Growing in Love’s Likeness
Falling into Mercy
Tuesday, March 27, 2018
The transition to the second half of life moves you from either/or thinking to both/and thinking: the ability to increasingly live with paradox and mystery. You no longer think in terms of win/lose, but win/win. It is a very different mind and strategy for life. In order for this alternative consciousness to become your primary way of thinking, you usually have to experience something that forces either/or thinking to fall apart. Perhaps you hate homosexuality and then you meet a wonderful gay couple. Or you meet a Muslim who is more loving than most of your Christian friends. Or you encounter a young immigrant who doesn’t match your stereotypes at all. Something must break your addiction to yourself and your opinions.
Your first reaction is a struggle: “What do I do now? I don’t like this. I can’t deal with this. I want to go back to my familiar and habitual world.” You know your lesbian daughter is good and you love her and don’t want to reject her. So you ask your minister, “What will I do?” (Hopefully you have a wise, nondual minister!) Inside such “liminal space” is where real change happens, where your self-serving little dualisms must fall apart. It might be called growing up.
Jesus always honored and often idealized good, holy non-Jews, like the Samaritan man (Luke 10:29-37), the Roman centurion (Matthew 8:5-13), and the Syro-Phoenician woman (Mark 7:24-30). But even his disciples struggled to accept that the outsider could or should be accepted. If you’re stuck in the first half of life, with your explanation about why you or your group are the best, you will hold on strongly because it’s all you have, and any change feels like dying.
Often the only thing that can break down your natural egocentricity is discovering that the qualities you hate in others are actually within you. You’re not so moral after all. You’ve imagined doing “bad” things; and if you could get away with it, you know you’d do it. Perhaps the only reason you don’t is because you’re afraid. Fear is not enlightenment. Fear is not the new transformed state of the risen Christ that we’ve been promised. Fear keeps you inside of a false order and will not allow any reordering.
Unless you somehow “weep” over your own phoniness, hypocrisy, fear, and woundedness, you probably won’t let go of the first half of life. If you don’t allow this needed disappointment to well up within you, if you surround yourself with your orthodoxies and your certitudes and your belief that you’re the best, frankly, you will stay in the first half of life forever. Many religious people never allow themselves to fall, while many “sinners” fall and rise again. Our greatest sin is not falling or failing, but refusing to rise and trust ourselves—and God—again. Make sure you are always in need of mercy and you will never stop growing.