Faith and Belief
Waiting with Patience
Friday, July 21, 2017
If you are to live on this earth, you cannot bypass the necessary tension of holding contraries and inconsistencies together. Daily ordinary experiences will teach you nonduality in a way that is no longer theoretical or abstract. It becomes obvious in everything and everybody, every idea and every event, almost hidden in plain sight. Everything created is mortal and limited and, if you look long enough, paradoxical. By paradox, I mean something that initially looks contradictory or impossible, but in a different frame or at a different level is in fact deeply true.
I am talking about just holding the tension, not necessarily finding a resolution or closure to paradox. We must agree to live without resolution, at least for a while. This is very difficult for most people, largely because we have not been taught how to do this mentally or emotionally. We didn’t know we could—or even should. As Paul seems to say (and I paraphrase), hope would not be the virtue that it is if it led us to quick closure and we did not have to “wait for it with patience” (Romans 8:24-25).
I think this “opening and holding pattern” is the very name and description of faith. Unfortunately, faith largely became believing things to be true or false (intellectual assent) instead of giving people concrete practices so they could themselves know how to open up (faith), hold on (hope), and allow an infilling from another source (love). We share a contemplative practice each Saturday in the Daily Meditations so that these virtues can be “practiced.” But God gives us real practices every day of our lives, such as irritable people, long stop lights, and our own inconsistencies.
We must move from a belief-based spirituality to a practice-based spirituality, or little will change in religion, politics, and the world. We will merely continue to argue about what we are supposed to believe and who the unbelievers are.
Consider the wisdom taught in the ancient aphorisms and stories of Hinduism, Confucianism, Taoism, Sufism, Zen, Buddhism, the Jewish prophets, Jesus, Paul, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers. Much of their teaching feels abstruse, naïve, or irrelevant to us today. With only rational, dualistic thought available to most of us, we are unable to decipher koans, proverbs, and parables. For example, the man coming at the last hour receives the same reward as the one who worked all day. This makes no sense at all to a dualistic mind or to anyone who rushes toward a quick judgment. So we reject the story and merely forget that Jesus said it.
We need contemplative practices to loosen our egoic attachment to certainty and retrain our minds to understand the wisdom of paradox.
Gateway to Silence:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. —Proverbs 3:5
Adapted from Richard Rohr, The Naked Now: Learning to See as the Mystics See (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2009), 107-108.