When you got on that plane, I was sure it was over. I left the airport afraid I'd never see you again. And then you showed up the very next day. That was a good surprise. You know, I think about the decision you made... maybe I was being naive, but I believed that we would grow old together in this house. That we'd spend holidays here and have our grandchildren come visit us here. I had this image of us, all grey and wrinkly, and me working in the garden and you re-painting the deck. But things change. If you need this, Jack, if you really need this, I will take these kids from a life they love and I'll take myself from the only home we've ever shared together and I'll move wherever you need to go. I'll do that because I love you. I love you, and that's more important to me than our address. I choose us.
"In meditating, meditate on your own divinity. The goal of life is to be a vehicle for something higher. Keep your eyes up there between the world of opposites watching your 'play' in the world.Let the world be as it is and learn to rock with the waves." - Joseph Campbell
To a Taoist (pronounced "dow-oist" or something like that) "there is nothing to do and nowhere to go. Accepting this, we can do everything and go anywhere."
What does this mean?
Nepo explains it this way: "To the Taoist the world in all its mystery and difficulty cannot be improved upon, only experienced...that life in all its complexity and wonder is complete as it is..."
How can this be? Doesn't the world to you seem out-of-sorts? Genuinely messed up? I mean, just look around! Look at yourself. There's so much that needs fixing...so much that needs mending...so much that is broken.
Then, as if that's not bad enough, Jesus comes along and says, "Be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect" (Matt 5:48).
"So," you say, "Jesus' words must mean the Taoist is wrong and what I feel and you feel about the world...about ourselves...is right - THE WORLD IS SCREWED UP! Even Jesus thought that which is why he demanded we "be perfect...complete." Why? Because we're so damn imperfect...incomplete...even screwed up. The Taoist is wrong and Jesus is right!
Not so fast.
Admittedly, I was raised, as I'd bet most of you were, by sincere Christians who told me - repeatedly - that I needed fixing, that there was something screwy in me - as if I didn't know that already - and they'd use verses like this one in Matthew in just the way I have above to prove their belief that I am, and you are, and everyone else is just one big screwed up humanity.
Which is why God sent "perfect" Jesus to absorb God's pissed off wrath at the screwed-up-ness he created and so appease himself for giving humans free will so that they could turn around and screw up the perfect creation he had worked so hard to create. Damn it! Somebody's gotta pay! "So, Jesus boy," God declares, "you go down there and let me whip ass on you for all their screwed up stuff."
A slightly crude characterization, I will admit, but essentially the story that I, and many of you, were taught.
Then, one day, when given the permission to ask questions - questions that I had been asking already in my heart, I asked, "If God is all-knowing and created humans with free will, why would God create us knowing we'd screw up? And, if God is all-knowing and knew his creation would screw up why didn't he do in creation something to redeem fallen humans who, although they hadn't fallen yet he still knew WOULD fall, without waiting until they did fall and then taking so long to do something about it, which he finally did when he sent Jesus to forgive humans for the screw ups - and the suffering the screw-ups have caused - that he knew he would do all along? Doesn't that make our screwing up something of his fault, too? And, if so..."
Well, you can understand why most of my Sunday School teachers never liked me.
So I ask you, on this the-almost-eve of the Jesus story: Is there another way of reading history (his-story) than the way we've been conditioned to read it? Is there another interpretation of the Christ event than the same tired way some people would prefer to keep interpreting it? Another way of understanding even these words of Jesus in Matthew 5:48? "Be perfect..."
I think so.
It starts, however, with your willingness to ask questions, even when others might look at you with suspicion...even when others might accuse you of being a heretic or something worse. If you're still reading this, you're either interested and open and looking for ways to re-think your faith...or, you're looking for further proof that I have lost my mind...or, that your suspicions of me are correct...or, you're just looking for something else I say that you can disagree with because, were you really honest with yourself, you're not interested in knowing the truth but defending what you're afraid may not be.
Think for yourself, my friend. God will not punish you for questioning him. Questioning things you've been taught may be a little frightening, but I assure you, to do so, will lead to no "fiscal cliff" of a different sort. If it were wrong to question...which is to doubt...then that's God's fault too. After all, isn't that the way he made you?
So, ask questions. Live into your doubts. Doubt is the womb of faith.
