Peaceful Presence in an Anxious World

Only the spacious, contemplative mind can see so broadly and trust so deeply. The small calculating mind wants either/or, win or lose, good or bad.
— Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

A few days ago I posted a blog titled “Freedom is Not a Zero Sum Game.” In the wake of police shooting black men and a black man retaliating by killing police, my point was that freedom is not an all or nothing, win or lose, zero-sum venture. True freedom only exists for one when it exists for us all. This way of seeing does not come to us easily.  The non-dualistic, radically embracing way is one that we have to intentionally pursue. We need new lenses to see like this. Perhaps, by God’s grace, we’ll even receive new eyes.    

I tend to be a very fast moving person. By that I mean that I like to get a lot of things done in as little time as possible. I have a high value for efficiency and direct communication. "Productive" is one of my favorite words. But from time-to-time, I find my desire to move fast seriously impeding upon my desire for deep relationships and social change. While I believe that what we do is important (changing unjust laws, protesting, speaking up and out against brokenness in the world,) I believe that who we are matters more. Are we actually becoming better people? Are we experiencing regeneration in such a way that we are truly more loving? More embracing? Better listeners? Slower to anger? Abounding in love?

Many people have been quoted as having said, “You can’t use the same level of consciousness that created a problem to fix the problem.” To truly change the world requires some measure of transcendence and transformation. Or so I think.

This all came to me around 3 AM this morning. Sleeping has been tough the past few nights as I’ve attempted to make sense of the world and times that we’re living in. In any case, around 3 AM this morning, I realized that I can’t actually fix or change any of the problems around me. I can’t change anything because I’m not in control of all the variables. Sure, I can use my voice to speak up, and I will. And of course, I can use my body to protest and raise awareness, and I will. And sure, I can write eloquent blog posts and send out newsletters to educate and inspire the people around me, and I will.

But at the end of the day, I can’t make anyone live or think or do something different than what they want to do. My self-control is just that – control over myself. The one place that I do have the authority to change whatever I would like is inside of me. I can choose to live justly. I can choose to stand in solidarity with the marginalized. I can choose honesty, patience and humility. I can choose to think in less divisive and dualistic ways. These are ways of being that I can nurture and grow much like anything else in life. It’s my own personal garden plot and God has given me free reign here.

I am drawing attention the importance of the internal world for a few reasons. One is because I strongly believe that external integration will flow from internal integration. Secondly, I think that the internal work of becoming a more whole person is harder, takes longer and is less glamourous. Lastly, I feel like God wants to move in and through a people who are rooted and established in him. And let me tell you, being rooted and established doesn’t happen over night. Just ask a pecan tree.

This is a journey that I’m always on. A big part of it is learning how to slow down and being intentional about growing in contemplative prayer practices. Another big part of it is being sensitive to my emotional state and trusting that if Jesus could be a peaceful presence in an anxious world, then I can too - if I will work towards it. 

A few resources that you should check out if anything I’m saying is resonating with you are Richard Rohr’s “Everything Belongs” and The Gravity Center for Contemplative Action which is based in Omaha. I’ll keep unpacking these ideas in the weeks to come.

Happy Tuesday, friends. May Love move powerfully in the center of who you are today.