Slouching to Bethlehem

The article above came at a good time. Synchronicity being what it is I know darn well there are no coincidences, only “God incidences”. I have been asking myself lately: do I know who Jesus is?

I was walking back from lunch the other day with a colleague who is an evangelical. We frequently have religious discussions during lunch. He finds it surprising that a mainline Protestant, even worse, an Episcopalian can actually know the Bible. I, on the other hand, find it surprising that an evangelical and avowed Tea Party advocate is able to have a rational discussion for one hour without foaming at the mouth and going into convulsions. So it is good – we surprise each other, and meantime learn to love and respect each other.

On the way back from lunch, as we cut across the gravely parking lot which stands on the site where Thomas Jefferson’s Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom was enacted into law in 1786, he revealed to me a deep crisis of faith he suffered a few years back. He saw a news story about a car accident near his home town. It was winter and rainy, and a mother and her toddler were driving home. The driver lost control and crashed over a bridge into a frozen river. The mother managed to escape but not save her child.

This event plunged him into deep depression and he lost his faith in God. Up to that point he was certain that God was in control. It was a long road back to him to the faith, and he confesses that to this day the whole incident makes him what he calls a “wounded Christian.”

I have wondered about this ever since. Maybe this is a reason why a right-wing nut like him (I speak fondly) can be such good lunch company and so open to conversation. It takes some wounding to break us out of our certainties. Or maybe I should say, breaking out of our certainties is what wounds us. Yes physical pain hurts, but having your certainties broken can be devastating.
To be honest, I fear people who are certain! They got life figured out. They got God figured out. And they know just who Jesus is. As Yeats said: “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”Paradoxically, what I yearn for now is a healing that comes from brokenness – dropping my certainties which are just idols anyway, dropping my prejudices. I think it is the work of healing and transforming my False Self, removing what is unhealthy (egotism, fear, greed, oh the list is long) and cooperating with the Holy Spirit, the Giver of Life which “wounds” me. But it also heals me. Go figure!
So I am dusting off the old Tree of Practices and looking at how I can add more balance to my spiritual walk. The most critical thing for me is to pursue health in all its forms: physical, mental, spiritual. And there are no shortcuts, alas. No pills. Only damn hard work, day in and day out.I am working at deepening my family’s roots in our neighborhood, deepening our life in church, deepening my studies. I am eating better and working out more. I am trying to get 8 hours of sleep a night. I am reaching out to experts, spiritual mentors, teachers and guides; to friends who walk this walk. I am prayerfully seeking anyone who can point out my idols – and help me smash them against the Rock – because, you see, I want to know the Real Jesus, not the one I am certain I know…

THE SECOND COMING (William Butler Yeats)

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


About spaceloom

An urban monk, and an experienced spiritual director with a Masters in Psychology. Married with two children. Want to know me better? Read my thoughts.
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