a personal epistle



i’ve been thinking a lot lately about transformation. about how it happens and doesn’t. about why it happens and doesn’t. about is it happening to me or isn’t it. and is it happening to those whom I care about and for and why isn’t it.

so i thought to myself that at this moment in the process of my thinking about transformation that i ought to just write myself a letter and share it with my beloved. i suppose it is a letter for the Beloved, for we are all God’s Beloved.

and this is that letter. as i’ve listened to henri nouwen talk to me through my car speakers these past two weeks (www.vineyardcentral.com/nouwen) one of his thoughts struck me and held on. i can’t seem to shake it for i belive it is Truth and it must be heard again and again. i must hear it again and again, because it is foreign to my native soil and its roots take extra time to find purchase.

nouwen talks about anger and greed as the great compulsions of our age. i see these in myself and i see them in those i care for. this does not grieve me. rather its nice for the brokenness to be named and the big pink elephant in the room to be acknowledged. but it does cause me to wonder – how do we change? if we are angry and greedy what must we do to be saved? i mean “saved” in the “be made whole” sense.

i must admit that at times i despair. i become apothetic and given to illusions of determinism and fatalism. but i can not believe that this is all that we may attain this side of heaven. but nor do i believe it is merely a matter of trying harder, working longer, or hoping more.

these words from Fr. Richard Rohr say it well (thanks Len for the link):
“I think we have all learned by the middle of life that people do not change easily. We try to change others, we try to change ourselves, we try to improve situations by better communication methods, various coercive means and sincere prayer, but, dang it, most of us are just like we used to be. Only the disguise and the denial get better. It seems we don’t meet that many transformed people. What a disappointment.”My hope, as I get older, is that I hurt people a little less. My hope is that I can at least see what I am doing a little better — and more easily apologize for my mistakes. My hope is that I can accept people and situations as they really are. In these ways I have changed. But I must painfully admit that I am in most ways the same person that I was as a 17-year-old-boy.”
i can relate. somedays i wonder if i – if we – will ever stop fighting the same wearying battles that we always have. when will i trust more, listen better, love deeper? when will i be less prideful, arrogant, lustful, and selfish? what’s more – how do we as a community become more in the Way of Jesus and less in the way of ourselves?

for all this i can only offer this – we can’t. or rather it is something that happens in us, we do participate in it but it is the Spirit that must do the heavy lifting. perhaps this is unpopular and possibly even wrong. but for all my effort i can’t seem to change myself. i must let myself be changed. the locus of control must be shifted from self to Another. this is far from easy and it is not passive pie-in-the-sky, ethereal, wishy-washy-ness. it is intimate practical. immenently tangible. again Rohr:
“The great transformation that has gradually taken place in me — almost entirely beyond my own efforts — is that my Great Self has changed — at least in my awareness of it. “I live no longer not I,” as Paul would say (Galatians 2:20).”
i confess that this still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. i want to be transformed and i want those i care about to experience it too. yet it is ellusive and fleating, or at least it feels that way. i must believe, tho, that it IS happening. it is slow and meandering, or it feels as such at times, but that’s because i’m not leading it.

my prayer for us is that we would admit our weakness – to God and one another – and submit ourselves to the Spirit’s transformative, healing, presence. its that submitting part that seems the trickiest.

Lord, have mercy.

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