Sunday, 4 May 2008

suffering

- So following a to-and-fro about brokenness.. it's a dangerous thing to pray for. I think it was Will (van der Hart - St Mary’s) who, sharing a picture of a barrel with its tap barely dripping, first started my own exploration of a breaking and reshaping prayer. Prayer that practical clutter, lifestyle clutter, value-system clutter, relational clutter, fears and anxieties clutter would, as filtering and diluting constructs, be broken off and out of the barrel of my being that the dripping tap might become a gushing torrent.
- Following this, the ‘negative turn’ points made in Don Miller’s talk on Story, that it is never in the happy moments that the protagonist is really changed, but rather in the narratives in popular culture and in scripture, it is at those points of brokenness that character is formed and change happens.
- Then perhaps Mosaic church ideas, (which for a little while I thought referred to Moses.. apparently not) of broken vessels formed together into a beautiful image.
- And then this season of suffering teachings, JP etc..

I rather feel I’ve fought God for two years and I’m going to walk with that limp for the rest of my life. But some potential directions for this mode or prayer emerge as:
- brokeness that brings one to the end of oneself to find you only have God.
- and so a suffering that reveals one's Christ-treasuringedness.
- brokenness that makes impossible arrogance and self-righteousness.
- a humbling realisation of one's fallenness, creatureliness and weakness.
- brokenness in order to know that he makes us whole, he holds us together.

Following all of this, I think another conclusion, born out of conversation relating to suffering, is the imperative to fast, which is not so much to will suffering, and certainly not for its own sake or as proof of anything, but rather to examine those points at which one can and does buy one's way out of suffering. Fast Everything. Why limit it to fasting food? Fast your house for a week, fast conversation, your phone, your kids.. One at a time, but all things which otherwise inform you identity and comfort, all things over which you have some sense of entitlement.. And beyond the practical cushions, which suppress physical discomfort.. all the means of emotionally making oneself unavailable for pain might also be fasted.

The next logical step, which becomes somewhat contentious, is the hair shirt and the cilice. Which apparently Mother Theresa and St Francis, amongst other popular heroes were not averse to... Which begs questions regarding the nature of self-harm, character formation and religious devotion.. 1 Corinthians 9:27 etc.. http://www.cilice.co.uk(!) The nature of self-harm thoughts anyone?

Anyways, that is the trajectory of thought, between the housemates and myself, exploring breaking and suffering. That brokenness is not abstract, nor necessarily passively arrived at; it will change you, it should glorify God and I think in an age of super-abundance, rich-christians, and the veneration of comfort at the expense of social/environmental justice, I might do well to pray for a little bit of brokenness and explore a little bit of fasting.



A Franciscan benediction
This Franciscan benediction came up on the blogs and I thought to share it. It is more a prayer that God would give us secondary discomfort that might be directed into channels for empathy and into motivation for social action, which is a valid prayer to keep us from comfortable apathy, but is it a prayer for brokenness? Might a prayer for more profound brokenness leave the 'purpose' of the pain in God's hands?

May God bless us with discomfort
At easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships
So that we may live from deep within our hearts.

May God bless us with anger
At injustice, oppression, and exploitation of God's creations
So that we may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

May God bless us with tears
To shed for those who suffer pain, rejection, hunger, and war,
So that we may reach out our hands to comfort them and
To turn their pain into joy.

And may God bless us with just enough foolishness
To believe that we can make a difference in the world,
So that we can do what others claim cannot be done:
To bring justice and kindness to all our children and all our neighbours who are poor.
Amen.

http://www.brianmclaren.net/archives/blog/a-franciscan-benediction.html


1 comment:

James said...

It's sin that introverts us, and creates the barrier between our inner self and everything outside, God and man. This must be conquered like all other sin and the positive relationship must ensue. I guess prayer, again is the answer. But, as you say, its dangerous. All that baggage - we fear men more than God. We don't want people to judge us. If only you knew. But then we aren't living in full relationship, its superficial and Jesus is less involved. Jesus smashes those barriers.

Only issue is that it's slow work, barrier smashing. Painstaking. But we can start that little bit, and keep building up. Bit by bit we'll build that airport ;)