Jan, my dear blogging friend at Yearning for God, had a lovely post today about brokenness. How we are broken on the outside but whole on the inside and how the brokenness allows the light to shine in upon us. It intrigued me the more I thought of it.
We tend to think of ourselves as being broken on the inside, not out, and yet I think Jan is right. Our spirit, being of God, cannot be broken ever. It remains perfectly whole and perfectly healthy. Yet it is overcome much of the time by the broken and unfixable ego we so consistently project to the world.
Such is the graciousness of our God, who although being more powerful than us, more wise certainly, and so on, backs softly away, allowing us the freedom to be as we wish even when that will break us even more. He stands ready to heal in every moment, though we seldom seek his help sadly.
Walter Wink’s book, “The Powers that Be: Theology for a New Millennium,” has been having a big impact on me. We’re using it in our adult formation class, and learning about non-violent resistance to domination systems. I’ve just finished it actually, yesterday.
In it he suggests that before we go out to learn how to be non-violent resistors ourselves, we need to do the internal work. Otherwise we will not do it at all right. Mostly we need desperately to be able to see the enemy (whatever wrong we are facing) as a child or creation of God, beloved by God. And to do that we have to learn to heal ourselves, finding all the enemies within and making peace with them, calling them what they are, and realizing that God loves us in our totality as well, good and bad.
If we don’t do this, we will misuse our non-violence to create new domination systems compelling our enemies to conform to us, or we will simply use our work as “works” designed to put us in good standing for judgment day.
Wink suggests that one way we can do this is to realize that our enemies often are mirroring back to us exactly those traits we are uncomfortable about within ourselves. They are offering us a gift as it were, one we would no doubt rather do without.
I recall something about this that happened years ago, when I was working as a defense attorney in Detroit. My “boss” (you see that still sticks in my craw, since he was a poor excuse for a boss in my eyes), had been a co-worker before seeking the overseer job to the rank and file attorneys at our shop.
Most probably because I knew a few too many skeletons in his emotional closet (we had been close friends at one point), he rather enjoyed ordering me around and being the “boss” and I resented the hell out of it. I was often to be found grumping to others of how unfair he was, or worse.
More than once, a woman, who was head of clerical things, (now ironically his wife) would say to me, “Oh goodness Sherry, you two are so alike. I can’t figure out why you don’t see that?” I was not amused to say the least. Being compared to my nemesis was NOT amusing. I recall always looking at her like she was crazy. She was not of course. He mirrored back to me most perfectly my own lack of confidence in my capabilities and self worth, in many ways that I can see now.
Such a thought, that those we most detest or find most maddening in our lives, are actually most like us, is sobering, and well, not pleasant to contemplate. I am forced to examine the people I have the most difficulty with at forum discussions, the politicians I just “can’t stand,” and wonder.
Wink is quick to point out, that these “enemies” are not all good mirrors. Some folks we dislike, we do for good reason and not because they remind us subconsciously of our own failings and deep shadow parts. The trick I guess is to figure out which are which. He doesn’t explain that part, and perhaps there is no key to defining it easily.
Perhaps it just takes time. Perhaps it just takes time. Perhaps it gets easier the more you do it. Easier. I suspect it doesn’t stop getting painful. So it probably doesn’t really get easier either. But maybe we have, after a time a better clue on what to look for. Maybe some visceral reaction on our part becomes a flag to us. A kind of unmitigated rage, perhaps means you’ve touched the core of you again.
And I’m now convinced that painful as this work is, it’s essential. You see we don’t really buy that God causes the rain to fall on the good and the bad equally. We do really believe in final judgment and retribution for the real baddies in our world. We want to believe in justice as we define it, yet our Spirits tell us that this fact, that God does not, is exactly How he loves us more than we can ever understand.
God doesn’t judge, doesn’t punish, doesn’t exact retribution, because God is God. We do those things in our brokenness, and wrongly think we will feel better if John or Betty get their just deserts. And until we accept that it is WE who are flawed, and that God loves us anyway, totally and fully, completely and irrevocably, no matter what we do or don’t do, we will remained trapped IN the world and not OF it.
We will remain trapped in retribution, pay back, punishment, and we will secretly believe that we are going to get ours as well, because we know of that black place within that we so pretend doesn’t exist. We will continue to do “works” to build up the account in heaven, though we say we understand better. We will continue in this until we open the festering sores and cut them out, or heal them with salve and bandage.
When we do, we will love our enemies, for we will see ourselves in them, and know that they too can be transformed. They too can dance in the light. And then, God’s plan, our plan, of the Kingdom, will be fulfilled at last. God will wait as long as it takes. But I suggest we humans get busy.