Giving It a Rest

Lighten up! Give it a rest! Chill out, would you?

Okay, I hear you. Yes, the last few post have been pretty “heavy”… diminishment, suffering, excoriating an Archbishop. If Kneading Bread had an editor (maybe it needs one!), I would likely be cautioned that such serious fare is sure to kill readership — as if our cultural gospel truly is “Don’t worry; be happy!”

But we cannot get away from the big questions, can we? Life just keeps happening, prescribing a menu not of our choosing. Even the spiritual-but-not-religious types cannot avoid what the Buddha taught in his Four Noble Truths — the first of which is essentially, “Life is suffering!”

Dukkha is the Buddhist term commonly translated suffering, anxiety or stress. The Buddha is reputed to have said: “I have taught one thing and one thing only, dukkha and the cessation of dukkha.” So much for those who want to bail on Christianity because all this stuff about “the cross” is such a downer! Well folks, it seems that “unsatisfactoriness” is here to stay and we better learn to deal with it!

An encouraging thing happened yesterday in the form of a comment made to my post. It really brought a smile to my face, delighted me, really helped me lighten up! My nephew, Terry made more than a comment to my post. His comment expressed the heart of what I was trying to say, and he did it much more simply:

I am glad I persevered to the end. Rohr describes the absolute bedrock of faith where one can voluntarily leap into the unknown sea of suffering. Fearless! If the human condition (suffering) is only a mask, than what lies beneath? I believe Rohr would say God’s love, unflinching and unchanging. Perhaps others would say darkness or nothingness. When it comes to this universal question of meaning, I am comforted by the writings of the two Richards above. Vielen Dank! (that’s German for “Thank you very much.”)

When I was a kid, my parents taught me — and my nephew Terry’s mother — a prayer that asked God to give us a break from life as “this vale of tears.” That’s certainly not in vogue any longer in our 21st century spiritual-but-not-religious or don’t-worry-be-happy culture. Isn’t there a consumer good to satisfy our every want, a pill to alleviate every discomfort?  If there is not, we want there to be one.

Sorry, folks! Life is pretty much what Jesus, the Buddha, my nephew and all the great wisdom traditions have been saying.  Our choice is pretty much what we make of it!  What is our response? How will we live? What is beneath all of this? Love… unflinching, unchanging? Darkness? Nothingness?

I’m putting my bet on God. Not as a life insurance policy! Not as deus ex machina. Not as a begrudging, reluctant savior who condescends to pull us from the muck! But on a God alive, manifest in creation. A Word made flesh. God-incarnate. Emmanuel, God-with-us. One who gets up, close and personal, in whose image is made very single person on this earth — no exceptions!  My bet is firmly placed on Love.

When it comes to all this, the simple Shakers had it so very right…

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation,
I hear the sweet, tho’ far-off hymn
That hails a new creation;
Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul—
How can I keep from singing?
What tho’ my joys and comforts die?
The Lord my Saviour liveth;
What tho’ the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
No storm can shake my inmost calm
While to that refuge clinging;
Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth,
How can I keep from singing?
I lift my eyes; the cloud grows thin;
I see the blue above it;
And day by day this pathway smooths,
Since first I learned to love it,
The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
A fountain ever springing;
All things are mine since I am his—
How can I keep from singing?

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