“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8: 31).
Did you ever try to run from the truth? Have you, or are you hiding something from your partner? Have you ever, or are you now living in denial about some negative behavior in your life?
Have you ever, or are you now not acknowledging the truth of your goodness, what you have to offer to others, the gift that you are?
We spend tremendous amounts of energy hiding from the truth. No wonder we’re so tired out at times. Once we acknowledge the truth, it’s like a heavy weight is lifted from our shoulders and we begin to know what it is to walk through life with a bit of a lilt in our step.
For years I hid the truth of who I was. I hid it from others and I hid it from myself. I lived in a prison of fear and struggle, fighting these feelings I had for those of my own sex. After all, if I was “one of those” I was told I was headed to hell! I will always remember the spring day when I first uttered those words out loud: “I am gay.” I was shaking. I was so frightened; . . . and yet exhilarated at the same time as I felt myself being freed. And you know what? After I said it, the world didn’t come to an end. As a matter of fact it felt like a two ton weight was lifted off of me. The truth set me free.
Perhaps there is a truth within that you are struggling to acknowledge. It might be a negative behavior that you’re hiding, or it might be realizing and acknowledging your giftedness. Perhaps it might be good to sit and feel the weight, the pressure, all the energy that you’re spending hiding that truth. Do you really want to live this way? The first step to living more fully is acknowledging the truth. In A.A. they say: “We ADMITTED we were powerless over alcohol.” It is the admission, the acknowledgement that is the first step to freedom. The truth will set us free!
I question myself more and more as to whether God really cares about religious structures and institutions at all. Does God really care about all these humanly created laws? Does God really care about how this or that Worship Service or Liturgy is done? Does God really care about what kind of music is used? Does God really care about restricting people from access to the Table? Does God really care about not eating meat on the Fridays of Lent? Does God really care whether food is kosher or not? Does God really care about proving whether one was “actually” married or not through an annulment before getting married again? Does God really care about barring gay people from marriage, anymore than God would care about eating shrimp (which nobody listens to in the first place, even though it’s listed in the “abominations” in Leviticus – not to mention a woman being put to death who cheats on her husband, conveniently with no mention as to what is to happen to the man!). Does God really care about ANY of this?
In the end, does any of this matter? Some I have met who are into enforcing religious law are among the most judgmental, mean spirited people I have ever met. Conversely, those who have had the law inflicted upon them and internalized it live with the most abject fear of their acceptability in the eyes of God that I have seen. Indeed, isn’t it “sinful” to have instilled such fear in the hearts of these good people? What is of greater importance? Living the letter of religious law, or building people up by being a loving, self giving person?
Yesterday in my church, we heard the story of the man born blind from John’s Gospel. In the end, who was really blind? Were the blind man and Jesus the “sinners,” as accused by the upright religious folk in the story; or was it the religious folk themselves, intent on the letter of the law? I can only imagine that the spirit of evil rejoices when people get all caught up in religious law! Ironic that those who are not caught up in it, those who do not abide by it, or those who question it are the very ones called “bad.”
What’s more important in life? I believe that sometimes religious law serves only to blind us to what is really important in being a person of God.
“No prophet gains acceptance in his native place.” (See Luke 4: 24)
Ain’t it true?
I know of a minister who voluntarily left a large church at which he served as Pastor for a number of years. He no longer could agree with the teachings of his church, especially regarding women, gay people, divorce and re-marriage and, in his case, mandatory celibacy as a requirement for ministry. He no longer could agree with official teaching on who was acceptable at the table and who was not, who was acceptable as a minister and who was not, who could get married and who could not, who could adopt and who could not. He left, and hearing the call of a number of people to continue his ministry, he started his own church. It is a small, fledgling church in a humble chapel, but one can calmly feel the presence of Spirit in that gathering of people. Unfortunately, this very minister, whose compassion and genuine interest in people is palatable, and whose desire is to someday be a good husband and father – in addition to being a minister – is being called a “sinner” and people are being warned of his “grave error.”
Prophets are indeed not accepted in their own place. I pray for this man and admire his courage in the face of religious officials who now shun him.
OK, let’s bring it home. It’s easy for me to admire someone who stands in agreement with my opinions. But let’s take someone in my life who has had the courage to lovingly, but firmly, challenge me to get back on the path and deal with an issue in my life. My first reaction usually isn’t that good. Those of you who have a partner (friend or other family member) know that sometimes your partner can challenge you – hopefully in love. And oftentimes our first reaction isn’t so loving in return. BUT, if we sit back and take the time to reflect on what they are saying – we just might find that instead of being rude, insensitive, arrogant jerks – they may have been speaking the truth out of love and concern. And maybe if I heed their call and make some changes, I just might be a happier, more fulfilled person.
Who are the prophets in your life? Instead of demonizing them, can I step back and hear the truth that they are speaking to me in love?
