Friday, July 25, 2008

The Consequences of Saying Yes

The Heart Breakthrough of Obedience

“Deep calls to Deep” is a biblically phrase that has always resonated with a colorful and poetic sense of language. In this blog I may have adulterated it truest meaning on some level but it is so rich in metaphor that I am sure God allows me to bend it a million different ways. For me that “deep unto deep” phrase radiates with mystery and knowing. It tells me that much of what is calling me and much of what I am being called to is still hidden. I believe that on some foundational level my soul does grasp the significance of moving into a divine dance with God and His deep. Something begins to rise to the surface that is frightening as well as attractive and compelling. But as I move into the deep all that is shallow cries out for the surface oxygen. All the old habits, distractions, ways of seeing others cries out like a siren song and I find myself on the road of trials once again.

Is it our perennial fate to walk simultaneously with joy and sorrow? Is the path of light always filled with darkness and the path of truth filled with brokenness as we discover all the deep in us that is murky and unredeemed? On this road the siren’s song suggests that maybe our calling was indeed a projection of our grandiose ego state, our desire to stand above the fray of life or another case of just plan old “missing the point.”

Richard Rohr speaks quite often about the danger of the heroic in the ego. He remarks how much of what is done out of that heroic space is often filled with a degree of control and pride. Could it be that our willingness to actually hear our sin’s mocking tones represents our humility and perspective playing into the deep we have thought was hidden?

It has been said that if God is anything He is humble. I am convinced I have no idea as to what it means to be humble. I do know what it feels like to feel incapable, unworthy, and divided in my sense of who I am in God. Thus, embracing setbacks is the first step of coming out of the deep or through the deep as it were to discover the rhythms that move in and out of this deeper place in God. Naomi Newman in her monologue Snake Talk, says that every forth step we are meant to fall. Not that we might fall or could fall but that we are meant to fall. I take this poetic assertion as a spiritual observation. Setbacks come with the territory. They are the deep. I am just fearful I may fall down and stay there for the rest of my life.

Scripture is not silent of the consequences of saying no. Jonah after all spent some real down time in the belly of the whale. I am sure the overpowering stench was a message of avoidence that could no longer be ignored. Ironically, the consequence of saying yes doesn’t provide the soft place or smooth road we may think comes as a by product of obeying. The dragons and sea monsters are part of the landscape of a fallen world. The great devourer as well is out and about doing his will and way. On some level we are a people at war. As we have seen with Iraq, war is not an abstraction. People kill and get killed. Thus, the courage it takes to continue walking in our calling means we walk as well into the consequences of this divine agreement.

Recently I was admitted to hospital with some very low potassium levels. I was totally caught unawares as to the power one element can have in your body. The lack or over abundance can throw the entire human body into great convulsions (literally). I have come to understand that as I live, I move, and as I move, I shake, and as I shake, the very wheels on my life begin to rattle and hum as well. This is natural byproduct of Newton’s third law of motion. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Why am I so naive about the impact my yeses will have on my life? Well how could I? I have never been here before. This is a new place on some level and an old place on another level. I move forward with one foot and sense the other dragging behind me. I step forward with courage and find another part of my heart draw back in fear and reticence.

As I move forward into community and deeper relationships all the fears of my personal deep begin to rise to the surface. Much of this surface rising comes from the muddying of my life through circumstances that are now put into motion. My yes is dangerous for the all the no’s within me now begin their litany of orchestrated doubt. They tell me what I have known all along…I am weak and unable to see my dreams come to fruition on my own. Indeed, I may even have the wrong dreams. But this willingness to say yes to something has divine healing power to it. In saying yes, new truth begins to emerge from the depths of my life. The more public I go with my yeses the more those around me are filled with both encouragement and discouragement. Flannery O’Connor said that, “ you shall know the truth and it shall make you odd.” I am convinced that my yes has thrown me into a place in my soul that here to fore has not be traversed. It is my deep. But my deep calls out to another’s deep.

What is surprising is that much of the deep of others is mired in fear and wounding as well thus any calling up represents “stuff “ for which we may not have bargained. Saying “yes” to my calling may cost me some of my deepest friendships. Even my spouse may at first deeply question my willingness to be broken open as it were. To step into my own suffering is to send a message to those around me that I am willing to go places I have not here to fore gone. The possible exposure of my no is now corporately and communally revealing. It triggers animosity and confrontation. I am one who hates confrontation. I did not know this until I began operating out of this deeper yes. My deeper yes is going to necessitate that those closet to me go with me to some extent. I had no idea that would be a part of my yes. I feel guilty and responsible at the same time. I want my yes to be a balm to people not an enema. Not a good metaphor possibly but both do heal the body. Who wants the intrusive acts of the soul especially those that take us into our very digestive track? Indeed we are what we eat.

The challenge with learning to navigate the deep is to not demand that others go there with you without their compliance. The single mindedness of healing can often throw relationships into the river. Twelve steppers tell of the zeal of an evangelist during the beginning stages. We hope the whole world begins “the program.” But alas, there really is no program for everyone. God’s grace is highly personal although not private. There is a significant difference between personal and private. Personal means to me that I am who I am. I am a self. There is no denying that I exist and that I have desires and experiences that are solely mine. However, with that being said, my life is not a private experience for me that has no impact on others. In fact, I am divinely knit together with my family and friends and all that I am and am not impacts them daily.

All are forced by life’s circumstances to step into the deep of our lives on some level. This divine yes can be the Spirit’s urging to walk into Him and through Him to a beautiful place in the heart of the Father. The desire’s of our heart may bring with them both joy and sorrow. To uncover what our heart is really saying brings with it the exposure of the real self. This is the divine self God knew and intended to be expressed before the foundational of the earth. Walking into the divine yes means mustering all the forces of mission and purpose within us. As we walk through and in the deep we realize this journey is both beautiful and frightening. As we begin to live on the edge of our callings we sense the power of change on our lives. We must evolve, we must grow. Not that it would be nice but that life now tells us we must grow or die. Grow or die! Sounds harsh but when the time is right it is a gift. Coming up from the deep means breathing at levels the lungs and heart are not used to. If the soul cries out for something higher it also has a great naiveté about the place we call “higher.” In this place we get vertigo, feel overly exposed, finding ourselves wishing for the old ways and the old places. In these places we felt safe at least. Now we feel so frightened. But this fear is intertwined with the yes. This fear also wonders what will I do if there is no more love in this world? What will my heart feel if there is no more hope? What will my soul feel if I give up on seeking for a place of trust and safety? There is a price to be paid for either posture.

In recent months the level of helplessness I have felt has been overwhelming. The price of my yes is now coming to fruition and indeed a degree of suffering and disorientation are accompanying the willingness. At the deepest parts, however, I am discovering this powerful truth. All of life represents choices. Every yes means no to something else. Every no means a yes to something else. In those choices only faith navigates the outworking. I don’t get to know what my future holds. I only get to make the choices. Let my deepest response be a yes to the fullness that is indeed in store for all of us when we see faith beyond the abyss of fear and doubt.

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