Is discord pleasurable? Well, I would answer, “Absolutely not.” But what if discord in a relationship is what supports certain souls in evolving during their time together? What if discord in a relationship is what causes one to forgo an old story, to adopt a new understanding, to establish a new boundary, even to birth a new possibility? What if discord in a relationship is what causes one to discover and to emancipate capital “S” self in deeper, truer, and healthier ways? What if we’re meant to smooth our rough edges by bumping them together?
And what if the blatant avoidance of discord is what supports certain souls in staying stuck? What if partiality, inauthenticity, apathy, a virtual masochism of the expressing spirit – might make for a peaceful evening meal but leave you feeling as if your life is little more than a hint of what it’s ordained to be?
For me, this gives me a more sustainable God. While discord might not be pleasurable, discord is not without meaning. And I can make peace with a God of meaning. I can make peace with a God that ever calls me to unfold, to evolve, to reveal, to become.
And is loss pleasurable? Well, I would answer, “Absolutely not.” And yet what if loss is simply the cosmic wrapping paper left over from the best holiday gift you ever got? What if loss is simply the cosmic wrapping paper left over from that Red Ryder, from that Atari Pong, from that Big Wheel (my age is showing)? What if loss is simply the wrapping paper left over from the profound honor of sharing a portion – any portion – of an incarnation in the company of another? And what if loss is simply nature’s reminder to make the most of that profound honor? What if loss is simply nature’s reminder to stay present, to give self, to become transparent in such ways that when that experience we call loss comes (regardless of the form that loss might take) when that experience we call loss comes, we’re able to meet it (with sadness, maybe) but without regret or incompletion?
And what if the blatant avoidance of loss, while it might anesthetize us from life’s pain, would anesthetize us from life’s sweetness as well? What if the blatant avoidance of loss, while it might sacrifice the thorn, would sacrifice the rose as well? What if the blatant avoidance of loss would render an incarnation of endless color as little more than a beige existence of half-life and predictable mediocrity? Do you imagine it would be worth it in the end? I don’t.
Matthew and I speak of this in terms of our 4-legged family members. Let us seek to live in such a way – to love so deeply, to give ourselves to fully – that when that experience we call loss comes, we’re able to say, even through tears, that we would do it again.
For me, this gives me a more sustainable God. While loss might not be pleasurable, loss is not without meaning. And I can make peace with a God of meaning. I can make peace with a God that ever beckons me to be fully present, to be courageously vulnerable, to be wildly loving.
And is lack pleasurable? I’m sure I answer for many reading this when I say, “Absolutely not.”
And yet what if the experience of lack is the soul’s way of building spiritual muscles? What if the experience of lack is the soul’s way of building endurance, or cultivating faith, or sharpening wisdom or reordering priorities or even redefining prosperity itself? What if the experience of lack is the soul’s way of getting us to say yes to our own soul’s unfoldment under divine law?
I can say that each of these has been true for me. Endurance, faith, wisdom, priorities, prosperity – each of these has been brought under scrutiny by the experience of lack. And I am a better person for it.
And what if the blatant avoidance of lack – and this isn’t difficult to see in our culture – what if the blatant avoidance of lack as expressed through sociopathic expansion, frenetic accumulation, fearful hoarding and even lauded greed, what if the blatant avoidance of lack finds us, in the end and at long last, finally awake to the true meaning of lack? What if the blatant avoidance of lack, in the end and at long last, finds us with houses full of stuff and with souls devoid of satisfaction?
For me, this gives me a more sustainable God. While lack might not be pleasurable, lack is not without meaning. And I can make peace with a God of meaning. I can make peace with a God that ever beckons me into a keener understanding of the Source of all sufficiency, into a righter relationship with the Source of all sufficiency. I can make peace with a God that would ever demonstrate the Rabbi’s enlightened grasp of a life lived from the personal epiphany of a daily bread that’s ample to my day’s journey.
And then there’s pain.
And I might suggest that for a creature that is so easily lulled into mediocrity’s gravity, could there be a finer guidance system to redirect, reignite, reestablish, restart, reorient, refocus that creature to soul-centered living than a moment of pain? When the child touches the hot stovetop of its youth, that child learns, with a sudden and lasting depth, that wisdom which could not be heard from its loving parents. That alone might be the lesson someone is seeking today.
And what of failure? Well, if you ask me, it’s an unfortunate word to even have in our lexicon. For has there ever been a great human achievement, a collective jump point (if you will) without so-called failure? Said a different way, has there ever been a growth that didn’t require a change? Has there ever been a destination that didn’t require a journey? Has there ever been a “yes” that didn’t require a “no”?
