It seems like the only times I desire transformation is when I am suffering. Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest, spiritual director, and writer says that transformation only occurs in the context of great pain or great love. The point is that we are open to transformation, to changing our lives when we experience something larger than our selves. Think about when we are really open to change, to listening and seeking and hungering for something more. It is most likely, and I really think only, when we are in an experience that we can’t contain, manage, or control, i.e. great pain and suffering or great love and joy. Then we are open to something greater than our current status quo.
This makes it particularly challenging for those agents of change and transformation like religion and the church or psychology and therapists. Most often what happens on Sunday or in the counseling office or anywhere someone is seeking to get at the truth of things, are efforts to maintain and comfort not shake rattle and roll things to the point of uncomfortable dis-order. We don’t like dis-order; we don’t like feeling uncomfortable, and unless we are desperate or ebullient we don’t let go long enough to see things differently.
So the Mental Health profession gives medication and supportive counseling and everyone feels comfortable but unchanged, and the Church preaches positive and soothing messages that everyone shakes their heads in agreement with, but the world remains unaffected by the Body of Christ.
I think this might be something of what Jesus meant when he said it as difficult for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven (which is now not just later) as it is to thread a camel through a needle. As long as we are content and able to manage things ourselves, we are not looking for anything beyond, greater, or different than what we already know; just dull the pain, entertain me and life is good.
So my prayer is: “Lord, please shake, rattle, and roll me into your kingdom. Let my teachers, therapists, pastors, friends, and spouse be bold and hold me to what is true and real so that it disrupts my complacency and brings me to the brink of disordered discomfort where I am humble and yearning for what is solid and true and real. And may I do the same for others.”
There is an important caveat to this prayer. Those that hold me and are bold enough to confront me, I must trust that they love me or I will run from them or attack them. And the same is true for those I am bold with; they must know that I love them. This is no easy task, look at what happened to Jesus.