Friday, July 22, 2016

HOW TO BE PERFECT

Yesterday, for the first time, I accompanied my daughter to a Plastic Surgeon's office.  She needed to have a cyst looked at.  While we were waiting in the room she asked what the six clear, jelly-filled molds were.  I explained what they were, she was disgusted.  I also told her a story about when her sister was very young she asked, while watching some program on TV, if women could have them reduced as well.  I told her that, yes, they could, and she then asked if that's what I had done.  Lovely.

Anyway, this visit was quite nicely timed with my daily meditation series that I've been receiving via email by Richard Rohr.  It's all about perfectionism.  More specifically, how perfectionism defeats the soul and creates legalism and self-preoccupation.  I was there.  Friends who have known me for a long time know this.  I still feel it sneaking up on me and need to flee from it, but at least I see it now.  Yuk.  Why do we so often worry about being better than others??

So, if Matthew 5:48 tells us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect, how are we to do this?  Well, the context is in regards to LOVING OUR ENEMIES!  If we are suffering from the disease of perfectionism, we have made impossible demands on ourselves and others and end up with superiority, impatience, dismissiveness, and negative thinking... this defeats the soul  Been there.  Done that.  Still do (hopefully, less).

I recently got away with my girlfriends from college and one of them asked me if I was even a Christian anymore because I had changed so much in my acceptance of others.  I was torn in how to feel about that comment.  I realizle it was a compliment because in the past year after having obtained my degree in Social Work and working through the spiritual depths of the Twelve Steps, I have discovered my weaknesses and embraced mercy.  It has been in my discovering my need for mercy and grace that I have been able to extend that to others.  But the other half of me was sad because I realized that the perception of Christians is often that they/we are judgy.

Rohr credits Therese of Lisieux for bringing the spirituality of imperfection into mainline Christianity.  She embraced her sinfulness and surrendered herself to God's mercy...  She let God's mercy be her perfection.  When we accept the gifts of mercy and compassion and forgiveness from God because we know we desperately need them, we become whole - holy - perfect; and it is only then that we can love our enemies.

Thomas Merton (who I love so much right now!) writes about this, too.  ... to be little, to be nothing, to rejoice in your imperfections, to be glad that you are not worthy of attention, that you are of no account in the universe.  This is the only liberation  Wow, so the dream of going to Hollywood and becoming famous isn't all it's cracked up to be?  Yep.  The more I puff myself up or take on roles of leadership and give myself a sense of superiority, the more bound I am.  I've realized that I am only free when I go low. Just re-reading this quote helps me to relax and be overcome with a sense of peace because it is so much easier to live this way - falling, rather than striving.   I am much more able to love others when I embrace my imperfections, which lead me into the Arms of Mercy, and allow me to be arms of mercy to others.

So, being perfect isn't really about what we look like.  It's about how we love.  And it starts with letting God love us - every part of us.  Even our imperfections.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

SEQUESTERED

Last year, I was chosen to be on a jury for a murder trial.  I no longer had children unattended at home during the day, so it was time to report.  While it did feel a wee bit flattering to be one of the thirteen out of eighty-something people interviewed, it was short-lived.  Each evening, I would have to text my kids and let them know that I would not be home until after dinner and then go through directions on how to prepare the planned meal.  This part was actually a blessing in disguise because it showed them that they could make their dinner without me - and probably more important, it showed ME that they could make dinner without me.

On day five, which was Friday at 5pm, we were forced to relinquish all electronic devices and began deliberation. Four hours later when the judge called us in (prior to our foreman telling him that we had reached a decision), he told us that since we had not come to a decision yet, we would be sequestered until tomorrow.

I completely freaked.

It was 9pm on a Friday, and my kids had no idea that their mother would not be home that night.  What would they do without me??  Of equal importance, I had a flight out to go see a friend on Saturday that I was obviously going to miss.  This was crazy.  The judge would not even bite on the single mom card.  He told me to have the guard call my wasband (I do not like the term "ex-"), and get him to come to my house and sleep with the kids.  That was going to be lovely to be on the other end of that call!  We were escorted by a few policemen down a secret hallway and into a white mini-bus type of vehicle that took us to our new home.  I could not get out of myself.  The other jurors were way better at handling this than I was.  How would life go on without me?  How was my friend going to survive without my visit the next day?  How was I going to even tell him? (he's in prison, don't get any ideas)

 "...in the humble man, there is no longer any such thing as self-pity" (Rohr).
I have far to go.

