. It is easy to escape the single me for the role assigned by the many. The crowd is the opposite of the Single Individual.

During my earthly life that Single Individual calls me to follow Him. As we enter Holy Week, that Individual reminds me that I am called to follow Him to the cross: to be alone with God, alone before God.

Solitude – hidden in Jesus

Life has drastically changed for me in the last month. I find myself alone a lot of the time. I am not saying that is negative – I am alone but rare lonely. I have come to embrace this solitude as a way of life. I enjoy when I am with people – I like being of service to other people, especially in their walk with Jesus. Yet these times drain me. And I return to the hiddenness to recharge with Jesus. I enjoy people but I also needs the moments of solitude and silence.

There is something about solitude and silence that means I am hidden in Jesus – not visible to the world, not engaged in the world’s desires and passions. I have my own passion – faith. I have my own time – prayer. I am flexible in how my day moves but it always has the same elements – prayer, meditation, reading, physical needs.

I have stopped listening to music as much. I eat alone – sometimes listening to an audiobook, sometimes simply listening to the birds and the trees. I take a walk alone. Is it a vocation? I do not know.

Alone and wrestle

I have been thinking about Jacob wrestling with God. I have been struck by two things:

  1. Jacob is alone (24). He leaves behind family, position, and possession. He is alone with God, alone before God.
  2. Jacob is changed by the wrestle. The stranger touches him and changes him – physically (with his “thigh”) and spiritually (by giving him a new name). Jacob does not stand far off and reflect – he engages and physically struggles with God – sweat and pain! “The Strange” is not an object but a person.

I think the story is a great example of what it means to be a Christian in a modern context. SO …

I need to be alone before God, wrestle with God, and that will change me.

I do not believe in Christianity

Recently I have been confronted by statements that people “believe in Christianity”. I must say that upon reflection I do not believe in Christianity – I believe in Jesus.

SO here is a Kierkegaard quote:

The conflict about Christianity will no longer be doctrinal conflict (this is the conflict between orthodoxy and heterodoxy). The conflict (occasioned also by the social and communistic movements) will be about Christianity as an existence. The problem will become that of loving the ‘neighbour’; attention will be directed to Christ’s life, and Christianity will also become essentially accentuated in the direction of conformity to his life. The world has gradually consumed those masses of illusions and insulating walls with which we have protected ourselves so that the question remained simply one of Christianity as doctrine. The rebellion in the world shouts: We want to see action! (Soren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers 4185)

To the above very-well phrased quote from Kierkegaard let me add: Christianity is not a doctrine, and not action alone, but a person! That is the paradox, the mystery, of the Single Individual – I am called to surrender myself to another person, I am called to a radical relationship to the Absolute – Jesus.

faith?

I have been thinking a little about “faith” – what is it? Too often we create two poles – faith and reason – and simply ask where a person stands. Is faith simply a choice to sidestep reason and accept something on authority? I wonder if it is not a little more fundamental – faith is the movement from being a human being to becoming a person, a single individual.

So I did a quick google and found this article from a psychologist, The Nature of Faith. The article has a nice start but I think the author misses something:

Finally, at least in the Judeo-Christian tradition, there is another important element to faith. Faith is not mere belief in the claim that God exists. Just believing a statement has little to do with one’s life, in many respects. The New Testament takes faith to include belief, but it goes beyond this as well. Faith also includes trust, in this case trust in God. So perhaps the best definition of faith is something like this: Faith is trusting in God, based on sound reasons.

Yes, faith in a statement about something is not faith in the Christian sense. Yet there is something more fundamental that the article misses: for the Christian tradition “faith” is not in a something but in a someone. Faith is primarily relational – it is mutual and reciprocal. It is a choice! But a choice to receive.

 

to be a saint

Some Merton for today:

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I have always loved that quote. In the Prologue to No Man Is an Island, Merton expands upon the quote. For a person (like Merton) formed in the classical western Catholic tradition it is a strange place to start. Maybe a topic for another day!?

For me it is about living my identity as God-given – seeing the divine in my life and also in the life of others. Living the part of me that is undefinable, indescribable, the nothingness within me where I meet Being. And, if I am going to be honest, for most of my life I have run away from that part. In a desire to be heard, to be listened to, to be an authority, I have ignored “myself” and tried to define myself away from God. In reality God (and “me”) are completely beyond definition, completely other.

In Merton’s language I have tried to hide behind a “false self” by putting on masks to make myself acceptable to others so that they would listen to me.