Richard Rohr’s last published book, Immortal Diamond, has been formative in my heart and life over the past weeks. As many of you know, I spent much of the Lenten season in 2013 reading and re-reading Rohr’s work. This is the LAST of a series of devotional writings based upon what I have experienced and learned. Your comments are welcomed (firstname.lastname@example.org).
“There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
Things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
Or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.”
William Stafford, “The Way It Is”
I’m a bit sad to come to the end of the devotional series. What started out as personal reflections based upon Rohr’s book that I was going to keep “personal” evolved into a series of writings that have encouraged and challenged many, including myself. The process of writing is provocative – it enlightens, frustrates as well as embeds truth. There is something that happens as you read, think, create and review. Because Rohr’s books were so important to my Lenten journey in 2013, I have been blessed many times over by taking the time to explain and contemplate with you.
The poem above is worthy of a repeat reading. I’ve tried to stop my tendency to give into the temptation to explain this poem (as if I could do that). For many years I was “on the road” giving Parent Seminars on youth culture. Many, many times parents would ask for me to “exegete” contemporary culture. Sometimes I would get it right and other times I would miss by a mile. Art is unique. It has divergent meaning from different angles and life perspectives. To come up with an explanation for the imagery of the poem would most likely come off as trite or insulting. So, I’m letting it sit. If it ministers to you as it has to me, you will know what I mean when I say how much it makes sense and appears to be an appropriate bookend to ten devotional writings.
Who you really are is experienced in God. God at His very essence is love as it is said often in one of my favorite books of the bible, 1 John. We live in love as we live in God. As you experience love you taste the sweetness of eternity. Maybe these Rohr-ian words will make sense to you now:
“The great surprise and irony is that YOU, or who you think you are, have nothing do with its original creation or its demise. All you can do is nurture it…it is love becoming love in this unique form called, “me.”
The more I think about those sentences, the more I like them. We complicate a “Jesus following journey” so much. Between worship attendance, financial giving, church participation, buildings, budgets, demands, spiritual imperatives, classes and devotional challenges…the list goes on and on. How does the total of all those demands stack up against love? Something so simple shows once again that the “emperor has no clothes.” All we expect Christianity to be about has been unmasked with a simple word about a HUGE God – love and eternal love. And what’s even better is that demand and obligation (which summarizes how many people feel about a spiritual journey) is cancelled out by the FREEDOM we have in Jesus and His love.
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
Most people would try to place a framework of previous theological or biblical understanding around that verse and shroud it with complexities that render it meaningless. Truly the demands of religiosity that always steal life cannot give what we do desperately need – love in the nest of freedom in Jesus.
“Love flourishes inside freedom and then increases in freedom even more.”
We have a limited amount of days to live. For some, there will be long lives to explore and enjoy. For others, life will be cut short by tragedy or pain. The bottom line is that no matter how long we are allowed to “ride life and love’s wonderful mystery”, once we truly discover love, we will know that we have hitched our souls to that which transcends the realms of time and space. Once you really know love, love has you…God has you and you have God. Your existential search is over…the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow has been embraced…your “pie in the sky” has begun to be enjoyed…your hope that springs eternal is actualized…you have built your house on the true and solid foundation. I’ve always been encouraged by the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13. I want you to know this – he wasn’t joking or using pious sounding language when he wrote, “love never fails.” Paul knew that love was the ultimate trump card in life. It is that which gives every one who knows it deep in their souls a “winning hand.” When you know love, hope has been fulfilled. When you know love, faith is not allusive but comes naturally (rather supernaturally naturally), lived out, pressed down, shaken together, and abundantly fruitful.
We come into this love not by chance or anything that we can do. The truth is that the “very failures and radical insufficiency of our lives are what lead us into larger life and love.” You want to know what a LARGER life looks like? Look no farther than the word and lifestyle of love. Jesus says to you,
“I want you to be you, all of you, your best you”…that is what true lovers say to one another, not just, “I do not like this about you,” or, “why can’t you change that?” God tried to first create a joyous yes inside of you far more than any kind of no. Love and life have become the same thing…love and yes are even more the same thing.”
I know SO many people who when they think of God, they think of “no” and “hate.” They think about what God doesn’t like, what He considers sin, what He died for, what demands He has upon our lives that we never be able to accomplish or fulfill. How misguided we all are. God is more about “YES” and love to you than the full weight of any and all combined “no.” When God thinks of you, He thinks and radiates love. When He looks at your life, He is filled with more YES than no…more grace than judgment…more freedom than restriction…more RESURRECTION than crucifixion. As Rohr writes near the end of the book,
“The Risen Christ is a great big YES to everything…(2 Corinthians 1:19)”
That is which can set a person free. When you know you are loved with an eternal love all negativity can be absorbed and you can witness it as it passes away. There is nothing to hate, reject, deny or judge. It has been forgiven much SO THAT it can love much (Luke 7:47). Enjoy and celebrate that love. Share that love freely (“freely you have received, freely give”). That’s the true Immortal Diamond.