OK I’m calling myself out. This is just exhausting. I’ve been doing the Bible-in-365-days thing and we have hit the doldrums otherwise known as Leviticus. Can you imagine? Rule after rule after rule after rule and this was read to the people who were eating manna in the morning and raising golden calves at night. I have been stuck here for weeks.
I’ve been slogging through it with my Bible.Is app and even the app is tiring out! It quits half-way through a chapter and goes into “buffering” mode. It’s bored. That’s all. Just like me.
But this is the Bible! I’m supposed to love it! But then there’s a SHOULD (a judgement) everywhere I turn. It’s supposed to be a magical journey of learning and spiritual discovery, this 365 day thing. But honestly, this spilling out of law after law after law is doing my head in!
Isn’t that just life, though? A multi-faceted experience of up and down, in and out, action and consequence, and RULES.
Digging deep into my inner coach I called on questions I do not know the answers to. What has me get stuck in the rules of the Bible? What has me stop here?
Days later, I got it. THIS is the stop I face with religion! It’s the rules! They make me want to pack it all up and forget the whole idea! And asking myself the deeper question I look at my life and ask, where else does this happen for you?
A few days later it made me laugh because I realized that my relationship with rules is like this just about EVERYwhere!
And so maybe I’ll just skip the few troublesome chapters and come back to them later. Or maybe there is a breakthrough in going through them. I declare I WILL BE UNSTUCK. Soon. But I’m curious…
…what is YOUR relationship to rules?
Something brand new from one of my favorite artists in the Way! High up on my Back to Being playlist.
There is a word in Spanish that I am in love with. It is “soso” and means without salt. When used to describe a person it means, at least for me, bland and without personality. BORING.
Man, it would hurt my feelings if anyone ever called me soso!
Being the child of a family of seamen, raised on an island soaked in sunlight and ocean, salt is something I value and light is something I crave. I’ve been known to say salt water runs in my veins. So when Jesus says in Matthew 5 “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” my soul says “Yessur, dats me!”
But what does salt mean to you? How does one without that story connect to salt? What does it do to your palate? How does this scripture find you?
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Objectively speaking, it is easy to find the uses for salt. One of Gandhi’s major acts of resistance in the Indian independence movement was to walk to the sea and make salt. Salt is absolutely necessary for the survival of the human body and becomes critical in the hostile climate in which Gandhi found himself. Salt is used to lower the boiling point of water and to melt ice. It is used to flavor food and enhancing all other flavors in a meal, bringing attention to their richness. And what is light to you? Without light there would be no earthly life!
But what about people?
It pains me to say this, but there is a danger in Christianity of being Soso. We have this saying in the islands that sums up a lot of Christianity today – “so afraid to do wrong that we can’t do right”. And the end result? Soso. Boring. Cloistered and hidden. We end up disguising our flaws, and thereby hiding our selves from the world. We end up going into tight little impenetrable communities where outsiders cannot see us fall and fail. We hide our lights under bowls, our bodies under layers of cloth, our thoughts and fears under memorized traditions. All for fear… but of what?
Isn’t the point of our transformation to be the change in the world? Isn’t it our purpose to fall and get up again and to do it so that others may see? Falling, failing, tripping, they are all inevitable. But isn’t what makes us different the act of being responsible and stepping up and out of the mess with our essence intact?
In coaching conversations we distinguish many things about ourselves. We uncover secrets about the way we think, the way we make choices, and the way we view the world. We identify obstacles and patterns and bring what is going on in the background to the forefront in order to choose whether and how to shift it. Often, the next step after arriving at this distinction is to go and tell someone about it.
Families and friends of my clients often get to hear conversations like this “Oh my goodness Mom, do you know what I learned about myself today in talking with my coach? I have this way of thinking that I’m not good enough (or whatever it is) and it gets in the way of…”
And then comes choice. Do I stay in this place or do I move? In coaching we often choose to move. That is the point of our work – to shift. And as we shift from pattern to intention, from reaction to choice, we show the world what transformation looks like. And others are affected! Their flavors are enhanced around us as we live as salt in their lives, their colours burst out as our light lands on them. They remember how you got up when you fell and when they fall will get up too.
