The Grace of Descent Part Three

“All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming.” — Helen Keller

Why does almost every good book or movie drama have a twist and/or tragedy in it?  It’s all about the transformation and overcoming that makes the story a compelling one.  (Spoiler alert!)  Harry Potter had to die so he could live; when he came to what he thought was the end of his life, he learned the difference between Voldemort and him was–love.  Elizabeth Bennett had to lose Darcy until she realized he was the right guy for her after all, AND that she was looking at things in a way not helpful to her.  Romeo and Juliet had to die in order for the two families to finally relinquish their hatred.  In all three examples, they gave up control of something or a way of looking at something in order to gain something deeper and in some ways more powerful.

In real life there is usually some place along the road where one of two things happens to us.  Either we experience something where we have no control AND/OR we come to know that the way we’re looking at something is no longer serving us.  For some people that first time comes when they experience death of a loved one or some illness/injury to themselves or someone close (Harry Potter loses Dumbledore).  The other example happens when a belief or way of thinking causes us to act in ways that no longer get the results we desire or actually leads to a tragic result (Romeo & Juliet’s families).

If we live long enough, we CANNOT escape this.  There will come a time when a situation is completely out of your control or when a tried and true belief and way of behaving leaves you hanging.  And it can be bone-crushing and heart-wrenching.  It can throw you into a sharp angle tailspin, and you feel like you’ve been sucker punched.

Thank God for it.

Say whhaaattt????  :0

What you do with that situation is the gift you’ve been given.  Listen to excerpts from Rohr’s blog posts last week:

…We recognize in male initiation universal patterns of wisdom that need to be taught to the young male in his early “tower building” stages. This was the rather universal conclusion: Unless the male is led into journeys of powerlessness, he will invariably misuse power. He becomes a loose cannon in the social fabric, even dangerous to the family, always seeking his own dominative power and advancement to the neglect of others. The human inclination to narcissism has to be exposed, humbled, and used for good purposes.

Remember, anyone—male or female—who has not gone on journeys of powerlessness will invariably abuse power.

The path of descent involves letting go of our self-image, our titles, our public image. I think this is one of the many meanings of the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). What is at stake here is not just false images of God (which mostly serve our purposes), but also comfortable images of ourselves. That’s probably what the saints meant when they said we have to move to the place of faith, to the place of self-forgetfulness, of nothingness, which ironically is the place of abundance!

The German Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (c. 1260—c. 1328) said in essence that the spiritual life has more to do with subtraction than with addition. But in the capitalistic West, we keep trying to climb higher up the ladder of spiritual success. Some Buddhists call it spiritual materialism or spiritual consumerism. We’ve turned the Gospel into a matter of addition instead of subtraction. When we are so full of ourselves, we have no room—and no need—for God or others, or otherness in general.

When C. G. Jung was an old man, one of his students read John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, and he asked Jung, “What has your pilgrimage really been?” Jung answered: “In my case Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.” [1] That’s a free man. We aren’t really free until we’re free from ourselves: our ego, our reputation, our self-image, our need to be right, our need to be successful, our need to have everything under control, even our need to be loved by others—or to think of ourselves as loving.

Wow!  I know that all sounds heavy, and I did say I was going to need to be brave to go here.

I watched my parents hang on to so many things that did not serve them well as they moved toward death.  When you examine your own lives, what are you hanging on to that is no longer serving you?  Perhaps it’s a body image ideal.  Perhaps it’s an income ideal.  Perhaps it’s a relationship ideal.  Perhaps it’s a grudge.  Perhaps it’s a home that’s gotten to be too much of a burden to maintain.  Perhaps it’s a habit or habits that are physically hurting your health.  Perhaps it is “control” itself that’s having an impact on your health, your life, your relationships.  Perhaps it’s the need to be perfect, to perform, to overachieve to the point of exhaustion.  Perhaps it’s the need to always look a certain way.  Perhaps it’s the need to always be right.  Perhaps it’s the need for affirmation.

Whatever it is, the path of descent gives you the opportunity to shed these burdens you carry and look at things from a fresh perspective.

To be continued…


CATEGORY: All Posts, Lessons Learned, Other SWOG Blogs Referenced


Learning is my passion and life is my classroom of lessons I experience along the way.

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