Friday, June 01, 2012

Healing from the Wounds of Invalidation and Rejection

Healing from the Wounds of Invalidation and Rejection

(Mark2:23, Mark 3:1, Luke 4:16-31)

In the above Scriptural references we have three examples where Yeshua is seeking to offer his gifts to the community. In each case leaders in his Faith community, his religious tradition, not only don't understand or appreciate him, but are led to reject and even defame or kill him.

In the first example the passage from the Gospel of Mark narrates the story of how Jesus with his disciples out of hunger pick the heads of grain from a field on the Sabbath. Jesus is criticized by religious leaders for breaking the Sabbath. In response He cites the example of David taking the altar bread from the temple for himself and his men when he was hungry. He then makes a statement that is stunning for his time: "The Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath… The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." For affirming this truth Jesus receives great criticism and rejection.

In a second instance also from Mark's Gospel Jesus heals a man with a withered hand, also on the Sabbath. In this case the text notes that the Pharisees decide they must destroy Him, suggesting once again that involvement with one's Faith community can be a risky venture. For this healing act of mercy Jesus is judged a threat to the community and marked for death.

In a third passage from the Gospel of Luke we see the story of Jesus returning to preach in his home region of Galilee and his village of Nazareth. He goes to the synagogue on the Sabbath and is invited to preach. Preaching from a text of Isaiah he reads, " The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor." He stuns them by saying, "Today this scripture is fulfilled" and confronts them with the continuing injustice in their own community. The narrative goes on to say that all in the synagogue were filled with rage and drove him to the brow of the hill where they might "hurl him to his death." It's clear from the story this was a "close call" for Jesus and that participation in one's Faith community is too often the path to rejection. I know of no one in ministry who has not experienced in some measure this rejection, isolation, and invalidation. The hurt of such rejection runs deep when our most cherished spiritual gifts are held in contempt by those we wish to serve.

Our True Acceptance and Validation
Among our deepest desires is the desire for validation from others. All of us want to be truly seen, understood, and appreciated for who we are. We seek this in our family of origin. We seek this in the families of our creation and choice in adult life.  We seek it in our families of Faith and work, and in the myriad roles we enact in life. And we never fully receive it.  We have a longing to share our gifts of service with those in our life, and too often both gift and the giver are not understood, nor appreciated.

Yeshua invites us to a journey of completion of our heart’s desire: “Be complete (perfect) as your Heavenly Father is complete.” (Matt. 5:48) He invites us to find that completion in Himself. Only in our journey of completion and fulfillment in communion with Christ do we find truly find our self-offering fully received. Only in this communion with Christ within we walk through the doorway to communion with Christ in community. The spiritual life is a process of integrating the inner life of the Heart with the outer life of service and activity in the marketplace and activity of human communities.

The Inner and Outer Journey
Our values, gifts, and service arise from inner life in Christ. Yet these same fruits of life in Christ are nearly always in conflict with values of the marketplace and the culture. Our church and family communities, our own attitudes, are in large part influenced by the culture and values of the societal marketplace. From the beginning of our socialization as a child we are taught to "Seek first our self interest, or the self interest of the institutions in which we participate. Life is about  'ME' and not 'WE.' "That is the pre-eminent value of our society. To express our inner life in Christ brings inevitable rejection and conflict, and in grace the formation over time of a prophetic voice. Inevitably this prophetic voice may bring risk to your person and your standing in the community. And Yeshua warns us, “A prophet in his own town is never recognized.” (Luke 4:24) Our time of being hurled over the cliff of rejection and hostility may come.  In the life of the contemplative the prophetic voice is inevitably linked our inner life in Christ. To be in communion with Christ is to be in communion with, and stand with, the poor and the powerless, and to confront the cruelty of human society. The Zen practitioner might say that is the "koan" of our life. The Christian would say that is the cross we carry, in bringing together and making one, the inner and the outer journey.

