Warning – Steep and Deep Waters ahead – only for
going to most likely be my final devotional based upon Richard Rohr’s fine
book, Falling Upward. Truth is, I’ll be
moving to his NEXT book, Immortal Diamond, and process some of his thoughts in
the context of our community after Easter.
For now, we’ll make our way through the last segment of his book as we
prepare for Holy “weekend” (Good Friday and Easter).
I’ve long believed that life is more about paradox
and “dialectic” mental, spiritual, and emotional processing than it is about
right and wrong, good or bad, black or white, etc. I remember when I first started to wrestle
with this idea when I was in college. My
advisor “hammered” home the idea that we could not continue to interpret the
bible or even “do” theology from a “hardline”, “I’m right and you are wrong”
perspective. My professor, Dr. Kallas,
was the first person that introduced me to the concept of Mystery. In other words, there are simply things that
we cannot sort out conclusively and that leads to the appreciation and
embracing of paradox.
The concept of Mystery originates within the
scripture…you might say that it is captured by the essence of the word, “holy”
(that being, something truly different or set part from that which is innately
human). Something considered “holy”
was/is to be understood as that which stood outside of human definition and
categorization. It was wholly
“other.” Mystery is also something that
the Apostle Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13 when he exclaims that we see
in a “mirror dimly but one day we shall see things face to face.” Again, there are things that are simply
beyond our human experience to define.
Thus what appears on the surface to be contradictory and “enemies” to be
separated (e.g. Jesus’ divine/human nature; the interplay between the love of
God and judgment/justice of God; the being/doing aspects of what it means to be
a disciple; etc.) are really examples of a broader conceptual partnership. Confused?
How about this – Paradox can
be defined this way:
A statement that appears to contradict itself…a
paradox can be defined as an “unacceptable conclusion” derived by apparently
acceptable reasoning from apparently acceptable premises. Unlike party puzzles
or brainteasers, many paradoxes are serious in that they raise serious
philosophical problems, and are associated with crises of thought and
revolutionary advances. To grapple with them is not merely to engage in an
intellectual game, but to come to grips with issues of real import. One well
known paradox was written by the Greek stoical logician Chrysippos. The poet,
grammarian and critic Philetus of Cos was said to have died of exhaustion
attempting to resolve it.
Cretan sails to Greece and says to some Greek men who are standing upon the
shore: "All Cretans are liars." Did he speak the truth, or did he
week later, the Cretan sailed to Greece again and said: "All Cretans are
liars and all I say is the truth." Although the Greeks on the shore
weren't aware of what he had said the first time, they were truly puzzled. If someone says, "I always lie",
are they telling the truth? Or are they lying?
In the last few years, this idea has been
“reshaped” linguistically to be recognized more under the banner of “dualistic
thinking.” So, what’s the point of all
this? To get to this sentence for you to
consider in your heart and life:
longer need to divide the field of every moment between up and down, totally
right or totally wrong, with me or against me.
It just IS. This calm allows you
to confront what must be confronted in life with even greater clarity and incisiveness.” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
There is a BIG difference between being a person
who can truly be fueled by dualism and a person who, in fact, has left that
which can and is the “small and petty” to allow God to use them in new
ways. Remember, dualistic thinking and
living is a well-practiced pattern of always knowing and interacting with life
by the rule of “comparisons.” It puts us
in the position of constantly being the “judge.” Just think how easy it is to “label” things –
come on, be honest! Notice your thoughts
and reactions to things in life. You
will see that you will move almost automatically into a pattern of:
down, in or out, for me or against me, right or wrong, black or white, good or
bad…it is the basic reason why the ‘stinking thinking’ of racism, classism,
religious imperialism, and prejudice of all kinds is so hard to overcome…” Richard Rohr, Falling Upward
The dualistic mind and heart always compares,
competes, conflicts, conspires, condemns and cancels out any contrary evidence
and then, as Rohr says, it crucifies with impunity. And as long as you and me are thinking like this
we will stay stuck in our little, sheltered world of personal preferences and
be unable to live God’s Kingdom out in our lives with the same generous grace
and mercy we have so wonderfully received from God. One of the other authors I read a few years
back wrote a book called, Generous
Orthodoxy. The title alone took my
breath away because I had NEVER experienced orthodoxy as generous NOR had I
ever experienced genuine generosity in a pre-planned, systematically driven
manner. The words seemed to be
oxymoronic…but that was his point.
Orthodoxy, though somewhat important, is more about judgment and
exclusion than it is about love and understanding. What the world needs to see now more than
ever is love, understanding, gracious listening, and acceptance especially from
people who follow Jesus. I believe the
culture has seen enough battle from believers especially when it appears that Christians
are the first to take up a “weapon” and condemn others. Remember when Jesus says things like, “the
Father’s sun shines and the good and bad, his rain on the just and unjust”
(Mat. 5:45) the “dualist” inside of us wants to yell, “STOP Jesus! I thought WE were your chosen ones!” But I know it is time for another way. I believe, like Rohr does, that one of the
HUGE reasons Jesus changed the world is because he was a non-dualistic
religious teacher. Nothing is going to
change in our lives if we continue to be those who constantly argue about the
strength of our facts over against any other person. Instead of splitting “hairs” we ought to be
those who embrace Mystery and look for healing.
When we are profoundly made “whole” by the moving of the Holy Spirit in
our lives, it is our calling to promote wholeness in our world. People who created splits in everything and
everybody may, in fact, be those people who have not experienced the healing that
Jesus says comes along with the gift of God’s grace and mercy.
So, how about you?
Are you more about conflict than consensus? Finding wrong than looking for right? Pointing out the bad versus looking for the
good? Calling out that which divides
than searching for that which can open up a conversation and a
relationship? Remember, life in God’s
Kingdom may be more about “both/and” and either/or…it may be more about God’s
YES than God’s NO. Give it some thought
and prayer, OK? That’s what I’m doing!