"Certainly there were many hours of prayer, many days and months of retreat, and countless conversations with spiritual directors, but I had never fully given up the role of bystander. Even through there has been in me a lifelong desire to be an insider looking out, I nevertheless kept choosing over and over again the position of the outsider looking in. (In this he is talking about Rembrandts painting of the prodigal son....when he saw it he realized he wanted to be the son, in the tender embrace of the father....). Sometimes this looking in was a curious looking in, sometimes a jealous looking in, sometimes an anxious looking in, and once in a while, even a loving looking in. But giving up the somewhat safe position of the critical observer seemed like a great leap into totally unknown territory. I so much wanted to keep some control over my spiritual journey, to remain able to predict at least a part of the outcome, that relinquishing the security of the observer for the vulnerability of the returning son seemed to close impossible. Teaching students, passing on the many explanations given over the centuries to the words and actions of Jesus, and showing them them the many spiritual journeys that people have chosen in the past seemed very much like taking the position of one of the four figures surrounding the divine embrace (in the painting). The two women standing behind the father at different distances, the seated man staring into space and looking at no one in particular, and the tall man standing erect and looking critically at the event on the platform in front of him- they all represent different ways of not getting involved. There is indifference, curiosity, daydreaming, and attentive observation; there is staring, gazing, watching, and looking; there is standing in t he background, leaning against the arch, sitting with arms crossed, and standing with hands gripping each other. Every one of these inner and outer postures is all too familiar to me. Some are more comfortable than others, but all of them are ways of not getting directly involved.
Moving from teaching university students to living with mentally handicapped people was, for me at least, a step toward the platform where the father embraces the kneeling son. It is the place of light, the place of truth, the place of love. It is the place where I so much want to be but am so fearful of being. It is the place where I will receive all I desire, all that I have ever hoped for, all that I will ever need, but it is also the place where I have to let go of all I most want to hold on to. It is the place that confronts me with the fact that truly accepting love and forgiveness and healing is often much harder than giving it. It is the place beyond earning, deserving, and rewarding. It is the place of surrender and complete trust."
"Many are deceived when they suppose that the death of self is the cause of all the agony they feel. Actually, their suffering is caused only by the remains of life. Pain is seated in the living parts of the body, not the dead parts. The more suddenly and completely we expire to self, the less pain we experience. Death is only painful to those who resist it. The imagination exaggerates its terrors. The spirit argues endlessly to show the propriety of the life of self. Self-love fights against death, like a sick man in the last struggle. But we must die inwardly as well as outwardly. The sentence of death has gone forth against the body as well as the spirit. Our great care should be that the spirit of self dies first. For then our bodily death will be but a falling asleep. Happy are they who sleep this sleep of peace!"...
"we must bear our crosses. Self is the greatest of them. ...if we die we have but little to do on the last day...what we so much dread in the future will cause us no fear when it comes- so long as we do not allow its terrors to be exaggerated by the restless anxieties of self love....these little daily deaths will ultimately destroy the power of the final dying!"
It is powerful and amazing to learn what it means to die to our flesh- whatever the outcome of this may be. He is using it! Thank you for continuing to pray!! love you all, Bren