Kind of a deep subject on my mind today. Hope you’ll read through this anyway, in case it touches an area of your own deeper questioning or wondering.
There is a wonderful Catholic theologian named Richard Rohr whose writings are gaining in popularity among folks engaged in 12-step recovery programs as well as those who simply like to read new ways of looking at Jesus as the Incarnation of God’s all-inclusive love. I’ve come to personally admire so much about how Rohr frames his own understanding of God’s Spiritual presence within us, and about our own human potential to discover that presence.
There is, however, one small disagreement I find myself having with at least my own understanding, possibly misunderstanding, of Rohr’s theology. Some might say my disagreement is my own defense of some core modern notions about dichotomies, call them “either/or” decisions, against their rival post-modern understanding of what Rohr calls “non-dualistic thinking.” Quite frankly, Rohr and all post-modern believers prefer the “both/and” approach to decision-making. So do I for the most part, except for one area in which I feel “stumped” in how to deny the existence of an “either/or” decision we all, I think, are forced to make throughout our lifetimes.
This one “either/or” decision is the toughest of all tough decisions. In fact, I believe it is what makes our tough decisions tough.
The best way I know to frame my own theological, and also psychological, opinion about this issue is to picture a line of continuum with the mortal human body on one end and the immortal divine soul on the other, the human mind being caught in the middle. So far, I sound quite like Rohr himself. Although, for my own part this idea of Incarnational theology is my own Trinitarian theology, set in the belief that we all share with Jesus the indwelling presence of God’s Holy Spirit as what we call “soul.” Jesus (body), Holy Spirit (soul), and Father (mind and the maker of God’s tough decisions) forms the backdrop for my own thinking about God’s Incarnation within us as well as within Jesus. Again, Rohr would probably approve of my thinking so far.
Where psychology comes in to play here is that the mind’s decisions, and our body’s behaviors, point in one of two very opposite directions. No going both ways, in my way of understanding. One has to do with the body’s information for our mind’s decisions based upon emotion. Our bodily senses, to include what we see and hear of the world around us, inform our minds of the need to be in control. “Take control,” the body’s desires and fears shout to our minds. Our bodily senses of a world gone haywire around us triggers such intensity of emotional desire and fear that our minds cannot help being driven by our bodies to, in fact, decide upon taking control over the world around us. Our minds are thus tempted, to say the very least.
Where our spiritual battle comes in, I would contend, is that the Holy Spirit is devoid of these physical desires and fears through our bodily senses of sight and sound. The Holy Spirit does not read social media through our eyes, or hear the evening news through our ears. The world, no matter how haywire, does not drive the Holy Spirit within our souls to seek any control at all. Rather, the Spirit informs our minds to decide quite the opposite, that being to give influence.
You mean love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control? That kind of influence? (See Galatians 5:22-23.)
At a time like this????? A time when the world is going haywire and we need to be taking control over it?
Within my own times of more prolonged meditation this past year since my retirement, I seem to hear the Holy Spirit saying to me that it is precisely when the world is going haywire that I need to give influence, and to manifest …..or incarnate, if you prefer that word……the fruit of God’s Spirit in the world around me. And God’s message to my mind through my inner soul continues: for if I instead surrender to my bodily emotions or “drives” and “take control,” I will lose all ability to “give influence.”
When I try to take control over what others around me are thinking, feeling, or doing, I will only be joining the rest of the world in appearing, well, haywire to them. I will, with my decision to “take control,” appear just as crazy, as frightened or anxious, as UNLOVING (special emphasis here on I John 4:18), as the rest of the world. By taking control, I will unwittingly drive others to do the same with their own minds and bodies. Thus, evil has its own eternal or perpetual incarnation in our world that gets more haywire by the day, instead of less so.
The flip side of this notion soon becomes obvious. For if I cannot “take control” without then losing my ability to “give influence,” if I must surrender all positive influence in our world by my attempts to take control over it, then I must also surrender all control over our world by my attempts to give influence within it. I must give away my right to have control if I’m to claim, and protect, my right to have influence.
I simply cannot have it both ways. I must decide between either and or. I must accept the inevitable dichotomy, dualism, or “tough” decision about how I can, in all reality, relate to the world around me.
Told you this was a rather deep subject. A tough one to think about. A tough decision to make. And the reason our tough decisions in a world gone haywire are so very tough!!