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Faithful Resilience
Faithful Resilience

The Unitive Way

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Richard Rohr expands on order-disorder-reorder as the pattern of resilience and faith:

Order by itself normally wants to eliminate any disorder and diversity. Disorder by itself closes us off from any primal union, meaning, and eventually even sanity in both people and systems. Reorder, or transformation of people and systems, happens when order and disorder are understood to work together. [1]

I see this pattern in the Bible: (1) We start with group thinking; (2) we gradually move toward individuation through experiences of chosenness, failure, and grace; (3) then there is a breakthrough to unitive consciousness by the few who are led and walk fully through those first two stages. Consider Moses, David, many prophets, Job, Mary, Mary Magdalene, Paul, and Jesus himself. We could also describe it as (1) Simple Consciousness (Order), (2) Complex Consciousness (Disorder), and (3) Non-Dual Consciousness, or “the unitive way” (Reorder).

The unitive way—or what I am calling Reorder—is utterly mysterious and unknown to people in the first Order stage, and still rather scary and threatening to people in the second Disorder stage. If we are not trained in a trust of mystery and some degree of tolerance for ambiguity and suffering, we will not proceed very far on the spiritual journey. In fact, we will often run back to Order when the going gets rough in Disorder.

Thus the biblical tradition, and Jesus in particular, praises faith more than love. Why? Because faith is that patience with mystery that allows us to negotiate the stages. As Gerald May (1940–2005) pointed out in The Dark Night of the Soul, it allows God to lead us through darkness—where God knows and we don’t. This is the only way to come to love! Love is the true goal, but faith is the process of getting there, and hope is the willingness to live without resolution or closure. They are indeed “the three things that last” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Having faith doesn’t have to do with being perfect. It has to do with staying in relationship, “hanging in there,” holding on to union as tightly as God holds on to us. It’s not a matter of being correct but of being connected.

I once wrote in my journal while on retreat:

How good of you, God, to make truth a relationship instead of an idea. Now there is room between you and me for growth, for conversation, for exception, for the infinite understandings created by intimacy, for the possibility to give back and to give something to you—as if I could give anything back to you. You offer the possibility to undo, to please, to apologize, to change, to surrender. There’s room for stages and for suffering, for mutual passion and mutual pity. There’s room for mutual everything.

That’s the genius of the biblical tradition. Jesus offers himself as “way, truth, and life” (John 14:6), and suddenly it has all become the sharing of our person instead of any fighting over ideas. [2]

[1] Adapted from Richard Rohr, preface to The Wisdom Pattern: Order, Disorder, Reorder, rev. ed. (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2001, 2020), xiii.

[2] Adapted from Richard Rohr, Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality, rev. ed. (Cincinnati, OH: Franciscan Media, 2008, 2022), 55, 69.

Image credit and inspiration:  Thays Orrico, Untitled (detail), Brazil, 2020, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

We keep the candles lit together throughout the joys and pains of human life.

Story from Our Community:  

Resiliency started for me in 1980. I was in a tragic accident which almost resulted in losing my life and my left leg above the knee. I was only 16. Many years later … I scheduled myself for an elective above knee amputation due to severe pain, inability to walk and other complications from that awful accident. In July 2023, I fell learning how to run using a brand new running prosthetic. My knee on my good right leg sustained a complete ruptured patella tendon requiring surgery. Through this recent injury I suffered greatly until I finally surrendered, let go and trusted that everything will be okay.… On my recovery journey there were some dark, tear-filled days. I realized that God is there with me and in me. I’m now walking with one crutch and amazed and grateful as I reflect on my resiliency journey. —Theresa Y.

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