In times such as these, when things are coming apart, we look around for someone to blame, someone to fix it. We blame our leaders, the Prime Minister and Premier, when it comes to politics, or the Bishop, when it’s about the Church. When we feel powerless, we search for those we hope have power, and can somehow magically fix it all, so our lives are comfortable again.
With our strategic mind, we hope to understand things, and that often gives us the illusion of safety. We plan and expect that all will turn out the way that we expect. This can be very intoxicating, and our ego can be quite enamoured with our capability. It can be quite a distance from our true self. As I heard recently, “Everybody is doing their best, and it is never very good.” Even people in the hierarchy are just doing the best they can.
Currently we are following John 6 in the Gospel readings, and I am always struck by verse 15. Once the crowd had their fill after the abundant feeding, they wanted to “take (Jesus) by force and make him king.” Jesus could have been a prince on a throne, holding power, riches, and every kind of privilege. Instead, he denied it, let it go.
I was reading recently in a meditation by Richard Rohr on “Letting Go of Power,” Daily Meditation 12 August. “Jesus consciously chose a path that assured suffering, humiliation, desolation, and finally death on a cross… None of this was an accident or coincidence… God needed us to finally comprehend the truth: God is not a sky king who heads an empire; God is the love that gives himself away for the sake of more love.”
“In Jesus, God shows us what it looks like to be this vulnerable, humble, and self-giving. In him, we see one who did not run from things which broke his heart, nor did he first calculate what he could gain from the situation. Jesus sought instead to give away his life, so that others might flourish as God intends.”
There is much about this which speaks to where we find ourselves in this pandemic. We find ourselves being stripped away as we want to protect ourselves and what is ours. We are confronted by limits and powerlessness, frailty and endings, something we thought in our modern mind that we had outgrown. Even as Church, we had become convinced of our own success and privilege.
We have the invitation to our own humiliation, our undoing. This can happen at any time in our lives, but usually we hope it will happen to others. It can happen through the experience of long-term ill health or chronic pain, becoming the humiliation of having to ask for help. Through such a way, we may realise our compassion for others limping along like us, that we are all walking in this wounded body.
I close with this meditation from David Whyte, in a series on, “The Poetry of Self Compassion.”
What would it mean in my life – to undo myself? What does un-doing feel like physically? Can I stay with that physical sense, not fleeing from it, but letting it blossom into something that is, to begin with, unrecognizable?
Is this what Jesus means when he says, “Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 10: 39)?