It’s an unfortunate word to even have in our lexicon for so-called failure is inherent in the demands of life. It’s educational. It’s beneficial. Dare I say it: it’s necessary.
Is it pleasurable? Maybe not so much, but yet again, it’s certainly meaningful.
So yes, I wish we could learn to replace the word failure with something more appropriate.
When we are asked, “How did it go today?” Instead of saying, “Well, I experienced another failure today,” what if we could answer more appropriately, “Well, I experienced another learning today,” or “I experienced another advancement today,” or “I experienced another preparation today?” What if we could answer by saying, “I’m a step closer today than I was yesterday?”
In traditions such as Unity, it often works something like this: God is in all, through all, as all, as the presence of something we like to describe as good.
And as long as we get the job we want, as long as we get the healing we seek, as long as we get the partner we desire, as long as we get the neighbor we imagine – as long as souls and all circumstances read from the scripts of earthly pleasure which we’ve written for their characters to play, the prayers or our hearts are deemed to be working, and the God of our understanding remains intact and present. Our faith remains strong.
However, when the job we want goes elsewhere, when the healing we seek proves elusive, when the partner we desire wants another, when the neighbor we imagine becomes a jerk, when all souls and all circumstances ignore the scripts of earthly pleasure which we’ve written for their characters to play, the prayers of our hearts are deemed to be broken, and the God of our understanding becomes questionable and seems to be absent, and so our faith becomes impotent.
It often works something like this because, for many humans, that which is good is that which is pleasurable. If it’s pleasurable, God has done a great job; but if it’s difficult, God has left the building. And the problem with this paradigm is that it’s rooted in the assumption that the God of our understanding is in the personal pleasure business.
And yet, every person reading this can reflect upon the decades of this particular incarnation and recognize (stay with me here) and recognize that much which was pleasurable ultimately proved problematic, and much which was difficult ultimately proved necessary; so much so that many who have suffered hardship – whether that hardship took form as a physical challenge, a changing relationship, a soul longing – many who have suffered hardship, given the passing of enough time, say that they would not change how the hardship unfolded. They wouldn’t do it differently if they could.
And I think that’s because deep down, we know God’s not so much in the pleasure vending business as God’s in the soul development business. God is beingness evolving through its creation. God is Adam and Eve ever making their way – as us - back to the paradise of oneness when that journey leads them through the chills of winter and when that journey leads them through the delights of spring.
I think such conversations guard the threshold to the future of our own teaching.
What do we do with discord?
What do we do with loss?
What do we do with lack, pain and failure?
I might suggest that we are to come to understand that it’s not so much that God abandons us in such moments as it is that we abandon God. It’s not so much that God hides in the shadows as it is that we hide in the shadows. We are to come to consider the words of the ancient and wise prophet of Jewish scripture when he imagined the voice of God to say that it created both the light and the dark, both the best of times and the worst of times.
Perhaps we are to come to trust that there’s something in it (whatever it is) that is working on our behalf. Can we always see it? It’s tough sometimes. But can we always open to it? I hope so.
Maybe that’s why Paul’s words mean so much to me – that in all things, I can give thanks. Not just in my moments of human pleasure, but in all things, I can usher in the highest possibility, I can welcome my own evolution, through a grateful heart. In all things, I can move through it not so much by the hard resistance of fear as by the soft acceptance of faith. As the Taoist reminds, it is water that conquers stone.
Personally, I reject the implication that if I do it right or that if I live spiritually enough, I will never experience another loss or encounter another difficulty. Now, if I need to grow into such an understanding, my prayer is, “Let me see it. I’m willing.”
But honestly, I’m not there yet.
And when we look at the lives of our planet’s greatest avatars – Jesus, Siddhartha, Muhammad, Lao Tzu – whomever the greatest of our planet’s avatars might be for you – it’s not an absence of difficulty we see, but a richness of meaning.
When we look at the lives of our planet’s greatest avatars, we don’t so much see a freedom from crucifixions as we see an abundance of resurrections. We see the redemptive mechanisms of nature and the triumphant spirit of humanity. We see, as the wisdom teacher promised, that life has a way of restoring all years lost to the locusts.
And yet I deeply believe that there is profound meaning in every moment; that the universe presents me with nothing devoid of spiritual value.
So, if we are to be unabashedly positive (and we in Unity are often unabashedly positive), let us be positive – not in the illusion that we control everyone and everything, but in the assurance that that which we call God is in it all – that that which is before us, is for us.
And there’s our affirmation for the week: That which is before me, is for me.