January 6, 2016


Here's a thought I had today, sparked by some words from How Not to Be Afraid...: The miracle of consciousness is that you are the only one who can ever know you from the inside. I know it seems obvious, but I've never considered it. I have worked hard at getting to know other people, as it were, from the inside. It's been sometimes out of self-interested curiosity, but, I hope, mostly out of empathy and affection.

I have also spent time getting to know myself, that's a fact. However, my self-exploration has been motivated less by either curiosity or affection and more by a determination to ferret out and fix what's wrong with me.

When I look at myself, I consistently see a problem to be solved.

I could say problems, plural. My weight? Problem. My neglect of tracking our finances consistently? Problem. The weeds I haven't pulled? Problem. It boils down to one common thread, one problem: Me.

That's how I've learned to think. When I think about myself I am ever looking for what to fix, improve, or revamp.

Recently a dear friend shared a picture on Facebook of a sign posted in her workplace.

She tagged me, and I saw the image, and I thought, "Aww, how sweet of her to say. I need to hear that." But that's not what she meant. She said in her post, "When I read this, I hear Chris saying it to me." Took my breath away. She hears these words in my voice.

I don't.

I don't know that I've ever heard me saying these words to me. Yes, I say them to other people all the time. Whoever you are reading this, whether we've ever met or not, if we were together and you expressed a fraction of the "I need fixing"material I lay on myself, I would say to you in the most sincere and heartfelt way I know how, looking you right in the eyes, "You are enough! You are so enough, it's unbelievable how enough you are," and I would mean it.

What if I could say that looking in the mirror, making sure I looked me right in the eyes? The thought makes me squirm.

devotion I read the other day says this: "Once I can see the Mystery here, and trust the Mystery even in this piece of clay that I am, then I can also see it in you." Stopped me cold. I have to see it and trust it first in me, here, in my body, looking out from my eyes, with my unique wiring and experience, the one-and-only-in-history I that I am -- I have to see Mystery, the living out of the life of the God who is Love, in me before I can see it in you.

I want to see it in you. I look for it in you. I believe that I see it in you and want to help you see it in yourself, because, well, because of Love. I want this more than anything, and now I am challenged to wonder if that means that I have to quit evading the mirror, look me right in the eyes, and see the Beloved -- Enough. So enough. Unbelievably enough.

January 4, 2016

Beyond Fear

I offer you this reflection from the Be Careful What You Wish for Department of the inner life. I am on the look-out for joy, or, maybe more accurately, the path to joy, because if I knew how to get it, I wouldn't be looking, would I. I'm on the watch for signposts, mile markers. At best I tend to scrutinizing the scratches on every tree, the position of each stone, willing it to be a blaze. I won't really know until I finally arrive. Until then I don't quite know whether I'm on the right track, or stumbling blindly through the brush. But those blazes? I really do think I know them when I see them.

Case in point: I was scrolling through my Facebook feed, you know, like you do, and I clicked over to some article written by a woman I'd never heard of (Susan Piver, so now we all know). I don't remember what attracted me in the first place, but there, at the bottom of the article, in her bio, was the title of a book she'd written: How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life. It was as if the God of the universe was saying, TURN HERE.

I couldn't have said it better. Maybe I couldn't quite have said it at all. I'm afraid of my own life, and I want to know how not to be. I immediately ordered Susan Piver's book from the library. At this point, as is always the case when God posts a neon sign for me in the middle of the wilderness, I'm not sure what to wish for. The hopeful part of me is wishing for this to be another fulfillment of the adage, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." The skeptical (and, let's face it, fearful) part of me is looking for some way to discredit this Susan Piver before inter-library loan even serves up the book.

Right away, the skeptic has ammunition. Susan Piver is a Buddhist. I'm not a Buddhist. I'm a Christian. She has another books are about relationship break-ups. That has nothing to do with me. Maybe, I think with a mixture of disappointment and relief, How Not to Be Afraid of Your Own Life will not have anything to say to me.

Because I hate to have to acknowledge how very, very afraid I am.

I see joy -- success, fulfillment, whole-heartedness, whatever you want to call it -- just out of my reach. I know there is something that stands between me and realizing, well, myself. How many times have I used that hackneyed strategy, Try harder. It's no good. I know it's no good, but I keep going back to that empty well anyhow, thinking that this time if I try harder to try harder, it'll work out differently. I believe joy is real and that it is available -- you can call it an act of faith -- so there's got to be a way there, a way through. I just don't know what it is.

My suspicion, my terrible, terrible suspicion, is that it has something to do with not trying so hard. Maybe not trying at all. Sure, says my inner judge, then what? The answer is, I don't know.

I got the book from the library. I was all ready to glance through it and cast it aside. It's about meditation, about giving up my project of trying harder in order to be transformed. Yes, she's taking it from the Buddhist angle, but I know very well that the Christian mystical tradition says the same thing.

I know I have to read it -- and not just read it, but to listen to what God is saying to me about fear and about joy; chapter 7 is actually called "Beyond Fear: Joy!" Here's the kicker, in the introduction, Susan Piver says, "As you undertake this process, I'll offer you a single warning: a meditation practice can have serious repercussions...All I can ask you to do is pose... [this] question to yourself...: 'Are you ready for your life to change completely?'"

Already, in the days, since I said a tremulous Yes -- I am ready for my life to change completely -- I have begun to feel the full force of my fear. I may actually be afraid of everything, including, perhaps especially, myself. Don't ask me what that even means, because I don't know, but with open hands, I am ready to find out. If joy is indeed beyond fear, that means to get there, I'm going to have to walk not around but through.