To be a transformer

I’m an avid reader…some might say a fanatic reader. I usually have anywhere from 3-10 books going at any one time.

But this weekend, two books came together with one of those “aha” moments that we often talk about.

The first is For the Glory, and I had picked it up at the library because several years ago I had seen the movie Chariots of Fire and was intrigued by the story of Eric Liddell. We only had a snippet of his life there, along with a brief post-movie comment about his death during the war in China. This book promised more–and it delivered.

Sometimes there are people who seem to good to be true. If Liddell had not really lived, reading about him would have tended to make me say “No way.” After his Olympic victory, he returned to what he saw as his life calling–being a missionary in China, where he was born. He was truly a living representative of Jesus…the best Jesus. Wherever he was, he was open to people…willing to spend time with them…willing to listen…a peacemaker. This was true even in the camp where he died of a brain tumor, far too young. He truly saw everyone as children of God, even the guards. When he came in contact with those who were cruel, he returned cruelty with calm and peace. He prayed for everyone–even (or perhaps especially) for the guards. He was someone everyone wanted to be with…and represented the ideal presence of the Divine, no matter what the circumstances were.

The other book is one my spiritual advisor and I are reading together (and I think God must really have a sense of humor, because sometimes the readings really zing at a particular time!). It’s a wonderful book by Ronald Rolheiser, Sacred Fire (and the subtitle is “A Vision for a Deeper Human and Christian Maturity).

We were reading about the difference between amazement and pondering…and the way in which pondering can help remove tension. It’s more than just “thinking,” which is how I had always defined it. Yet the metaphor that Rolheiser used was an important part of the “aha”:

…the opposite of pondering is amazement, and the metaphor for amazement is that of an electrical cord, a wire that acts as a mindless conduit, simply letting energy flow through it. The metaphor for pondering is that of a water purifier. A filter does not act as a simple conduit for what passes through it. Rather, it takes in water full of toxins, dirt, and impurities, holds the toxins, dirt and impurities inside of itself, and gives back only pure water. It absorbs what is negative, holds the negative inside itself, and gives back only what is pure. Human energy passes through us in the same way: either we act as a simple conduit, or we act as a filter. (p. 161)

Aha! In this post-election period, there is a lot of negative energy around us. We can either simply let it pass through us…and, perhaps, add our own negative energy to it, feeding the tension.

Or we can transform it–acknowledge and accept what is negative, and return (and pass on) what is good. It’s not easy. Our human nature is to return in kind what we receive.

And this is where the rest of my “aha” experience was. I have been deeply disappointed in the results of this election and have found it easy to allow the negativity to just pass through without doing anything about it. As I was preparing for bed, I then began to have a sense that I needed to be spending time in prayer. And again, this is where I sensed God’s sense of humor…because it was with the thought of “Yes, I know how you would like to pray for the new leaders–but that’s not what is needed!”

It’s not easy. And it doesn’t mean ignoring situations that are abusive or discriminatory. That doesn’t transform–it enables. Another statement from Rolheiser: “Sometimes the loving thing to do is not the gentle, accommodating, and long-suffering one. In the face of positive abuse of clinical dysfunction, Christian discipleship can demand hard confrontation and perhaps even a distancing of ourselves from the person or persons who are causing the tension.” (p. 163)

If you’ve read this far, you’ve discovered there’s a lot to absorb. But I’d like to invite you to join me in this challenge to be transformers–it’s going to take a lot of us!

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