“Everything in the World is Waiting”

Astonishing freedom is available to us all the time. Really, I’m not making it up. As William Stafford writes in “A Message from the Wanderer,”

…Prisoners, listen;
you have relatives outside. And there are
thousands of ways to escape.

This week, the transformation of a simple question pointed toward one escape route: trust. Pulling into my garage one night, I thought to myself about some aspect of life, “What am I doing?” in a mental voice tinged with a Pig-Pen-like cloud of despair. Then I heard the question repeated in an excited, joyful tone, as if the asker couldn’t wait to discover what wonderful thing I was about to do.

Many of our social and religious constructs teach us to deeply mistrust ourselves. They subtly say that we must be hyper vigilant to prevent ourselves from running amuck, as if our failings were just waiting for that one relaxed moment to rise up and overpower us.

While healthy self-reflection is necessary for growth, we need to remember that we’re made in the image and likeness of God and to consider what that means. We have our weaknesses, but we are manifestations of God’s abundant love, of God’s abundant self, and though it feels risky, we can trust that Ground of our being.

God is not waiting to smite us. God is loving us into existence with every breath and heartbeat, as Jim Finley says. God’s love is our true nature, and it is infinitely trustworthy. The more we know this to be true, the more we will trust ourselves and the more we will embody that trustworthiness in all our relationships.

We are going to mess up. We will almost certainly hurt one another by acting unconsciously or from a place of fear, but those mistakes don’t define us. “Nothing less than love has the power to name who you are,” Finley says.

Thus freedom always came nibbling my thought,
just as—often, in light, on the open hills—
you can pass an antelope and not know
and look back, and then—even before you see—
there is something wrong about the grass.
And then you see.

That’s the way everything in the world is waiting.

Everything in the world really is waiting. And it’s so excited to meet us.

Being Cosmic

One morning, watching the sun’s rays light up a tree and considering a new day, I realized I was literally looking at new light. The photons hitting the leaves had never been seen on Earth before, had not existed before forming in the sun’s core. The two hydrogen atoms that fused into helium to create the packet of energy that travelled almost 93 million miles had been around since a few minutes after the Big Bang, and after 14 billion years suddenly found themselves transformed.

This is cause for hope. We are an intimate part of this cosmic becoming.

We tend to hope for small things—that a presentation will go well, that people will like us. Sometimes we hope for larger things, such as a loved one’s recovery from illness or greater justice in the world. And at times we lose hope because none of these things come about.

Perhaps the times we live in call us to a wider vision of hope. That is not to say that the stuff of our daily lives is unimportant but rather that it is inextricably connected to something unimaginably larger than we are. We can learn about ourselves by observing how the universe works because we are part of the universe. What the universe is capable of—constantly being made new—we also are capable of; what is happening in the universe—unending change and evolution—is our natural state, too.

Our lives—our collective life—is sustained by these brand new packets of energy arriving in Earth’s atmosphere. If the very stuff that fuels our existence is ancient stuff in endlessly new forms, why would the pattern of our lives be other than that?

We will experience joy and heartbreak, our internal supernovas and black holes. Though we’re learning how galaxies form, it’s harder to observe how our own lives contribute to Creation’s unfolding, but they surely do. “Behold, I make all things new,” the Creator says. That is what’s happening through us, with us, and in us.


Note: Though I have no direct citations, this post undoubtedly results from reading Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Beatrice Bruteau, Ilia Delio, and Cynthia Bourgeault, most recently in meditations by or quoting Delio and Bourgeault from the Center for Action and Contemplation.

You Are Trustworthy

How does one go from “God is trustworthy, the world is trustworthy, I am trustworthy” one week to “Everything I do is meaningless” the next? I’m not sure, but I might add “covering almost the entire existential spectrum at high speed” to my resume.

The trustworthy part arrived unexpectedly during my drive to work one day. Sometimes the universe gifts us a download of knowing after which, for a little while, we can perceive reality differently.

“Trustworthy” didn’t mean everything will be OK as we usually think of it—no pain, no loss—but rather that love fills all of life, even the hard stuff, so it’s already OK in a way we rarely notice. Also, creation has a “benevolent trajectory,” as my friend Markus says. On the cosmic, evolutionary scale, it’s all headed somewhere good, though again not necessarily good as we understand it.

I am trustworthy because God’s essential nature and creation’s essential nature is my essential nature. I’m not going to singlehandedly derail the cosmic experiment. As a matter of fact, I’m participating in its becoming, as we all are.

That was profoundly real for three days, and then literally a week later I understood why middle-aged people go out and buy little red sports cars—preferably a convertible, thank you. When all of the identities we’ve confused for our selves stop providing any sense of who we are, life becomes quite uncomfortable, and surely a sports car will relieve that discomfort.

How did I travel such an emotional and spiritual expanse so quickly? Humanity, I suspect, in the form of returning to my really healthy daily practice of not-enough-ness.

A vast chasm separates the person I think I’m capable of being from the person I’m actually capable of being. The imaginary person in my head maintains complete mastery over the physical and spiritual realms at all times. She always focuses on the most important task and completes it brilliantly, regardless of whether she got six or eight hours of sleep. At the same time, she’s riding the express train to nirvana, and it’s a straight shot.

Unfortunately, aside from being fictional, she’s missing the point. The world is already trustworthy; she is already trustworthy. There is nowhere to get to, not even nirvana. We don’t live to attain spiritual or any other kind of fulfillment. We are filled—and therefore fulfilled—by embodying loving kindness day by day, as my friend Bardwell once described his approach to life.

And we are already doing it. God is trustworthy, the world is trustworthy, you are trustworthy.

A Choice Called Love

Sometimes loving is hard. Perhaps that’s because love is a choice, not an emotion, as Richard Rohr says. He also says love is who you are.

