To react or respond to life
(Self-Confrontation retreat 2017)
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 1 Cor 9:24
When thinking about sports of any kind, we tend to think of competition, besting a worthy opponent and thereby winning the crown. When seeking to lead a life that is rooted in following our spiritual path, it can take on a different meaning. Yet the truth of the matter is that we have to give our ‘all’ to something. This can be done on a conscious level, or we can simply drift, but the heart will go towards what it loves, but if without direction, it will drift towards what promises to lessen pain. So self-knowledge and the ability to ‘confront-ourselves’ can be placed low on the list of priorities. We become self-centered, defensive and hard to get along with if our seeking escape from the grind of life becomes too central. We let go of paradox and seek simple answers that are short sided. One simple answer is to blame everyone else. Our families, our upbringing or the fact that no one understands us. It is a dead end. Even if there is truth to our assertions, it is still a waste of time and energy.
So we get onto a not so merry, merry-go-round and can’t seem to find a way out. The central problem is that we are in-flight from ourselves. Fearful of looking within and taking responsibility for ourselves, without blaming others, and having the strength and humility to stop and let go. How is that done? Well by asking the questions:
What am I doing to cause this chaos and havoc in my life? What role do I play? How can I stop? Also, do I need to remove myself from this situation?
There is no easy solution to many of life’s problems, no magic bullet that will clear up everything. There are times, when we have to live in situations that are truly awful and destructive, with no way out. Yet, how we react can be changed.
How, (?) is the question often asked.
What is simply before us…our everyday life with its problems as well as joys can take all of our attention. We simple deal with events as they come along, or if we are in a life situation that is extreme, we can hunker down, take cover, or fall into cycles of lashing out that leads nowhere. It simply feeds the situation, making it worse.
Instinctive reactions work for our brothers and sisters in the animal kingdom because they help them to survive. There is flight or fight and then an outcome. Either the animal escapes, or captures its prey, or is able to mate. Humans are dissimilar, we are a different kind of animal altogether. While self-awareness is most likely common in all species, it is in human beings that it has such a depth that it can lead to a form of suffering that is unknown to other animals. We often live outside the moment, we worry about the future or we can obsess about our past. We are somewhere else. So our relationships are often dictated by other factors than what we think is the central issue.
People of faith can use their belief as a vain attempt to escape life’s conundrums when what we need do is find a way to deal with them that are in accordance with what we believe is the right thing to do. Prayer is not a luxury, nor is our relationship with God something that is done for a few minutes in the morning or in the evening, or once a week when going to church, synagogue or temple. It is, in fact, the most important aspect of our lives, this our relationship with the Infinite. Yet is often placed as a low priority in our lives. We have an essential unity with divinity, yet it is often forgotten or denied. We are relational creatures and this is true also with our relationship with God. In the Christian faith, God the Father is revealed as a form of love not found in humans, it is called “Agape”. As is shown in the Gospels, one of the most powerful sections is the story of the “Prodigal Son”.
There are situations in our lives that can resemble the ‘Gordian’ knot. When looking at the knot it seems to be constantly turned in on itself with no way out. It is in those times that we need to deepen our connection with the essential reality of the presence of the Infinite in the depths of our souls. As well as in the heart and soul of those we are forced to deal with, be it in the family, at work, or in situations that will throw themselves upon us.
In our deepening relationship with God, we find that something is going on, we find that there is more than one way to deal with any given situation and we have the freedom (often hard earned) to deal with them. The ‘Grace’ of God is not some abstract reality but something very real and is experienced by billions of human being from all religious traditions if they are opened to the power of the Spirit that dwells within them.
There is a season for all things in our lives. A time to stand our ground, or to step back, and even to flee. In our relationship with God, we are led slowly to make the right choices and in the process to do so without rancor or hatred. Grace is like that, it works deep within the soul, and all we need do is to be open to the “Divine Will. How is that done, well, by simply desiring it and living it the best way one can. It can be difficult embracing the reality of the truth of “God with us”, but an open heart, that first small step, is the gateway for grace to flood in. We are never forced, we have to make conscious choices, if not, then the choices will be made for us by our reacting to life instead of responding according to what our heart and conscience tell us.
As simple as it sounds, the only way to break a “Gordian Knot” is not with a sword as Alexander the Great did, but by love. Which is a true death to self, a process that can be slow or fast depending on our ability to trust in God and open up our hearts. Like I said, it is not a magic bullet, but allow the small seed of choice to take root, watered by grace.