Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation

Transcend and Include

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Everything Belongs: Week 2

Transcend and Include
Wednesday, December 7, 2016

David Benner, a friend and wise teacher, has been a part of several Christian traditions over the years, including fundamentalism, evangelicalism, and now contemplative Anglicanism. Of the spiritual journey he writes:

Identifying and embracing your lineage is an important part of any pathway to greater wholeness because it involves remembering your own story. All the parts of your journey must be woven together if you are to transcend your present organization and level of consciousness. For myself, the great challenge was re-embracing traditions that I have grown beyond and that offered—even at the time—an oppressively small worldview. I did not want to be an ex-evangelical or an ex-fundamentalist. Too many people live that life of dis-identification, and I did not want to share their anger and “stuckness.” It was essential, therefore, for me to identify and embrace the gifts that had come to me from these traditions. This was the way in which I came to know that everything in my life belongs, that every part of my story has made important contributions to who I am. And the same is true for you. [1]

When I speak about the failings and limitations of the church or of low level religion, I hope you know that I am not throwing out the important beginning stages of structure and obedience. They have a relative importance as scaffolding, but they are not the building itself. We don’t need to continue protecting the scaffolding once it’s served its purpose. But we still honor and respect it.

In the first half of life, our task is to build a container. Eventually we realize that life isn’t primarily about the container, but the contents. As Jesus said, wineskins are for the sake of holding the wine (Luke 5:37-39), not for the sake of themselves. It doesn’t serve us to argue about whose wineskins are best. If they hold the precious contents, they are good!

There is room for immense diversity inside healthy Catholicism, usually exemplified by the satellite communities—Religious Orders—of women and men. The seeming monolith of Catholicism recognized, after the great Constantinian compromise of 313 AD, that there were many historical, temperamental, theological, and cultural differences in the world and that we had to make room for much diversity to survive. God is not threatened by differences, as we see in the three persons of the Trinity. It’s we who are.

On his deathbed, St. Francis freed his brothers by saying, “I have done what was mine to do, may Christ now teach you what you are to do.” [2] He knew the Franciscans would try to copy him—as indeed we have done in a few externals. But he gave us radical permission to do what was ours to do, and not to slavishly idealize him. If we cannot include the raw materials of each of our lives (and indeed they are often raw!), I do not believe we have truly transcended to higher levels of consciousness and holiness. False transcendence tries to fly high without realizing it was the lower tail winds that got it there.

Gateway to Silence:
All things work together for good. —Romans 8:28

[1] David G. Benner, Human Being and Becoming: Living the Adventure of Life and Love (Brazos Press: 2016), 118-119.
[2] Bonaventure, The Life of Saint Francis, trans. E. Gurney Salter (London: J. M. Dent, 1904), 150.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, How Do We Get Everything to Belong? disc 1 (CAC: 2004), CD, MP3 download; and
Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 112, 128.

Image credit: Photograph by Domenico Salvagnin, Springtime II (detail), taken near Padua, Italy,
Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.