I sometimes look at my own thoughtlessness, jealousy, contempt, or self-centeredness and wonder how this can be so, but maybe we miss the point when we confuse these tendencies for our selves. As Jim Finley puts it, there is an invincible preciousness at our center that nothing we or anyone else does can touch. “Nothing less than love has the power to name who you are,” according to Finley.

Even when we believe that Love is bringing us into being, accepting the reality that love is our being requires a terrifying leap. Our faults are knowable, measurable, and don’t change that much. This self is in control and controllable.

Love is infinite, eternal, ever constant and ever changing, ever evolving, ever giving itself away as new and different forms. It is unknowable, unpredictable, unexpected, mysterious.

It’s easier in this world to stick with what is known. Easier but deadly because what is not love is not real. I am that am, God says. Love is. So anything that is not love isn’t.

What does it mean to make the choice that is love? Nothing less than a conscious participation in our own becoming, which is an inextricable part of the universal becoming. Every smile, every kind word, every nanosecond of patience with an exasperating child—given or received—creates the world. Every act of forgiveness; every thrill at the beauty of a tree, a song, a painting—given and received—creates us.

Love is an ever-present invitation. The preciousness at the center of our being and of all being calls to us. Every moment offers another chance to choose to listen.

 

Fear Less

Sometimes there is nothing to be afraid of. Perhaps most of the time. I didn’t realize how often fear is my go-to approach until one night this week it switched off.

I was puzzling through some non-life-threatening problem that I had invested with a great deal of urgency when it suddenly became clear that there was nothing urgent about it. There are life-threatening situations in this world that may warrant fear—fires, hurricanes, bombs, abuse—but whether the kitchen gets clean or the work assignment gets finished or the person likes me are not among them. Yet I invest these moments with such fraught energy.

I carry around a mostly unconscious, baseline assumption that unless I’m a little afraid, I won’t perform well. As if fear makes everything better. As if life were a performance.

This approach assumes a certain untrustworthiness in oneself and the world. This worldview does not admit the value of failure, the freedom of making mistakes, or, perhaps most importantly, the beauty of one’s self.

We are always changing and evolving along with the rest of creation, and though we participate in that evolution, we’re not in control of it. I think we’re taught that anything out of our control is scary, and that includes our true selves, hidden with Christ in God.

Maybe we have good reason to be scared of our true selves. The more we get in touch with the Love at the center of our being, the harder it will be to continue living as we have been. Our habits of thinking and feeling, the rules we’ve made for ourselves, the criteria by which we’ve reassured ourselves that we’re OK will all begin to feel empty.

But we’ll exchange survival for joy, stasis for dynamism, fear for trust, and self-protection for love. Not a bad tradeoff, all in all.

Tuning into the Divine Frequency

Life would be so much easier if fulfillment could be found in exterior things. The world’s most amazing piece of chocolate cake exists somewhere, so find it and bam! you’re done. Mission accomplished. Life well lived. Carefree from here on out.

But nothing outside of our selves—space intended—will ever satisfy us, a reality that can cause a lot of joy or a lot of suffering.

So many things seem as if they describe or comprise our selves but don’t: our accomplishments, our responsible-ness, our moral conduct, others’ opinions of us. Sometimes, though, we really mess up all of these things—I mean really, or at least I do—and so they can’t be who we are.

What’s left when everything our society teaches us to value or work toward is not us? In a recent meditation, Richard Rohr writes, “Gospel holiness…is almost entirely about receiving God’s free gift of compassion, mercy, and forgiveness.” Or to put it another way in another tradition, “We don’t need to look outside of the present moment to find inner peace and contentment; when experienced with awareness, everything becomes a source of joy,” according to Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche.

This sounds great but can be frustrating because there’s nothing we can do to make ourselves happy or become who we want to be once and for all. We are more than anything else receptors, and the best we can do is attune ourselves to the divine frequency, a station that only plays in the present moment.

“I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath moves through,” says the Sufi poet Hafiz. When we allow that music to flow through us, our actions become notes in the divine song—natural expressions of our true selves. I suspect this receiving and giving is better than chocolate cake.

Transformation Happens

I recently discovered another “cherished illusion,” as Jim Finley calls them, namely that I grow and change through my own initiative and on my own schedule. This is simply not true. We’re not so different from the rest of creation. We can no more decide to enter a new phase of life before we’re ready than a tree can decide to drop its leaves in spring.

If a six-year-old informed us that she was going to learn to drive or do calculus or carry a thirty-pound rock, we wouldn’t expect it to happen. Yet when we become adults, we think that we should be able to will ourselves to be whoever we want however and whenever we wish.

Just as shorter days mean less sunlight and therefore less green chlorophyll to hide the stunning reds and yellows always present but not visible in the trees’ leaves, we change in response to events in our lives, most of which are beyond our control. The big difference between us and the trees is that we often have different plans. Maybe we want to be green all the time or, come August, are impatient to display our more showy selves.

Though what’s happening doesn’t originate with us, we can choose whether to resist or participate. If you’re like me, there’s a fair amount of push back going on. At the heart of my resistance is a lack of trust in the cosmic becoming in which we all play a part.

Let’s be clear, there are a lot of reasons to mistrust: black holes, dying starts, war, famine. But let’s be equally clear that my cosmic plan doesn’t extend much past dinner, so just maybe the Creator of the universe has something going on that I don’t fully understand, something bigger than me and my preferences, and maybe, in ways we can live but not grasp, it is a “plan for [our] welfare, not for woe” (Jeremiah 29:11).

This transformation is happening, but it’s not being done to us. It is coming into being with, in, and through us. “The world becomes new, if one does not stand in the way,” my friend Bardwell says. Let’s practice not standing in the way.