Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transparent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world. ~ Sara Ban Breathnach

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Being a Seeker AND a Dweller

" a dweller. Your dwelling will save you from the unproductive restlessness that seekers sometimes fall into." Macrina Wiederkehr (A Tree Full of Angels)

 I journaled on Thursday that it seemed as Macrina was writing in response to my own questions and doubts; that she had read some of my journals or had listened in on some of my conversations.

Her friend Reid wrote a letter sharing:
"Sometimes I think I can only claim to be 'Christian.' When one breaks it down any more than that, I begin to waver and can't make a clear choice. Even the Bhagavad Gita has a place in my heart. Am I a fence sitter or a lost sheep?"
I journaled about my own journey of Seeking here...  This morning I will continue journaling with Macrina's thoughts on being a Seeker, yet also a Dweller.

Macrina offers her friend,  Reid the stories of two seekers who are dear to her heart, Nikos Kazantzakis and Simone Weil.
Nikos Kazantzakis 1883-1957
"Nikos was a wonderfully passionate Greek who lived as one with wings. He could not slow down. He lived hunting for God. In his autobiography, Report to Greco, he is talking with an old monk at the Sinai Monastery. The topic of the conversation is his terrible restlessness. He says to the old monk, 'I belong to the heresy called, 'always uneasy.' I have been battling ever since childhood. 
"The old monk leans forward , 'Battling with whom?' he asks. Nikos hesitates and suddenly feels terror rising in his heart. 'With whom?' the old monk asks again, 'With God?' 
"'Yes,' Nikos answers, 'with God. Can this be a disease? Father, how can I be cured? 
"'May you never be cured,' the old monk answers. 'Since you are wrestling with God, alas if you are ever cured of this disease. 
Looking for truth...
"For Nikos this struggle was truly a dis-ease. He spent his life always uneasy, yet wrestling with the Divine. He was not cured of this dis-ease until the great healing of death. His life was a passionate struggle to find God." (Macrina Wiederkehr, A Tree Full of Angels, p 127)
Seeking, I think I was looking for a place to be "comfortable" to be in a place I could fit in with all my questions...and doubts. Now, I realize it wasn't exactly "comfort" I sought as much as it was desperately looking for  God in those places.  I had books and audio CDs by many wonderful spiritual teachers of different paths.  I kept thinking, "If I do this..." or "If I practice this..." and "If I follow this wisdom..."

All those teachers, and I only felt more and more confused and "dis-eased."

Macrina offers the story of another Seeker, Simone Weil:
Simone Weil 1909-1943
"The other seeker I offer you is Simone Weil. I suppose we could say she was a Jewish Christian, for she was steeped in Christ. I think the reason Simone found more peace than Nikos is that she learned something Nikos never learned. She learned to wait. Her entire life was a waiting for God. She claims that we can do nothing on our own to get to heaven, but if we wait long enough, God will come and lift us us. 
"I am especially touched as she describes a mystical experience she had while reading George Herbert's poem 'Love.' She claims that during one of these recitations Christ came down and took possession of her. Yet even after that experience she struggled with her intellect. Writing of this experience she says: 
'Yet I still have refused, not my love but my intelligence. For it seemed to me certain, and I still think so today, that one can never wrestle enough with God if one does so out of pure regard for the truth. Christ likes us to prefer truth to him because, before being Christ, he is truth. If one turns aside from him to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms." (Weiderkehr, p 128)
I have never read anything Simone Weil has written, but this insight alone describes so well my own learning!  I feel as though I have discovered a Soul Sister!

In my restless seeking, I kept going here and there...listening to this teacher and that preacher...SEEKING for "truth."  I was born and raised within a main-line denomination...but was all I had been taught "truth" or was it simply the words of some writer of curriculum?  I kept thinking there had to be more......I wanted my head to feel as full as my heart.

Thursday I journaled that during my seeking, I discovered words and teachings within all kind of paths that I had also heard within the sacred Scriptures, the Bible, of which I was raised.

I didn't articulate it as well as Simone, but I also, in all my seeking, began to discover Christ as Truth within the words of other teachings.  With that discovery, I realized "Truth" was everywhere in everything and my frantic searching was only causing me confusion within my unsettledness.  I felt dis-eased.

Although I did not use these words, I came to a similar place...and I finally began to be still!  In the stillness, I realized I could seek Christ by staying on one path and strive to go deeper within that one path rather than to be broad by staying on the surface of many paths.  I began to understand that my head could feel as ful as my heart by going deeper into the path of my ancestors...within the Church.

So, my Truth, became the Christ of the Holy Bible and I decided to seek that Truth not only within the church, but within the denomination I was most familiar.  By going back to the church...and PC(USA) I knew what I appreciated and needed within this system, just as I was aware of those places that caused me to bristle. : )

Macrina continues:
"I give you Nikow and Simone because I think the four of us have a common problem: the need for certitude. Our intellects, clear as they are, can at times be blocks to spiritual growth. Jesus said that it was hard for a rich person to get to heaven. Well, I say that it is hard for an intellectual to fall int the arms of God. But it can happen, as Simone has shown us...No matter what church I belong to, there are two things I must hang on to for dear life. One is my head. The other, my heart. Thinking and loving integrate well." (Ibid)

One is my head. The other, my heart...

PC(USA) is in transition and continues to be "reformed" ... and that only comes from continually being in process, something that may be uncomfortable and confusing for many.  I realize this denomination has its faults, just as I realize it has strengths.  But I believe that Christ's Church is much bigger than the faults and strengths that can be found in any denomination.

For me, I need the structure of this denomination. I can also grow within this denomination because of its openness.  I am part of a denomination that is in process and it will never be perfect because it is a denomination of sinners...some of whom are truly seeking to know Christ and to make Him known to others. It is with these sinners, I strive to connect and to walk alongside.

As Macrina realized...No matter what/where I belong, there are two things I must hang on to for dear life. One is my head. The other, my heart. Thinking and loving integrate well.

Macrina concludes her reflections with Reid by sharing one more quote from Nikos that was taken from his reflections on his childhood...before he lost his ability to wait.
"I remember frequently sitting on the doorstep of our home when the sun was blazing, the air on fire, grapes being trodden in a large house in the neighborhood, the world fragrant with must. Shutting my eyes contentedly, I used to hold out my palms and wait. God always came - as long as I remained a child, He never deceived me - He always came, a child just like myself, and deposited his toys in my hands: sun, moon, wind. 'They're gifts,' He said, 'they're gifts. Play with them. I have lots more.' I would open my eyes. God would vanish, but His toys would remain in my hands.'"  (Wiederkehr, p 129)
Being/Having the heart and mind of a child...

All I need, as I continue to Seek, is to have the heart and mind of a child.

"All I need?"

To do this I let go of what "I" believe to be Truth...and to wait... to wait with open hands in order to receive the gifts God so wants to give me...the "toys" which to play.

God of Truth, help me to calm my restlessness as I journey along the path of the church...where I believe you have placed me.  By your Spirit, help me to continually be seeking your face. Spirit, help me to wait with open hands. Help me to be childlike in your presence. AMEN.

Many Blessings ~ Sandi

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