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The Will of God

Monday, June 20, 2016

Two Halves of Life: Week 2

The Will of God
Monday, June 20, 2016

In the first half of life we usually internalize the voices of parents and teachers that very understandably emphasize obedience to authority. Spiritual directors and confessors know that those internal voices are often mistaken for the voices of God for the rest of our lives. They might be God’s voice, and they might not. Normally the voice of God is much more subtle, similar to the “still small voice” that the prophet Elijah had to learn to recognize (1 Kings 19:12).

Thomas Merton wrote that “the will of God is not a ‘fate’ to which we submit but a creative act in our life producing something absolutely new . . . something hitherto unforeseen by the laws and established patterns. Our cooperation (seeking first the Kingdom of God) consists not solely in conforming to laws but in opening our wills out to this creative act which must be retrieved in and by us.” [1]

Second-half-of-life people, like Jesus and the prophets, live with their wills open to cooperate with God’s creative power. Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to end apartheid in South Africa, summed this up well when he told me personally, “We are only the light bulbs, Richard, and our job is just to remain screwed in!”

I was lucky to spend an afternoon with Tutu. He told me stories of how he was hated and threatened and attacked by people who put all of their identity into their black and white thinking of what they thought was God’s will. To such people, those like Tutu who have entered into the morass and mystery of human life and history and come out on the other side with a larger identity, with larger questions and therefore larger answers, always look like sinners and heretics. Since first-half-of-life people can’t understand people at higher levels of consciousness, they judge them to be wrong, heretical, sinful, and even dangerous.

We should have been forewarned by what happened to Jesus. Christians consider Jesus the most perfect human to ever live. Yet church and state, Jerusalem and Rome, high priest and the emperor’s representative all declared Jesus wrong, wrong, wrong. That is forever a judgment on how mistaken systems, and what passes for authority, can be. If it’s hard for individuals to move to the second half of life, it’s almost impossible for institutions, systems, and corporations. They have to idealize law and order to survive. These are necessary to hold the group together in a society that is itself egocentric and violent.

Gateway to Silence:
Take up your cross and follow me.

[1] Thomas Merton, A Search for Solitude: Pursuing the Monk’s True Life, The Journals of Thomas Merton, Volume 3: 1952-1960 (HarperOne: 1997), 211.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Loving the Two Halves of Life: The Further Journey (CAC: 2011), disc 1, (CD, MP3 download).

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