Ken Kuhlken: At church, a guest speaker urged us toward open-hearted love for others, even the apparently lost. I appreciate this kind of urging, but only if it’s given along with clues that help us to love better. Otherwise, it’s rather as if a doctor says, “You’ve got heart problems, goodbye.”
I doubt we can learn to love much better unless we begin to heal from the despair with which Kierkegaard contends we are all afflicted. And we can’t begin to heal from despair unless we learn about ourselves, how we work. Which can’t begin to happen until we devote ourselves to searching for the truth about ourselves and our human condition and facing what we find no matter how painful. Which we can’t do very well as long as we’re over-busy with achieving career goals and staying in shape and relating with friends and so on and so on. Something’s got to give. Which is why I don’t care for the trend to treat every depression with meds that fix us enough so we don’t crack up. Maybe we all need to crack up.
Dr. Bob Weathers: I love this, Ken: “We all need to crack up.” I’ve been reflecting a lot about the path, laid down by Christ, of crucifixion. Sounds like a downer topic, but inherent in it is liberation, the peace that surpasses all (ego) understanding. It is simply not sufficient to cognitively assent to Christ dying for our sins; we are called to a much more radical reformulation of our very selves. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection are God-given templates for our own existence.
What then does it mean to live a life of crucifixion, and resurrection? Kierkegaard provides guidance here. We must choose to leap into the “abyss”. Otherwise, we are bound to acquiesce into Thoreau’s “lives of quiet desperation.”.”
The ego would separate itself from God; which is as foolish as this morning’s rays of sun, glimmering across the treetops, deciding to separate themselves individually from the sun.
But we do this all the time: forgetting our essential reliance upon the Divine. One poet observes that God is like the ocean, taking care of each wave till it safely gets to shore. Do we really believe this? More crucially: are we daily committing to living this?
As a start then, what does a sanctifying (I prefer that term to “sanctified”) life look like? How do I live all of this?
This is where crucifixion, as basic blueprint, comes in. Daily I must be willing to breathe into that which is greater than myself. Which, to the ego, feels like death. But only in relationship to that which is greater does the ego have a genuine bearing, a true north star.
All simple enough to say; but truly crucifying to live. What if, for example, I take just today’s suffering—its inevitable frustrations (of ego plans), its physical pain or discomfort—as springboard into deeper fidelity to God? In other words, could I approach my daily suffering as a cross to be borne; and so as deliverance into that which transcends my preferences, my personal willpower, me? Can I truly I consider it all joy because it reminds me where my real good lies?
According to medieval Persian saying, Someone asked the Master what the essence of faith was. The Master said, “It’s that feeling of joy when sudden disappointment comes.”
I agree that we first need to understand who we are, and then to undertake self-transformation (powered and enlightened by grace), if ever we are to truly appropriate Christ’s promises of the “kingdom of heaven.” Yet we habitually ignore his life, and its inexorable calling to us.
Too commonly, our conventional religion allows or even assists us in ignoring God’s call. Our rituals become rote practices, mere husks of faith, offering neither transformation nor the hope of the ultimate salvation we seek.
I certainly don’t mean to advocate creating a more rigorous or puritanical religion grounded in a kind of sublimated form of (ego) willpower.
Rather, as individuals, we drop humbly to our knees and pray to be healed of our very selves, which keep us locked out of a living experience of the Kingdom, and perpetually divided in our allegiances, between the finite (the world’s values) and the infinite (Christ’s values). This division may well be the cause of religiously inspired bloodshed and atrocity.
Instead, we can take the road less travelled, the path of crucifixion, where we need go no further than today’s allotment of disappointment, sorrow, and reversal of fortune to discover yet another opportunity for faithfully surrendering ourselves to the one who authors us into moment-to-moment existence.