Posts Tagged ‘confession’
[11MAY2012] Confession | Square Peg vs Round Hole
I have confessed from time to time on this blog that I go through seasons of being “disturbed.” I get this sense of soul indigestion or something; it’s somewhat difficult to describe or explain. I’ve been in one of these seasons for a couple of weeks now…still somewhat in it, since I’m trying to be transparent about it. I don’t think it is a “bad” thing and it is certainly nothing that erodes or even gnaws at my faith, but I much prefer the placid waters, gentle breezes, and blue sky faith over the choppy sea, misty gale force winds, and stormy-thunder sky faith. The tranquil faith is the kind I can do in my sleep with both hands tied behind my back, while the other entails that I work tenaciously and sometimes round the clock to answer the questions in my heart, chokehold the doubts, and rebuke the fear that would shipwreck my joy.
I think one of the most important lessons about these seasons is to recognize them for what they are; they are messengers of the soul. I’ve often referred to them as “dashboard lights.” Regardless of what the seasons are called, I do not believe they can be ignored, at least not without serious repercussion. David Benner writes about this occurrence in his book Spirituality and the Awakening Self; he writes the following insightful words:
In addition to whatever other functions psychological symptoms may serve, they do bring us information about the state of our inner self. That nagging depression or low-level anxiety, or the case with which we lose our temper or are tempted to despair—these are all messengers from our depths that have been sent into consciousness to tell each of us that all is not well in our soul. However, if we ignore or silence the messenger, or refuse to open the letter they bring and attend to the issue they are point us toward, we are doomed to allow the inner problem to worsen and simply postpone the crisis that is eventually awaiting each of us.
The past couple weeks I’ve spent “opening the letter” and “attending the issues,” at least I have been trying. It takes time and discernment to figure some things out, especially when the message isn’t so obvious. In the end, after all the extraneous indicators have been distilled to their lowest common denominators, the message resolves to learning to trust God, growing in patience as we wait with Him, and acting with faithful obedience to the things we know He desires of us. As simple as all this sounds, our spiritual journeys and the tests that we encounter along the way can become incredibly complex at times…and if that is not enough, the complex situations are sometimes divinely shrouded in discernment evading stealth technology. In other words, God does not make it easy on us to figure out the soul disturbances and/or what we are to do about them, so we wrestle.
What I’ve realized once again is that God has a unique calling on my life, of this I am sure. I continue to find myself the square peg and all my furniture is made with round holes. I keep wanting to rush out and get new furniture, but the Holy Spirit continues to stay my hand. I ask myself and the Spirit, if my edges should be shaved that I might be more comfortably fit to the round holes… to which I sense the Spirit saying “Trust Me. Wait with Me.” So, I’ll stay square… and it ain’t easy when you’re surrounded by round holes, but it is the season I’m in and I’ll trust the God who remains always with me.
I was comforted as I was talking with Jesus today and He replied to me through His Word from Ephesians to remember that I am united with Christ. I am holy and without fault in Christ. I am adopted into the family of God and my sins are forgiven. I am “showered” with wisdom and understanding from God. His (God’s) plans for me will not be thwarted because I am identified as His very own. He also gives to me the Holy Spirit. Nothing can change or take this away because He (Jesus) is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come (Ephesians 1:1-14, 21). And so, square peg is comforted…still a little stormy on the inside, but I’m not dictated by feelings; I am just made aware by them.
Monastic Notes (Pt.16) —July 7th 2011
(Pecos: Day 18—July 7th 2011)
This is a difficult post for me to write because it recalls one of the most difficult days I had during my stay at the monastery. I think we all like to present our best face when in the company of people and my blog is no different in that desire to present “my best self.” This is what makes this post difficult. It is an embarrassing confession of sorts, but I have tried to be faithful over the years to be as authentic and transparent with my writing on the icrucified blog (when it did not impugn the rights or privacy of someone else).
Personal Reflections and Recollections:
Today we had a series of lectures concerning the “Gifts and Fruits of the Holy Spirit.” These talks were troubling for me. My understanding, teaching, and general Holy Spirit Doctrine didn’t fully align with the teaching I received today. After a little research and study, I found the teaching predominately in alignment with the Catechism of the Catholic Church and I am at a Benedictine Monastery, so that should not come as a surprise to me. Nonetheless, I didn’t connect with the teaching presented to me today. I have been disturbed. I think one of the bigger disruptions to my soul is the realization that I shouldn’t feel, or don’t want to feel, the discomfort I experienced today. What to do? What to do?
I’ve spent quite a bit of time praying about this “discomfort” and was reminded of a quote I had copied into my journal before leaving for the School of Spiritual Direction. The quote, from St. Augustine, follows:
“God is not what you imagine or what you think you understand. If you understand, you have failed.”
Hmmm… Interesting reminder for such a time as this, considering the Holy Spirit is one of the Persons of the Triune Godhead. What this means to me is this; my understanding of God is incomplete. My understanding of God is lacking and however I might teach someone about God is most likely flawed in some ways too. This doesn’t mean I don’t try my best to give accurate representation of God, studying Scripture, respecting tradition, and sharing from personal experience, but no matter how accurate I follow those rules my interpretation and presentation of God is still going to be lacking and ultimately flawed. “If I think I fully understand, I have failed in understanding at all…” There was another reminder that came to me during this time of prayer and contrition… As I was agitated by this presentation of Doctrine about the Holy Spirit, I was also reminded of a quote from the book I am currently reading News Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. He writes; “If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed—but hate those things in yourself, not in another.” Wow. My peace had been disturbed…I was “angry and hating” the one who had disturbed me. Merton calls me to examine these disruptions within me—spiritual pride, arrogance in my own knowledge, presumptuousness, and most likely a host of other deadly sins. This reminder seemed the most helpful of all in overcoming my issues with our lectures today. The lessons about (and from) the Holy Spirit were personal and very enlightening for me in a very real and humbling…and disturbing way today.
