Saturday, November 14, 2015

The 75%

At our last Chapter of the province of the Americas in May Dave Richo spoke to us. One of the things he said was that 25% of our needs for affection, support, affirmation should come from other people, and 75% from within ourselves.

I have been brooding over this ever since.

I used to think at least 50-50; I harbored hopes for 100% from the Order, of if I got lucky from somebody else. But Healthy intimacy and spirituality apparently is weighted in favor of inner strength, self-nurture and affirmation. At the same time I understand it is not the same as being selfish.

What I have come to understand is that looking for love, connection, etc., begins with prayer. Opening myself to God and then in full view of God’s loving gaze take stock of myself. It’s not “I’m the best” or “I’m the greatest!” or any other jejune adolescent attitudes. Rather, it is about “I’ve done my best,” “I forgive myself for my failings and look for ways to make the situation better for myself and others.” I am grateful for the love and support of others because I know I am worthy of their love.

For me as a Christian, it is about Jesus in my life, shaping my thinking and values around the texts I hold as sacred. Loving others—even those I have difficulty with; I love because God first loved me. Recognizing that nothing can come between me and God’s love, not even those rat-tailed creatures that lurk in my brain gnawing away at my self-esteem.

I’ve developed some techniques for soothing myself and getting back on track (although sometimes it takes 9 months or a year to feel securely on the rails—no quick fixes here): just sitting quietly and letting my brain sift through things, picking out what is beautiful and good, and giving thanks for all that still bewilders and upsets me. Running is another technique. It grounds me in the weather, the world outside, I feel my body pushing and sweating. I love tired muscles—I am a creature. God made me, and I give thanks. Worries get put into proper perspective when my concern is breathing, keeping moving, or my attention is caught by beauty around me. This awareness and the work it invites us to do is the big piece of happy functioning in the world, a healthy spirituality.

The other 25% then comes flooding in; people do their best to show their love. There are kindnesses and generous acts all of the time if I can only see them.
Last night there were bombings in Paris, the world is struggling with violence and hate. I think one of the greatest contributions we can give to the world is to live with calm assurance of God’s love and care. Not to give into fearful worst-case scenarios. Love and forgiveness are applicable to ourselves to our neighbors and to people far away. Grounded in love we can speak to the terrorists: “Peace, Brother!” Like Francis to the wolf or the robbers or the Saracens (Muslims of his day). A friend posted on Facebook that she was okay in Paris, had been with friends. Her message was of reassurance, of love of prayer in the midst of the trouble. This is the Christian way. It is the best way for us to live—personally, with friends and community, globally with political troubles around us.

The Society of St. Francis Ministers Meetings at Hilfield Friary in Dorset, UK concluded this week. For me, the result of it all was a renewed appreciation of my community, love for my brothers in their struggles and tenderness, and a deep gratitude for the gifts I have been given. And the greatest of these is love.

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