Embracing the "poverty" of real life...

Sometimes our inner spirit knows something hurts, but we don't know why. For about a year I have been wrestling with a deep inner wound that seems to show up as grief.  Not depression or despair, but a profound aching sadness that is tender, complex and very alive.  And I don't really know why, but it is time to get some clarity.

Yesterday, Fr. Richard Rohr wrote a column that resonated with me deeply.

The second split (in our hearts that separates us from the unified love of God) is life from death. It comes about when you first experience the death of someone you have known. Maybe it’s your dog. Maybe it’s Grandma. And your mental ego starts separating life and death. There are living people, and there are people who have already passed over and they are gone. So you try to manufacture a life for yourself that will not include death (read: failure, sadness, losing, humiliation, etc.).

Almost all male initiation rites insisted that the boy had to concretely face head-on this kind of dying. Sometimes the young men actually had to dig their grave and sleep in it for a night in an effort to begin to understand that life and death are not two, but include one another. If you split entirely, you spend your whole life trying to avoid any kind of death (anything negative, uncomfortable, difficult, unfamiliar, dangerous, or demanding). Much of humanity has not gone through its initiation or “baptism.”

That’s why Jesus says the rich man has an almost impossible task in understanding what he’s talking about (Luke 16). If you’ve stayed in this split kind of thinking—that your whole life’s purpose is to stay comfortable and happy, frequenting five-star restaurants and hotels, and never suffering any inconvenience—then you are going to put off resolving this split until the last months of life. But at some point, you’re finally going to have to see that this is not a truthful naming of reality. You can’t always avoid the negative.

Many of the saints and mystics, like Francis of Assisi, just dive into facing the unfamiliar, the foreign, and the scary ahead of time. Francis called it “poverty,” which might not be the way we use the word today. For him it meant facing the “poor” side of everything and finding your riches there. What an amazing turnaround! Henceforth, failure is almost impossible.

I was particularly taken with Rohr's remarks about Francis and his understanding of "poverty." This is a theme I have been exploring in my own soul as well as in the context of my congregation's 250th anniversary. Once we were literally the first - first in status, first in power, first in influence - but now life has changed and we are no longer first in anything. Some lament this "poverty" but I have come to see it as liberating because it frees us to be reunited in God's deeper love.

And now, as Lent approaches, it seems that what I have been working on in my professional life must once again become part of my own inner integration of "poverty." Well, "to everything there is a season..." and now seems to be my season to enter a new relationship with my grief and sadness so we'll see what doors that opens, yes? In one of those wonderfully serendipitous moments, yesterday was George Harrison's birthday, and one of my bandmates sent me this sweet, sweet take on one of my favorite songs ever! Truly, embracing this poverty means that failure IS almost impossible.

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