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Losing Is Winning

The Franciscan Genius: Integration of the Negative

Losing Is Winning
Friday, June 19, 2015

We don’t come to God by doing it right. Please believe me on this. We come to God by doing it wrong.  Any guide of souls knows this to be true. If we come to God by being perfect, no one is going to come to God. This absolutely levels the playing field. Our failures open our hearts of stone and move the rigid mind space toward understanding and patience. It is in doing it wrong, being rejected, and experiencing pain that we are led to total reliance upon God. I wish it were not true. But all I know at this point in my journey is that God has let me do just about everything wrong, so I could fully experience how God can do everything so utterly right. I don’t know how else I could know that so fully in my gut.

This is why Christianity has as its central symbol of transformation a naked, bleeding man who is the picture of failing, losing, and dying . . . and who is really winning—and revealing the secret pattern to those who will join him there. Everyone wins because if there’s one thing we all have in common, if we’re honest, it’s our weakness and powerlessness in one—but usually many—areas of our lives. There’s a broken, wounded part inside each of us.

In a world where imperfection seems to be everywhere, the humble and honest have a huge head start in spiritual matters and can first and always find God in their simple lives. Jesus says, using the present tense, “To the poor in spirit the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 5:3). It is a now experience, not a later reward.

Entering the spiritual journey through the so-called negative, or what seems like the back door, takes all elitism out of spirituality, which is its most common temptation. We are not to be rewarded for our virtue later; virtue is its own reward—now—for both me and for others. The usual claims which appeal to our ego self (“I am an advanced person”) are of no use whatsoever and are actually revealed as much of the problem. The quickest ticket to heaven, enlightenment, or salvation is calmly acknowledged littleness. Then you have nothing to prove, to protect, or to promote. You are already at home base. Our conscious need for daily mercy is our only real boarding pass for heaven. The ego does not like that very much, but the soul fully understands.

Gateway to Silence:
We must bear patiently not being good . . . and not being thought good. —Francis of Assisi

Adapted from The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis, disc 6 (CD);
Sermon on the Mount, disc 5 (CD);
and Eager to Love: The Alternative Way of Francis of Assisi, pp. 105, 107

Image credit: Scenes from the Life of Saint Francis: Trial by Fire of St. Francis of Assisi before the Sultan of Egypt (fresco detail), c. 1320, Giotto di Bondone, Santa Croce, Florence, Italy.