Spirituality of Imperfection: Week 2
Falling in Love
Sunday, July 24, 2016
Some have called the principle of going down in order to go up a “spirituality of imperfection” or “the way of the wound.” It has been affirmed in Christianity by St. Francis of Assisi as the way of poverty, by St. Therese of Lisieux as her Little Way, and by Alcoholics Anonymous as the necessary first step of powerlessness. St. Paul taught this unwelcome message with his enigmatic statement, “It is when I am weak that I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Of course, in saying that, he was merely building on what he called the “folly” of the crucifixion of Jesus—a tragic and absurd dying that became resurrection itself.
The transition from the first half of life to the second half of life is itself a “falling upward.” Contrary to the idea of climbing a ladder of perfection, the way up is the way down. It is not by our own willpower or moral perfection that we ascend to higher levels of consciousness. This is completely counterintuitive! Moreover, we can’t engineer enlightenment by ourselves. It is done unto us.
You will not know for sure that this message is true until you are on the “up” side. You will never imagine it to be true until you have gone “down” and come out on the other side in larger form. You must be pressured “from on high,” by fate, circumstance, love, or God, because nothing in you wants to walk the path of descent. Falling upward is a “secret” of the soul, known not by thinking about it or proving it but only by risking it—at least once. Those who have allowed it know it is true, but only after the fact.
This is probably why Jesus praised faith and trust even more than love. It takes a foundational trust to fall or to fail—and not to fall apart. Faith alone holds you while you stand waiting and hoping and trusting. Then, and only then, will deeper love happen. It’s no surprise at all that in English (and, I am told, in other languages as well) we speak of “falling” in love. I think falling is the only way to get to authentic love. None would go freely, if we knew ahead of time what love is going to ask of us. Very human faith lays the necessary foundation for the ongoing discovery of love. Have no doubt, though: great love is always a discovery, a revelation, a wonderful surprise, a falling into “something” much bigger and deeper that is literally beyond us and larger than us.
Gateway to Silence:
When I am weak I am strong.
Adapted from Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality of the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), xxiv, xxvi-xxvii.