My Own Journey

Growing in Christ: Week 2

My Own Journey
Monday, March 25, 2019

One always learns one’s mystery at the price of one’s innocence. —Robertson Davies [1]

We all came into this world gifted with innocence, but gradually, as we became more intelligent, we lost our innocence. We were born with silence, and as we grew up, we lost the silence and were filled with words. We lived in our hearts, and as time passed, we moved into our heads. Now the reversal of this journey is enlightenment. It is the journey from head back to the heart, from words, back to silence; getting back to our innocence in spite of our intelligence. Although very simple, this is a great achievement. Knowledge should lead you to that beautiful point of “I don’t know.” . . . The whole evolution of man [sic] is from being somebody to being nobody and from being nobody to being everybody. —Sri Sri Ravi Shankar [2]

The journey from order to disorder to reorder must happen for all of us; it is not something just to be admired in Abraham, Moses, Job, or Jesus. Our role is to listen and allow, and at least slightly cooperate with this almost natural progression.

My life journey began as a very conservative pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, pious and law-abiding, living in quiet Kansas, buffered and bounded by my parents’ stable marriage and many lovely liturgical traditions that sanctified my time and space. I was a very happy child and young man. That was my first wonderful simplicity.

I was gradually educated in a much larger world of the 1960s and 1970s with degrees in philosophy and theology and a broad liberal arts education given me by the Franciscans. I left the garden of innocence, just as Adam and Eve had to do. My new scriptural awareness made it obvious that Adam and Eve were probably not historical figures but important archetypal symbols. I was heady with knowledge and “enlightenment,” no longer in “Kansas.” Though leaving the garden was sad and disconcerting for a while, there was no going back.

As time passed, I became simultaneously very traditional and very progressive. I don’t fit in with the liberals or the conservatives. I found a much larger and even happier garden (note the new garden described in Revelation 22). I thoroughly believe in Adam and Eve now, but on about ten different levels, with literalism being the lowest and least fruitful.

This “pilgrim’s progress” was, for me, sequential, natural, and organic as the circles widened. I was steadily moved toward larger viewpoints and greater inclusivity in my ideas, a deeper understanding of people, and a more honest sense of justice. If God could include and allow, then why couldn’t I? If God asked me to love unconditionally and universally, then it was clear that God operated in the same way. This process of transformation was slow, and none of it happened without much prayer, self-doubt, study, and conversation.

It seems we all begin in naïveté and eventually return to a “second naïveté” or simplicity, whether willingly or on our deathbed. This blessed simplicity is calm, knowing, patient, inclusive, and self-forgetful. It helps us move beyond anger, alienation, and ignorance. I believe this is the very goal of mature adulthood and mature religion.

References:
[1] Robertson Davies, Fifth Business. See The Deptford Trilogy: Fifth Business; The Manticore; World of Wonders (Penguin Books: 1983), 250.

[2] Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, http://www.indigosun.com/OLD_FILES/Jan2000/Innocence.htm.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019), 247; and

Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011), 105-108.

Image credit: Krishna and Radna Looking into A Mirror (detail), artist unknown, 1800, National Museum, New Delhi, India.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me: my eye and God’s eye are one eye, one seeing, one knowing, and one love. —Meister Eckhart
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