But then, I would suggest one further thing.
Start you're thinking from this point on at an entirely different place. Like here, for starters: Maybe what Jesus and the Taoist are saying is not so far apart after all.
When, for example, Jesus said, "Be perfect" consider the possibility, Jesus was NOT saying, "because you so damn imperfect!" Instead, he might be have been saying, "BE PERFECT...COMPLETE...BE WHO YOU ARE!"
I was taught to always think of what I am NOT. Jesus may be suggesting I think about what I am already!
What difference would it make in how you live...how you view yourself...how you feel about yourself...if, for example, you started from this place? Instead of always trying to be better, to improve yourself, to put yourself down by trying to pull yourself up, always carrying the burden of not being good enough, and of continually punishing yourself for it...
What if you actually believed that Jesus was affirming you, not stepping on you?
Soon, New Year's Resolutions will fill the air! Most of them are made, are they not, from that place where most of us live...in the gutter of self-deprecation?
"I've got to do better in the New Year!"
"I'm so not...."
Why not start at a different place? As the Taoist say, "There is nothing to do and nothing to improve." There's everything, however, to accept. Like YOURSELF!
Start there. And, "be perfect, complete, whole." You are already! Can you believe what Jesus says about you? If not, then at least believe the Taoist.
This is the secret to happiness.
You don't have to justify the good that you want by explaining what isn't right about where you are.
I saw a statistic today. I do not know if it is true. But, whatever the degree of truth, the statistic is alarming: There are 15,000 more gun stores in the US than there are grocery stores.
Beyond happiness...beyond financial independence...beyond whatever...you fill in the blank, there is in each of us an insatiable appetite for security.
Where does that desire get fed?
Jesus once asked, "What do you worry about what you'll wear or what you'll eat? Why do you stress over life itself? Or, tomorrow? Or even treasure or money? You cannot serve two masters! (pretty much the entire 6th chapter of Matthew).
He nailed it, didn't he?
Here are the places where we feel most insecure...
1. Fitness - "why do you worry about your life?" The Dalai Lama said, "Humans are strange. They will sacrifice their health to make money; then, spend all their money trying to save their health." Fitness clubs abound because, in large measure, we live with anxiety over how we look...what amoeba may be lying dormant in our genes if we do not stay healthy...what others may think of us if we're not fit - six pack and all.
2. Food - "why do you worry about what you'll eat?" - We stress over the food we eat, how much we eat, what's in the food we do eat.
3. Fashions - "why do you worry about what you'll wear? Look at the flowers in the field..." But we do. We stand in front of the mirror each day looking at how we look. Heck, I've caught myself doing this at times and then thinking, "I've spent more time looking at my external appearance, than I've spend all week looking within."
4. Finances - "why do you lay up treasure on earth?" If the financial crash taught us anything in the fall of 2008, it is that nothing is secure. The looming fiscal cliff? What could really happen that could rob who you really are? I am not sure we learned very much in the financial collapse.
5. Future - "Do not worry about tomorrow!" No matter how you look at it, the truth is, the real reason gun sales are at an all-time high...it is not that people are afraid their gun rights might be taken away, they're afraid of the sudden erosion of what thread of illusory security they still hold to.
Here is the truth: You can never find security in something external. No bomb, no gun, no AK-47, no Carry-Conceal permit, not arming all school teachers with guns, no Lottery win, nothing external, my friend, will ever make you feel secure...safe...or certain. These things are some of our greatest illusions, and delusions.
There is but one thing that can give you what you seek. All spiritual teachers pointed to essentially the same truth...the truth spoken by perhaps the greatest of all teachers.
Jesus said, "Seek first the Kingdom...and all these other things will be added"(Matt. 6).
And, what is the Kingdom?
Again, do not look outside yourself. I promise, you'll be disappointed. Jesus said, "The Kingdom is within you" (Luke 17:21). It is the inner world where you and God are One.
Go there, my friend, and see what hungers inside you get satisfied! Welcome to the banquet table of God.
And, Happy Holidays!
“There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something. You certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit
My name is Michelle. I have six children and 7 grandchildren. This blog is about what I have learned in my 52 years here. So far, it's this simple - I thought I needed to figure out everything - turns out I don't.