What would life be like if Christians took this salt-light thing to heart? How would we be seen? But more importantly, how would we be being? What would it provide? What would it teach others about us? About Christ?
I encourage you to strip off your layer of Christian disguise and just be with yourself. Fail, fall – you do it anyway. But let it be seen so that others may learn how to get up again and continue on in the way.
Years ago I received a piece of second-hand advice that has stuck in my craw. I had not long come home from university when I moved in with a well-traveled, gentle and patient Cuban girl friend of mine. Many a night was spent with a bottle of wine on the back patio sharing youthful wisdom and putting the world to rights.
On one of those starry nights she shared with me the curious philosophy of an uncle of hers who had come out of Cuba not long before. “He loves people, he really does, and when he talks about a person he describes the experience of knowing them in terms of how they treat him. He always bottom lines it with “Aii me trataron muy bien” (they treated me very well). “And if he came across someone who treated him badly it was a curiosity – they really treated me poorly he would say with a certain amount of hurt and disappointment. His angle was “We teach people how to treat us”. If they treat us well we have taught them well. We can only be treated the way we have taught others that we will accept.”
What a powerful statement of responsibility!
This word of wise advice came back to me when I first distinguished the name of my Essence and the names of my Ego (survival mechanism, self-defense strategies). When the distinctions were made in conversation with my coach I received a warning.
1. “You will struggle in essence. Living from essence strips you naked of your armor and puts you in a place of great vulnerability. It will make you very sensitive to rejection because what is being rejected is the authentic you. It’s OK when our survival mechanism is rejected! It was never really us to begin with!
2. There are people in your life who will reject you from essence. They have been friends with your ego. They are attached to the image they have of you. They do not understand your journey or your struggle. Not only will you struggle, but life around you will resist the change.”
The words from the wise Cuban Tío came back to me. “You teach people how to treat you.” For years I had taught people how to react to my ego, how to react to my survival mechanisms. They were familiar with the control, violent temper, the performances and the righteousness and whole friendships were formed with me in this place – a place devoid of authenticity. My bitterness attracted bitter friends, my dominance attracted submissive people, and so on. It was inevitable that shifting into my Essence (the gift God made me to be – a Christlike way of being) would be met with some resistance. After all, many of them had never spent a great deal of time with the real me!
In the Red Letters today Jesus addresses this resistance, this conflict that comes from transformation. These words follow the list of ways of Being that attract Blessing (the Beatitudes), where Jesus has instructed us on the transformation. His words that follow are a warning much like the warning my coach gave me. They will insult you, they will lie about you and persecute you for being like this. He assures us that as we are becoming different people, transforming, we will face the resistance of the world but it is worth it. Every prophet who has gone before (and in truth, every person in history who has changed anything about the way the world works) has known change in the reaction of the people around them as they themselves change. And it is rarely a fun adjustment.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. ~Matthew 5:11-12
But great is the reward! We are blessed! Change will bring it’s own rewards if we accept this challenge to Be transformed!
There have been times in my own coaching conversations with clients that they have hit a wall of resistance in their process of reinvention. It may be that their mother disapproves of changes they are making or that their spouse is threatened by the difference in their being. It is my job as their coach to remind them of their possibilities much the same as Jesus does here. They come ready to quit coaching, ready to abandon their projects, and ready to stop change and it is my job to say “Even though you don’t feel connected to this project today, when we started you had a vision for creating this change. I will stand up for you and for your possibilities even though today you do not believe in them for yourself.”
And in the background, my coach does the same for me. In fact, even this week she said these very words.
It’s amazing to have two coaches standing for me! Thank you Jesus for connecting me to the reward that is beyond the resistance and thank you Lisa for keeping me present to possibility.