We arrived at the hotel and were put in "jury rooms":  no phones, no reading material of any type, and no TVs.  We congregated in the dining room and got to choose something to eat off of the jury menu as well.  Several of them bonded over drinks, but I was too busy wondering if life would be able to handle itself without me.  We were given mini toiletry bags with a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and shampoo.  The guard even went to Walgreens to get contact solution for those who needed it, while the other one roamed the hallway in front of our rooms so that we were constantly supervised (not sure if this was to protect us or keep us from doing anything rash).

The reason this is coming up now is that I just drove past the hotel!  I had such flashbacks as to what an egomaniac I was only a year ago.  How I was convinced that no other juror could have had as much responsibility as I did at home.  And more importantly, how, if I knew then what I knew now, that some things we just cannot change and we need to accept them, I could have actually enjoyed myself.

It's called acceptance.
It comes after humility.

Humility (according to Richard Rohr) is something that can walk happily along the road by which it is lead.  It is a way to rejoice in our ordinariness.  It consists in our being satisfied with what is given to us.  Jury duty was also a privilege of my citizenship.  I did not look at it that way.  I was given a certificate and about enough money for lunch each day.  It was an honor.  I could have made some very good friends and enjoyed a nice meal(s) had I chosen to react with a willing spirit rather than one that battled everything.  I recently heard this referred to as surfing as opposed to boxing; or rolling with it instead of fighting it (just some more great Twelve-Step stuff).

But there's more... we were sequestered by this judge because he didn't want us to be influenced by any media or people as we thought about the case.  He also wanted us to show up and be on time, which some of us had not done well during the week.  But, I also think he wanted to provide "team-bonding".  Since we were not allowed to deliberate the case outside of the deliberation room, we were only allowed to talk about things unrelated to the case - hence, we had to get to know each other better.  The judge thought the case was very clear-cut, and there was obviously some disagreement going on that he wanted to diminish via sequestering.  What seemed like complete and utter punishment was actually him caring about us enough to keep us safe, feed us, get us to bond with each other, and not allow outside influences - because he had already invested so much in us.

And we had been chosen for this.

Sequestering is also known as being kept separate; secluded; isolated; remote, or isolated.  I think that if we do not do this on our own through a regular practice of prayer and meditation, those who God really wants to get a hold of, He will sequester, like the judge did in my case.  Contemplation is for the purpose of guarding your mind and your heart (from any influences outside of your true source, your center).  Sounds like sequestering to me.  Reminds me of Jonah actually.  Jonah did not choose to be isolated, he chose to disobey, so God isolated him in order to teach him.  When we are secluded, our needs are met so we don't have to worry about being provided for - just as David met the needs of his ten concubines in 2 Samuel when he placed them in seclusion.  And, as Abraham and God did for Hagar when he sent her away with his son.  But Elizabeth did the opposite.  In Luke 1:24 (The Message), it says that Elizabeth conceived and "went off by herself for five months, relishing her pregnancy."  She chose isolation in order to contemplate what she had been given - to cherish this moment with her God, knowing He would meet her needs.

We think seclusion is punishment but it is actually for growth.

What I thought was the worst thing that has happened to me in life (I was quite emotional and full of self-pity at the time, which is why it's taken me over a year to write about the experience), was actually to teach me that I AM NOT IN CONTROL.  Ugh.  I hate that lesson.  I was put into seclusion, like Jonah, even though I was with others, in order to learn and grow and LET GO.  Richard Rohr says to "trust descent and the dark periods of life as good teachers."  That is a humble stance to being forced into seclusion, or in this case, being sequestered.  

Thomas Merton brings it home for me with these brilliant words that display the lessons I am learning in this:

"The only true joy on earth is to escape from the prison 
of our own self-hood"

&

"it is the cocoon (seclusion) that masks the transition stage 
between what crawls and what flies."