Breathing Yeshua, the practice of Prayer of the Heart, is not relegated to isolated times of silence. How we meet the world with the fullness of our practice in relationships, in activity, in service, in community is also and equally Breathing Yeshua. In the exercise of peace and justice we exercise the fruits of our practice of Breathing Yeshua in daily life. Yet too often we seek to fill the “holes” of felt incompleteness and inadequacy through relationships with others, through roles we create, and through identities and expectations we form in communities. We mistakenly look for validation and completion in these things with resultant hurt, disappointment, and grasping. Like the original followers of Christ we must find our truth and say to Him, "To whom shall we go, You alone have the words of Life?" (John 6:68) "Yeshua, you alone are our salvation, our healing, our completion."

Seek First the Kingdom
In much of our life when we seek understanding, validation, support, and appreciation from others, we receive instead rejection, misunderstanding, and at times, even abuse. The result can be a profound bitterness, hurt, and isolation. Even the best of marriages, friendships, and Faith communities will always fall short in meeting our desire and need for validation and understanding. We seek for completion too often where we can never receive it. This can bring doubt and even despair into our life of Faith. Neither are we able to give to our loved ones and relationships what they truly need and seek. God alone can satisfy the desire of our Heart.

What is the resolution for those on the Way of the Heart? My spiritual mentor Abbot Bernard McVeigh, was one of the most loving, validating, accepting, appreciating, people I have known.  Yet he was forever saying, "Don't look 'out there' for what you seek? " He reminded me often that our inner life of communion in Christ is hidden. At best we can only share the fruits of it.  In our life in Christ alone will we find the understanding, appreciation, validation, and ultimately the Love we desire and need to find completion and wholeness in life. No marriage, friendship, community, or work role will ever satisfy our deepest desire. Yeshua alone is our heart's desire.

Many of us "burn out" in our marriages. Many of those in my profession of mental health and human services " burn out." This depleted state arises so often because we come to the encounter of marriage and work with empty cups. We are not fed, we are not validated within; we are not nourished by our inner spiritual life.  Many of us may find ourselves at a stage after years of marriage disappointed or hurt or feeling betrayed because our spouse isn't giving us what we need. We can feel discouraged and empty in our work because it isn't giving us what we need. Many of those I have know in religious ministry have "burned out" and either left or remain in their roles of service empty, deprived, and betrayed.

Much of our hurt, much of our sense of being misunderstood, much of our sense of abandonment by others is related to seeking from them something they can never give us, nor can we ever give them. When we cease to try to squeeze from others what they can't give us, we are on the path to purification of the Heart, that is, directing our true and essential desire and need to our life of communion with Christ. And this will help us endure and "ride out" the inevitable injuries we will suffer in marriages, our work, and especially in the work of religious ministry where the wounds can be so grievous. Religious or Faith communities, because they are so close to what is essential in life, have great capacity to inflict injury and harm. What gets us through these injuries and storms in life is our practice of Breathing Yeshua and directing our deepest need for validation and acceptance in Him alone.  He alone knows us; He alone loves us without reservation; He alone receives us into Himself in totality.

Let Christ Be Everything
The ancients of the desert taught the answer in their praxis of purification of the Heart. The desert ammas and abbas have taught if we want to find peace and wholeness in life we must unify our desire, gather all desires for fulfillment into One Desire, and Consecrate our self to it fully. Above all, we are cautioned to stop looking for validation in places where we won’t find it. When we take our deepest need to our life in Christ, then we find we can be more present, more giving, more accepting, more appreciative of the existence of the loved ones, the work, the Faith community in our life. We encounter them with a cup that is full; we see the people and relationships in our life in their blessing, for what they are, apart from what they might or might not give us. We see Christ in them in their unique ways, and we bow in presence, in adoration of Christ before us; and we give of ourselves in love and service to Christ in them.

Others are not in this world to meet our every need. We are all here to love one another, not to seek those things Christ alone can give. The hidden life of Communion in Christ sets us free, to live a life where in the words of St. Paul, God is All, in all.”
(1 CO 15:28) and we are free to love, and to experience life in such a way as expressed in the poetic blessings of the Celtic saints,

“Christ before us, Christ behind us, Christ under our feet, Christ over us, Christ within us, let all around us be Christ.”