This afternoon and evening I have been trying to write my weekly CPE reflection on what the week was like, where I learned, where I gained, and where I struggled. It was a hard week physically since I came into the week on much less sleep than usual. It was a draining week also because of another protracted dentist visit (ugh) and the stress that causes. And it was a relationally taxing week because of mid-unit CPE evaluations which are necessary, but not fun.
It was therefore a real “God-incidence” for me that today at church the focus was on Hebrews 12:1-3
1Such a large crowd of witnesses is all around us! So we must get rid of everything that slows us down, especially the sin that just won’t let go. And we must be determined to run the race that is ahead of us. 2We must keep our eyes on Jesus, who leads us and makes our faith complete. He endured the shame of being nailed to a cross, because he knew that later on he would be glad he did. Now he is seated at the right side of God’s throne! 3So keep your mind on Jesus, who put up with many insults from sinners. Then you won’t get discouraged and give up. (Contemporary English Version)
The chance to consider what holds me back, or what hinders me from fully living out the life God offers was a good exercise for me today. I suppose there are places on the planet (churches included) which can offer you “Seven Steps to a Life of Freedom” or give you some U2 and the promise of puppy dogs and rainbows. That if you just follow this guru or chant this mantra, you’ll achieve sublimation. And I don’t doubt that for some folks, that would their choice. I’m equally certain that in a pulpit somewhere in America this morning, someone pounded out a list of “sins” that must be laid down at the altar, and a guilt trip was laid so thick that people left burdened, not freed. Or perhaps there was a phrase by phrase exegetical dissection of the text, puffing up minds and leaving hearts dry. Or folks heard a self-help sermon that included cute quotes and a rousing closing chorus in a carefully programmed and plastic worship service. And yes, there is probably a time and place for that, too.
Boy, I just don’t think that’s how God works! Christianity, particularly Western Christianity, is not a cookbook concoction that will touch and transform. It’s not about a building, a group or a tradition – it’s about lives which are transformed by God, about people who are ready to be released from their habits and frustrations, and take up renewed living.
And I want to be counted among those people…
The prayer from Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises said it well:
Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding
and my entire will,
All I have and call my own.
Whatever I have or hold, you have given me.
I return it all to you and surrender it wholly
to be governed by your will.
Give me only your love and your grace
and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.
St. Ignatius of Loyola
from the Spiritual Exercises