God was not finished with my “schooling” today. Following our gathering this evening for Vespers prayers, I was offered another slice of Humble Pie (my second for the day). As we were exiting the chapel, one of the brother monks tapped me on the shoulder to have a word with me. I was pulled to the side of the corridor and the dear brother asked me to “sing” at a lower volume because my voice was over powering the chant of the choir during our praying the Psalms. I felt as though I had been punched in the gut and for a brief moment thought I was going to be sick. I felt a rise of a thousand emotions: anger, defensiveness, offense, embarrassment, aggression, competitiveness, bitterness, and many, many more things stirred within me. I nodded with what must have looked like an ashen-faced, blank-gazed, surrender, but I was in total shock as I walked back to my room instead of proceeding on to the evening meal. By the time I reached my room, I was close to tears; I sat on the edge of my bed and cradled my head in my hands.
I couldn’t understand why this older brother monk was feeling so hostile toward me. For the past two weeks I had thought I was catching on to the rhythm and the melody of our chants during our fixed hours of prayer. I had even had several people tell me, “Jeff, you’re doing great…you sing so well.” Perhaps this was the very problem… Since I was complimented, I would sing and chant as if I were leading…I mean, shouldn’t everyone be inspired by how I praise and pray to God? or is it more accurate to say “praise Jeff.” Ouch. Sitting here on the edge of my bed, feelings crushed, emotionally bruised, and on the verge of deep offense, I remembered several things from my study of Benedicts Rule. One of the predominant aspects of the Rule is teaching on the growth and maturity in the ways of humility. Other aspects of the Rule include obedience to authority and the purging of rebelliousness and stubbornness from our soul. I realized if I were truly living in Benedictine community I would be bound by these vows and would be sworn to live in accordance with the discipline of learning and acquiring these virtues. I would be bound to learning patience, obedience, submission to authority, and humility through living in this community. I tried to will myself and my heart to this “mean old” brother’s wisdom and helpful direction…it wasn’t working so well.
I was at a crossroads. I could choose to remain offended and push through it all and develop a “soul scar” from the cancer of my unrepented attitude or I could repent in full of my attitude and prayerfully ask God for complete cleansing and healing. I chose the latter and spent some time acknowledging my issues, taking responsibility and ownership of my attitude toward everything that had transpired for the entire day. I asked God for healing and forgiveness and then entered into a time of centering prayer. I rested in union with God for about twenty minutes or so and when I completed this time of prayer I felt completely purged of my harsh and hurt feelings. I realized that God had been in the words of this dear brother monk and there was nothing else in them but God. I felt grateful, thankful, and exceedingly blessed for the graces of God through this day. The way God speaks to me and directs me is beyond my comprehension. I know, I will never be the same for the lessons learned today, and this is in a good way that I’ll never be the same.
I thank You, God, I praise You, Lord Jesus, for the promise and reality of Your ever-present Divine Presence in the Person of Your Holy Spirit. Thank You, Almighty God. Amen.
The perfect ending for this day could not have been planned any better. The School convened in the library for a special time of praise, prayer, and worship with the Holy Spirit. I had been asked to lead some worship songs before we invited people to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit—it was a wonderful time and beautiful experience tonight. There was much prayer, praise, and adoration given to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Many people were prayed for and prayed over as the Spirit led us all…some were filled with the Spirit of God and others were re-filled with the blessings and the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Personally, I felt as though I received double and triple blessings considering the work that God had been active in my life throughout the day. Ending the day with this service and this sweet outpouring of God’s Spirit could not have been any better or more affirming for me as a testimony to God’s love and grace.
Reflection…it can illicit fond memories, inspire creativity, give birth to vision; reflection can be the incubator for change, the seed bed of somber revelation, and it can be the mid-wife who assists with the painful birth of new self-revelation and awareness.
It seems to me that I have been in this place of reflection and labor for a long time. The groaning in my soul… the labor of my spirit has been a familiar place for me going on almost two years now. While each day may not bring with it new revelation, I have been learning much about my thinking and my spiritual world view…not just by reading the Bible or other Christian writings, and not by taking in teaching either. These elements have been influential, but what has really been the catalyst in this soulfully painstaking process has been an honest desire to live according to the Spirit of God. The weirdest thing in this process is that I’m not entirely sure what that really means; “living according to the Spirit of God.” I’m trying to say “yes” to the Guide within my soul, and be led according to what I know I “hear” with the ears of my heart as these “inner voice unctions” align with Scripture and Christian teaching. It’s tough and it is the crusher of men as they are re-formed into the image of God.
So, as I share these words today, unburdening my weakened thoughts again to my friends and peers… I submit myself once more to the “Press of God.” I will allow Him to squeeze the “Jeff-life” out of me and refine my essence until all that remains is the Christ-Life within me.
Today’s reflection points:
Humility, Truth in Love, Honesty, Wisdom, The Gospel, and the continuing present and visible witness of Jesus Christ in my life. Amen.
Prayer for the Day
Gracious and holy Father, give us wisdom to perceive you, intelligence to understand you, diligence to seek you, eyes to behold you, a heart to meditate on you, and a life to proclaim you; through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. Benedict of Nursia