February 7th, 2014

Brendan Liturgy Part XI

“After all his adventures, Brendan’s wisdom still was not perfected. There was plenty God had to teach him, and many others whose example he could learn by”

Three separate but interconnected ideas coalesce in my mind after reflecting on Part XI for a while:

First: Humble, life long, discipleship. Remaining teachable. Being a seeker of wisdom. There are many awards to be won for being the best at something, for exhausting the potential in a field or an activity. We laud those who have explored and worked and become an expert or a master. The Nobel Prize, The Oscars, The Lombardi Trophy, all recognize individuals who have crossed some sort of finish line. They arrived somewhere.  I think it’s great. We should do more of that. But…

…at the end of the party, as we sit around the littered banquet tables, tuxedos and ball gowns slightly rumpled, surrounded by plates of half eaten cake, lip-stick stained champagne glasses and fading confetti, we find ourselves longing to get back out there. We should be looking for our next teacher.

There seems to be a gravitational pull toward “Arrival”. “Destination.” “Rest.” “Tenure”. I think that’s a God given pull, it’s just that we lose sight that the place we long for is “another country” (as C.S. Lewis would have called it).  We stop short and try to construct a heaven on earth when really we should simply be striving for a better earth, and focus our desire for arrival on heaven.

I encounter an internal conflict when I consider this because for sometime I have felt the unmistakable draw from God to simplify, to slow, to be silent. To stay put and persevere. This has all the trappings of “arrival theology” – the belief that God’s ultimate plan is for us to unlock the puzzle of personal peace and contentment, then live in that place until we die. The modern western ideal of “retirement” absolutely encapsulates this “arrival theology”. But like Geordie the Monk learns, the cell is not a place in which to become comfortable. It is a place of intense learning.

The call to simplify, slow and silence is not a call to a destination but to a way of pilgrimage. It is an active stillness. A boisterous silence.

Secondly, the older I get the more I admire those who are teachable. People who ask questions. People who are pressing into areas of endeavor and thought in which they are not experts. It’s good to always be the rookie in some aspect of life. This thought has been driven home to me over the years as I sometimes fantasize about what I could figure out about the universe if I were suddenly plopped on the earth, all by myself with no memory, no knowledge, no technology; I just had to figure it all out with the 3.5 lbs. of brain God gave me. It doesn’t take long within this fantasy to realize that, while over a lifetime I might figure out how to find reliable water, food and shelter – I would learn little else. In other words, almost everything that the “real Dan” knows – he learned from someone else because they learned it first.  I want to be a humble, life-long learner like Brendan.

Third: Wisdom really is the most valuable commodity when it comes to life on Earth. It is the base from which one can strike out to obtain everything else one needs to thrive on planet earth. It is the “secret ingredient” which, when added to any circumstance, brings abundant life. There are so many people who KNOW so much. There are Christians, and atheists, agnostics and pagans, universalists, moralists and people who just don’t care – and all of them KNOW things. Lots of things. But there are so few people who posses Wisdom. The saddest part to me is that Disciples of Christ lack Wisdom at the same or even higher rates than others, yet we are the one’s who have been promised a pipeline to the source of Wisdom.

The only conclusion I can draw is that we don’t want it. See points One and Two: we think we already have enough, or we’re too proud to seek it from others.

What a shame.

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