Our society values beauty and perfection. We are constantly assaulted with television programs, social media posts and print media showing us how to look younger, be more beautiful and more perfect. How to become successful. How our homes can be transformed, what a new car should feel like, the best holidays, the best jobs, the best shoes, jewellery, etc. etc. etc…….
What constitutes success?
What defines happiness?
What determines wisdom and knowledge?
What is true beauty?
Why do we never, ever have enough. We want more, more, more. A better job, happier children, more money, the next new outfit, a better car, another relationship, another iPhone or computer or a bigger TV screen. What we don’t understand is that these things are choking us and preventing us from receiving the real truths.
Jesus said that rich people would find it hard to understand the spiritual journey. In Australia, we represent 1% of the most wealthy in the world. So I place myself in this statement.
It is not that any of these things in themselves are wrong. It is because we use them to distract us from understanding our true natures, our false selves.
Why is it harder for the wealthy to understand spiritual truths? It is because we reject the vehicles that are sent to teach us. Pain, darkness and discomfort are the vehicles or portals that are used to transform us. This society rejects pain, rejects discomfort, rejects the unlovely and the unloveable.
This is why I love the broken and the poor of spirit because are open and accepting. They cannot resort to an easy fix. They cannot pretend that they are not broken, battered and bereaved. They know that they are a mess and they know that they need help. This is humility.
In this treacherously seductive society everything is immediately satisfying so it is hard to remain spiritual hungry. In his book Everything Belongs, Richard Rohr says it beautifully:
“We give answers too quickly, take away pain too easily and too quickly stimulate. We are at a symbolic disadvantage as a wealthy culture. Jesus said that the rich man or woman will find it hard to understand what he is talking about. The rich can satisfy their loneliness and longing in false ways, in quick fixes that avoid the necessary learning. In terms of soul work, we dare not get rid of the pain before we have learned what it has to teach us. ”
In the parable of the sower and the seed Jesus describes the condition of three types of soil. He uses a farming allegory to explain the nature of spirituality – the seed and of those who will receive truth – the soil. Matthew 13.
Unless a seed falls into the ground and dies it cannot bring life. The seed has to be transformed from one form into another. This is done in the dark womb of the soil. It is in darkness and in solitude that transformation takes place. Death, darkness and solitude are used as vehicles of transformation. Out of death comes life. Out of darkness comes life.
3-8 “What do you make of this? A farmer planted seed. As he scattered the seed, some of it fell on the road, and birds ate it. Some fell in the gravel; it sprouted quickly but didn’t put down roots, so when the sun came up it withered just as quickly. Some fell in the weeds; as it came up, it was strangled by the weeds. Some fell on good earth, and produced a harvest beyond his wildest dreams.”
1: Some fell on the gravel.
The seed cast in the gravel—this is the person who hears and instantly responds but there is no soil of character, and so when the emotions wear off and some difficulty arrives, there is nothing to show for it.
Trials and difficulties are what produce character. It is in the hard times that you build muscle and strength. At the moment my daughter is going through a particularly difficult time. She is facing some health issues and some issues at work. I texted her this morning.
Life is not fair, it is not perfect. We are sold a lie if we believe this. The best thing we can do is teach our kids that difficulty and pain is inevitable. It’s not what happens to you it is how you deal with it and the character and attitude that it produces in you.
2: Some seed fell on the weeds and thorns
The seed cast in the weeds is the person who hears the kingdom news, but weeds of worry and illusions about getting more and wanting everything under the sun strangle what was heard, and nothing comes of it.
Our culture today despises pain and difficulty, it does everything it can to avoid it. Even something as natural as old age is seen as a negative. So these people build false structures on top of the soil. The soil is piled high with things that will hopefully anaesthetise the pain. These are the weeds and the thorns. The seed cannot even reach the soil.
3: Some fell on good soil
In farming terms good soil is soil that is pliable, has been turned over and over, and has been fertilised. In other words it has had lots of #*@*<#+, or manure dug into it. It stinks, it is messy but it is rich for planting. The seed cast on good earth is the person who hears and takes in the News, and then produces a harvest beyond his wildest dreams. The harvest however is not a natural harvest of wealth and power. It is a harvest of spirituality, of eternal truths, of good character and spiritual fruit like: goodness, meekness, even temperedness, faith, love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness. These are the things that will last throughout eternity.
Darkness and brokenness are where we learn lessons of humility, trust, gratefulness, resilience and reliance. Broken people understand the darkness because they experience it and live inside it. They know that they are broken, this is not a news flash. They have watched their lives or the lives of their loved ones crumble around them. They know that they have a dark side. They have lived in trouble and unrest. But this is why they have a head start.
The soil of their hearts is stripped back, disturbed and turned over. As I reflect on the parable of the sower and the seed we see that this is the good soil. It has been plowed, fertilised turned over and ready to receive life and answers and truth.
Broken people are ready to receive. They are open to truth, to help, to support. They are inclusive and don’t think of themselves as better than anyone else and they know how to hold paradox. They don’t have easy answers, they don’t even have an answer. They understand that they are not in control and that control is the greatest illusion of all.
Historic cultures saw grief as a time of incubation, transformation and hibernation.
“Yet this sacred space is the very space we avoid…we avoid God, who works in the darkness – where we are not in control! Maybe that is the secret, relinquishing control?” (Rohr)
If you are in a dark place right now, know that you are in the very space where transformation can come. If you feel dead and lifeless. Allow the spirit of God to begin that metamorphosis in you. This will pass, this cycle of change and growth will pass into another season. You can trust me on this. Embrace the pain and allow it to teach you. Don’t become hard and bitter or look for things to anaesthetise the pain. Life will come to your spirit, trust the process and allow it to produce good fruit in you. This is your harvest. Spring will come.
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