Lately I have been contemplating how God communicates with us. This happens in a multitude of ways, but lately what I am interested in is that place where we truly feel the divine presence and what it takes to get into that stage. This has been reflected in the last few blog posts.
The answer to my quest is both very clear in Scripture but very hard to achieve.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?
Clear, right? The denial of self. Denial of self to the point of Crucifixion. Not suicide, but the emptying of our self, our desires, our preferences, our ambitions and intentions.
So many writers across so many traditions talk about this. The Church Fathers and the Christian Mystics wrote about it. Even Muslims and Buddhist speak about it. In Jungian psychology is is called psychic death. Joseph Campbell made self-surrender one of the stages of the Hero’s Journey. Even Timothy Leary understood ego-death as part of the path to enlightenment.
For Christians,and others, the fullest manifestation tended to be monasticism of one form or another. But William Law, a contemporary of Samuel Johnson and John Wesley, wrote:
“The one true way of dying to self wants no cells, monasteries or pilgrimages. It is the way of patience, humility and resignation to God”
I agree with him. It might be easier to withdraw from the world to do spiritual work on ourselves, but in a way that is also a form of self seeking, at least it would be for me.
We must figure out how to both empty ourselves of self and remain in this world.
Our ego, our sense of our own identity, is the greatest barrier. Almost everything about the so called “American Dream” builds up the self. Rugged Individualism. The Me Generation. NIMBYism. So much of our culture screams the virtue of the self exulted. So many of our social ills and societal discord comes from being unwilling to renounce our own egos.
Beware of those whose only communication is self-aggrandizement, identity building, and other denying. They are not of God and they tempt you to be the same.
So here is Christmas. The season for gift giving. Give yourself to God. Your hopes and fears, your dreams and worries, you triumphs and tragedies, your virtues and your sins. All of it. Give it all to God.
In the vacuum that is left God will come rushing in to fill you in a way you have never imagined before.