Give it up for Lent

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Discipline is the other side of discipleship. Discipleship without discipline is like waiting to run in the marathon without ever practicing. Discipline without discipleship is like always practicing for the marathon but never participating. It is important, however, to realize that discipline in the spiritual life is not the same as discipline in sports. Discipline in sports is the concentrated effort to master the body so that it can obey the mind better. Discipline in the spiritual life is the concentrated effort to create the space and time where God can become our master and where we can respond freely to God's guidance.
Henri Nouwen, from Bread for the Journey (HT to Mike @ The Mercy Blog)

I was reading over at Onehouse's blog a quote by Cynthia Bourgeault which said that the word 'perfect', in the language of Christ's time, meant "whole, truly and fully alive."

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Makes much more sense reading it this way than the other way, which creates really ugly people sending large portions of themselves out into the wilderness, where they create larger havoc than they would have if their owners were looking. It sounds strange, but I am just loving the comfort I have discovered living with a God who knows me and the darkest parts of myself and honours me anyway.

It was never the whiplash that has changed anything about me for the better.

I love the way scripture has so many seemingly disparate verses, so we trip up on them like giant tree roots, grrr. I must say, life is difficult enough without biblical misinterpretations thrown into the mix. Methinks reading from 2000 year old manuscripts written in totally different cultures, times, and languages is a tiring process. It is good to get that particular verse about "be ye perfect" cleared up in my head.

I've given up the strive, I guess, to a reasonable extent. It comes rushing in like bushfire winds at times, threatening to overwhelm me. But I am beginning to recognise it a bit clearer, a bit faster, and to turn my face away like flint. This is not God's way. I don't want to play that stupid ego game of trying to curry God's favour. It does so more damage than apathy, I would surmise. And then on top of everything it leads to apathy as well. What do you do, a failed human being, but withdraw yourself from the society of others or yourself when you see how deep your darkness goes?

I still think one of the biggest wonders of this life in God for me is knowing that he knows my darknesses even better than I do. Those things I try to look at, to gaze upon, because I must, but the things I would as soon turn my face away from quickly, like seeing a spook out of the corner of my eye and burying myself in the bedclothes. But I don't want to turn away from myself and my fucked up-edness and not look. I don't think that is the way of God either. Somehow, strangely, utterly weirdly, it is the very worst parts of myself that somehow God uses as a foundation for me to stand on, if I will only go deeper. This is a mystery.

This is why these days I am much more comfortable living inside of God, just her and me, than I do out in the world where people so often suck. The true challenge for me to ponder this Lent is how, now (brown cow), having embraced to a goodly extent the lepers and wolves of my own soul, how to turn from ongoing inwardness back to the outwardness of living embracing others. Because I know, I know from experience, how life looks when I do that, when I am forgetful of myself. It parts in some ways like the Red Sea.

So I suppose this Lent, if I am trying to give up anything, it is a desire for prestige, to be thought well of, to have the admiration of others. Because without giving up the necessity for that, without risking rejection, I will stay here inside my safe house and not go anywhere. I know it involves forgetfulness, a blessed release from that horrible mirror of self-consciousness. I think part of the way out of that too is giving up any sort of sense of entitlement. I'm not entitled to beauty or love or God because of my inherent goodness. I am not entitled to being ostracised from beauty or love or God because of my inherent badness, either. The ripping of the veil at least has shown me that. How it's actually done, though? I guess that's where faith comes in, the walking forwards while not being able to see anywhere near as far as you would like to. 'Cause I can't quite see it myself just yet. And I guess that's okay too.

Happy Saturday, bloggers :)


  1. Sue, I was quite excited to see that "perfect" was translated whole, truly and fully alive. But when I went to look it up for myself, I couldn't find it stated like that. :( I looked in different translations and the greek. There was some reference to a form of completeness. If this is what it really means, it is not easy to find. :( Bummer. Assistance?

  2. Hi CM :)

    I am excited about it too.

    I went and did some searching and came across this (which is in a rather stupid conversation here:

    "The word translated into English as "perfect" is the Greek word téleios

    Matthew 5:48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect (téleios).

    It doesn't mean "without any fault or error". It has more of the sense of being complete.

    téleios; fem. teleía, neut. téleion, adj. from télos (G5056), goal, purpose. Finished, that which has reached its end, term, limit; hence, complete, full, wanting in nothing.

    In the above passage it is referring to having a love that is like God's love for people.

    Matthew 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? 47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so? 48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."


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