Experiencing The Cosmic Christ Through the Thunder in our Souls

french broad river

For me, a part of where I experienced the cosmic Christ afresh and anew at Wild Goose was in the experience of meditation.  As I sat by the French Broad River, listening to the rustle of leaves, the sound of music, and hearing the cry of birds and katydids, my heart was drawn to my own deep inner wells.

In meditation, we come face to face with our own selves.  Often we fail to recognize that Christ is not just out there, in Nature or other people such as holy women and men like Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King or in the church.  No, the living Christ is in here, in the deep places of our hearts.

In meditation we pause and notice who we are.

Often at first this can be terrifying.  We live our lives thinking that we are who we present ourselves to be to the world.   Yet there is more at work, just beneath the surface.  This is well pictured by a moving poem of Deitrich Bonhoeffer:

who am i 2“Who am I? They often tell me

I stepped from my cell’s confinement

calmly, cheerfully, firmly,

like a Squire from his country-house.

 

“Who am I? They often tell me

I used to speak to my warders

freely and friendly and clearly,

as though it were mine to command.

 

“Who am I? They also tell me

I bore the days of misfortune

equally, smilingly, proudly,

like one accustomed to win.

 

who am i 3“Am I then really all that which other men tell of?

Or am I only what I myself know of myself?

Restless and longing and sick, like a bird in a cage,

struggling for breath, as though hands were

compressing my throat,

yearning for colors, for flowers, for the voices of birds,

thirsting for words of kindness, for neighborliness,

tossing in expectation of great events,

powerlessly trembling for friends at an infinite distance,

weary and empty at praying, at thinking, at making,

faint, and ready to say farewell to it all?

 

“Who am I? This or the other?

Am I one person to-day and to-morrow another?

Am I both at once? A hypocrite before others,

and before myself a contemptibly woebegone weakling?

Or is something within me still like a beaten army,

fleeing in disorder from victory already achieved?

 

“Who am I? They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, Thou knowest, 0 God, I am Thine!”

 

Like Bonhoeffer, we often feel this tension between our public persona and the various other oft-unseen sides of ourselves.  I have often joked as a chaplain about my need to avoid all the salty language, swearing, and off-color jokes that seeking the sick, dying, and deep heartache of the world day in and day out often evoke.  After all, folks imagine I’m some holy person and they never lose their cool.  If only they knew, well they might lover fighterdiscover I’m not close enough to God to help them .  Pastors I am friends with have shared how they experienced just such a tension.  People see them as a guide, a voice of truth, a person to help them on their path.  And this is true even when often they find themselves struggling, wondering, searching, uncertain of their own way.   It can be easy to want to avoid that uneasy truth in ourselves in such moments, feeling if we truly face it we will feel like hypocrites or charlatans.

I think all of us can relate with this heartache, whatever our job or faith tradition.  I recently heard someone put it this way, “I struggle.  Is it me they like?  Me they love?  Or do they love just an image of who I am which, if they truly could see beyond to who I truly I am, they would reject, leaving me abandoned?”

So much of our lives we work hard to push down and hide those sides of ourselves which are not the image we have been taught to convey to others in order to appear successful, together, and good.  And so in the beginning meditation can be painful.  It can feel like an storm cloudonslaught of noise.  As we silent the scripts we’ve learned, which thunder like ongoing podcasts at full blast over our true feelings, we can be overwhelmed .  Suddenly we must notice thoughts, feelings, fears, doubts, desires, and angers we would really not want to face.  It can be overwhelming.  Worst of all, it can dawn on us: these are not something outside of us.  No, there  are a part of who we are, ous very selves.

As Richard Rohr said in a recent interview on the Liturgist podcast, often the beginning of contemplative practice is uglier and more painful to us than the mess of an unexamined life, for taking time to meditate, to sit before God in silent awareness of the Christ presence, allows those parts of us we want to deny to be visible.  Repeatedly, in places like John 1, 1 John 1, Ephesians 5, we are shown that to come into the light is to become fully visible.  It is not just the parts of ourselves we cherish which go on display in meditation, but also those parts of our world and of ourselves which fail to look pretty when exposed long to lay hidden.

meditation+dogs+do+it+too_99a07b_3753826

In meditation, though, we allow all of ourselves to come into the open, not with judgment of which sides of ourselves are good or bad, nor condemnation of some parts as evil and sinful.  Instead we allow all of ourselves to be placed into the light of God.  I like to imagine the practice of meditation as a type of laying before the altar, or better yet at the feet of the cosmic Christ, our whole selves so that placed in that light Christ can begin to show us how all of who we are, even those parts that seem wrong-headed and broken, sinful and damaging, can be changed.  Like glass that has become broken or covered in filth, when placed in the light of the presence of Christ in a conscious way, those aspects of ourselves can begin to have the fractures healed, the filth washed away, so that now they become mirrors to the light of the Christ presence or prisms revealing the various shades of Christ-light for all to see.

In my next blog post, I want to explore a bit that meditation such as I engaged in at Wild Goose invite us to know and experience the living cosmic Christ in new ways in the depths of our soul.  In the meantime, I leave this song by Casting Crowns which beautifully describes what meditation seeks to get us in touuch with: the voice of the cosmic Christ which we seek to hear beneath the many voices that thunder in our soul.

Oh what I would do to have

The kind of faith it takes

To climb out of this boat I’m in

Onto the crashing waves

 

To step out of my comfort zone

Into the realm of the unknown where Jesus is

And He’s holding out His hand

 

But the waves are calling out my name

And they laugh at me

Reminding me of all the times

I’ve tried before and failed

The waves they keep on telling me

Time and time again. “Boy, you’ll never win!”

“You’ll never win!”

 

But the voice of truth tells me a different story

The voice of truth says, “Do not be afraid!”

The voice of truth says, “This is for My glory”

Out of all the voices calling out to me

I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth

 

Oh what I would do to have

The kind of strength it takes to stand before a giant

With just a sling and a stone

Surrounded by the sound of a thousand warriors

Shaking in their armor

Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

 

But the giant’s calling out my name

And he laughs at me

Reminding me of all the times

I’ve tried before and failed

The giant keeps on telling me

Time and time again. “Boy you’ll never win!”

“You’ll never win!”

 

But the stone was just the right size

To put the giant on the ground

And the waves they don’t seem so high

From on top of them lookin’ down

I will soar with the wings of eagles

When I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus

Singing over me

 

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

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