|What Matters Most: That We Accept at Last That Our Home Is Our Journey # 4|
|Tuesday, 22 February 2011 15:45|
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
When I was a child my minister father would stand at the front of the sanctuary after his sermons for what was called the "invitation" in my tradition. It's interesting that that call was extended as "an invitation."
The invitation that my father extended was to enter into a personal, vital, dynamic love relationship with Christ. In my childhood, I had a very limited, childlike understanding of what that meant. In my adulthood, that invitation has taken me deeper and deeper into mysteries, perplexities, puzzles and challenges than I ever could have imagined. That journey has been profoundly meaningful to me and has given a great richness to my life, though it has not been the journey I imagined when I was a child.
Do you have memories from childhood like mine? Is the God-concept of your childhood adequate for adulthood? When was the last time you updated your image of God?
Are you contemptuous in any way of your childlike understanding of God or of the teaching you received when you were a child? Have you rejected your religion because it isn't adequate for today? With what have you replaced it?
One of my favorite hymns that was often sung for that invitation was also sung by my friend Cynthia Clawson in the movie Trip to Bountiful. "Come home, come home.....you who are weary, come home...." are the words that haunt me even now, words from a hymn entitled "Softly and Tenderly".
It's interesting to think about that title, applying it to an invitation to a journey and to "come home." Invitations do sometimes start with a still, small voice from within. Sometimes they are issued softly, but I suppose they do come with thunder and lightning. I think back to my childhood understanding of what it meant to take the journey home and sort of shudder; for most of us, that journey is fraught with danger and disappointment, difficulty and challenge. For some of us, what we thought was meant by "coming home" didn't turn out to be what coming home meant at all!
How has the invitation to go on a journey come to you? Have you been pushed there, out on the trail or into uncharted waters, or did you go there, thinking it was your idea?
Have the journeys you've taken turned out to be the trips you'd imagined, or something else, something more, something less than you'd bargained for?
Have you ever found yourself out on your journey, too far into it to turn back, but not close enough to the destination to want to go on?
Has it ever seemed to you that the more you traveled, the more "home" seemed to move farther out in the horizon? Has your goal ever changed on the way to the goal?
When I began this writing project thirteen months ago, I had no idea how meaningful it would to work with these thirteen chapters in James Hollis' book What Matters Most: Living a More Considered Life, but I knew that I had to follow the nudge from within, if only for myself.
I heard from within myself a call, if you will, to a journey with this book. There was something in me that had been sparked, awakened, agitated or stimulated -- and I knew that whatever was in this book was a match with that inspiration that came from within. The call, I see now, was to take a journey with Jim's book as my guide, and both the journey and the book have proven to be nourishing for my soul.
My intention at the beginning was to write a reflection each week for four weeks on each of the thirteen chapters. I sensed that thinking more deeply about each of the "things that matter most" was something that needed time. Having taken Jim's class on this book at the Jung Center, it wasn't enough to file away my class notes, put the book back on my shelf and go on about my ways. Something in me wanted more.
It's one thing, I've learned, to read a book rapidly and think you've "got it" just because you've read it. It's another thing entirely to mull it over slowly, reflect on the parts that call to you, wrestle with the hard parts and then integrate the truth into your own life. This book, like other great books, commands that kind of slow reading and processing, but reading this book in that manner and then writing these reflections each week has changed the way I read everything. If it's a provocative book with deep thoughts and big ideas, it deserves to be percolated into the waters of the unconscious.
I come to this last post on this last chapter, "that we accept at last that our home is our journey" both fully satisfied for having taken this journey and also with the awareness that I could go back to the beginning and start over and with that new beginning, see even more truths. Talking about the thirteen chapters with some of you, I have learned things that I didn't see in my own reading. The bottom line is this: I intend to live with these thirteen values from now on. They are that important to me.
On p. 247, Jim writes these words: "So what has my journey been about? Perhaps it might be summarized, and it is only a summary of a very complex matter, as a search for God."
He goes on to say that he began a search for God in his youth and then admits that "any god he would have "found" would have proved a mere artifact of his limited understanding of the moment, a temporary construct of my book brain and constitutionally constricted imagination." (p. 248) Jim quotes Soren Kierkegaard who said, "The god that can be named is not God," and then he says, "Any God I would have "found" would have become an object, a noun and not God the verb, an idol constructed by my limited consciousness, not a transcendent, transforming energy."
I truly love those words of Jim's, as well as those of the sage who said, "I would not believe in a god I could define."
This one sentence of Jim's so beautifully represents what I have experienced in his teaching, his writing and in personal interaction with him: "I have sought to respect that mystery always."
It is the Mystery that has called me forth on my own journey, and while I call that Mystery God, I never want to box God in to my limited and limiting definitions. There is, in fact, something in me that wants to call a halt to the speaking of God's name, for my sense of that Mystery is that it is holy beyond words, sacred beyond anything imaginable by human beings and yet, somehow present in the midst of life. It is that Mystery that keeps on calling me forward, inviting me onward into life. It is that Mystery that keeps on saying, "Keep on asking. Keep on seeking. Keep on knocking." It is that journey of exploration that gives meaning to life.
Jim quotes Gotthold Lessing's aphorism from the eighteenth century: "....if God were to hold in his right hand the truth and in his left hand the search for truth, one should choose the left, "truth" being accessible only to divinity, but the journey toward it, ever toward it, our noblest, most faithful calling."
Long ago I left the secure shores where I knew for sure who God was and how God acted in the universe, and have traded that ignorant certainty for the wonder and mystery of a sense of God that is far bigger and more mysterious than anything I could have imagined back in that small world of certainty and small ideas. The more I've been willing to let go of my own small constructs about God, the larger and more magnificent my sense of God has become, and oddly, strangely, inexplicably the nearer God seems to be. I am confident that what I understand even now about God is so small, compared to who and how God really is.
I include one last quote of Jim's from p. 250: "I am filled with hope that around the next corner, the new and unexpected will cause me to reinvent myself, revise my way of seeing, and take me back to the point of beginning, which is awe, which is wonder, which is curiosity, which is terror, and which is perduring summons to stay in the fight."
I love to live with the idea of "home around that next corner," don't you?
There are two names for God from the Bible that I love: God is love and I AM....making all things new.
God is Verb, not noun -- moving, acting, shaking things up, enlivening creation and making all things new with what I call love.
So it is that while this journey has brought me to this place in my life, I must keep on traveling, for I have learned that we are made to travel, to take on our adventures, to quest and question. It's such an interesting thing that at this point in my life, on this my 66th birthday, I am more content than ever before in my life, and also more eager for the next journey than ever before. I'm both restless for home and at rest at home, for the journey really is my home and my home is the journey.
One of my favorite quotes is from T. S. Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
Let it be.
Let it be.
May your life be filled with meaning. May you find your way home to your own wild and precious journey.
Grace to you --
(This is the fourth in a four week series of reflections based on Chapter Thirteen of the book WHAT MATTERS MOST: LIVING A MORE CONSIDERED LIFE, by James Hollis. This is the last chapter of the book.
There will be one more post -- a summary of this process -- next week. If you have comments about this series, please let me know.
You can order Jim's books from here -- http://www.junghouston.org or from http://www.amazon.com. You can also order CDs of his lecture from this course from the Jung Center in Houston. Previous posts from this series can be found by clicking "What Matters" on the home page of this website. I welcome and enjoy your comments, posted here on this website or sent to me by e-mail.)