Note: For those who read these meditations, you’ve noticed that I’m not writing daily anymore. My goal is to provide meditations on Sundays, Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. I hope that you find these a source of help along your journey!
Would He Be Recognized Today?
If Jesus walked among us today, would he be recognized? And, if he was, I wonder who would recognize him? I suspect that those who would recognize him wouldn’t be the usual suspects.
Look at Mattew 21: 33-43, 45-46. In Jesus’ day, who were the ones who didn’t recognize him? Many times in the Gospels it was the established religious leaders who didn’t recognize him – the ones supposedly in charge of the vineyard. Curious hugh? Is the same true today?
Those who did recognize Jesus were most often those you would least suspect: the uneducated, the poor, the sick, those rejected by their religion, women, those known to be sinners, those on the fringe. These are the people who recognized him.
It can really be a pain sometimes to be on the fringe of religion or society. It’s difficult. If you find yourself on the fringe, take heart. You just might be in the best place to recognize the truth and depth of his message – even though the powers that be may tell you otherwise.
Luke 6: 36-38
Holding on tight?
Sometimes we have a tendency to hold on tight. We hold on to people, places, things. We protect, hoard, worry, feed resentments, judge, . . . and in the process we fail to live. When we’re so concerned about holding on to what we have, when we’re so concerned about never forgiving this or that person, when we’re so concerned with controlling – we fail to live and enjoy the moment.
Be compassionate, don’t judge, forgive and don’t worry about holding on to what you have but give, give, give! And in the process we will experience life again! When we cling, even to our judgments, we are not free. It’s like the story of the monkey who discovered a banana inside a hole in a tree. He reached in to grab the banana and got stuck. He stayed stuck for hours, trapped and unable to move; until he realized that if he just let go of the banana and relaxed his hand he could be free.
Sometimes you and I are holding on so tightly to people, places and things – even our own hurts – and in the process we stay stuck and miss the glory of living! When we let go, we’ll discover an abundance of bananas free for the taking.
Jonah 3: 1-10
If someone told you that if you didn’t stop doing something you would soon be dead, would you stop doing that thing which is destroying you? I think most of us, if given the chance would indeed stop and choose to live! Jonah called out to the people, telling them that if they didn’t change they would soon be dead; and the people quickly turned from their death dealing ways and chose life.
Most of the time, we don’t have a Jonah though. We don’t have someone telling us to stop some negative pattern of behavior so that we might experience the best Life has to offer. Or if we do, we take their call to us as a personal affront, instead of seeing it as a gesture of love and concern for our well being. Most of the time we go about our negative habits or patterns of thinking or behavior totally denying how they are affecting us and those around us.
Don’t you want to really live? Don’t you want to get out there and drink life in?
When we’re caught in some bad habit, some negative pattern it literally sucks the life out of us, doesn’t it? Think about some negative thinking you might have, some negative behavior, some ingrained bad habit. Doesn’t it sap the life out of you, not to mention those around you?
I believe that God wants us to live, wants us to drink life in and get rid of those things that hold us from doing just that. Lent then really isn’t about gloom and doom. It’s about rising from the graves that we’ve built for ourselves. It’s about naming the lie that this or that behavior is going to make me feel better; when in reality it’s sucking the life out of me! It’s about letting go of that which has kept us mired in winter’s lifelessness. It’s about taking some small step away from something which is killing us or those around us and stepping into a new springtime of living!
I recently heard a talk in which the speaker described an animal that had been born in a zoo. After some years they built a multi-million dollar display, simulating the natural habitat for the animal, thinking that it would create a better, happier space for the animal. When it was released into its new space, much to their surprise, it stayed to one small area. It only walked the same path over and over, creating a rut in the ground, which got deeper as time went on. The animal had all this beautiful space, but it stayed in that one little rut and didn’t roam elsewhere! The speaker went on to say: aren’t we like that sometimes? We get in a rut, doing and thinking the same things over and over – missing so much of what could be if we just got out of the rut.
If you’ve read my last couple of meditations, you’ll know that I spoke of Lent as an opportunity to “get naked” to remove the “cloak” that holds us from being more present to life, to others and to God. When we, with the help of a Power greater than ourselves, remove whatever that is and stand naked in life, present, alive and aware – we get outa the rut and into the groove!
Suddenly, we begin to live again! Suddenly we look around and see so much of life around us. We slowly crawl out of that rut and begin, perhaps fearfully at first, to wander out into the beauty that we have been missing. All that beauty, all those people, all those possibilities suddenly open up before us – because we have had the courage to name that which keeps us all bound up, because we have had the courage to call on a Power greater than ourselves to free us.
Have you named the cloak that you need to remove, the cloak that keeps you separated from life, from others and from God? Have you called on a Higher Power to help you, trusting that the help WILL come? Is the cloak beginning to fall away?
Are you getting out of the rut, and into the groove?