It has taken thirty years by my count for the Holy Spirit to lure me into total submission! In my forties I woke up to the realization that all that I was taught about life and God was a dead end. By my fifties I was learning how to access the deeper levels of my psyche and to appreciate who I am. I was sixty years old before I was finally rid of the Hell-Fire-and-Damnation God of my childhood. Now in my early seventies I find myself at peace, with myself, with the world the way it is, with the way others are. I am at peace with God leading me every step of the way. And for the first time in my life I can feel God’s love for me in the very cells of my body. Thirty years from an initial surrender of my life to Christ to the fruits of the Spirit that Paul talks about in his letters to the early church—love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And I feel that I have much on my plate this year that will take me deeper into my deep-soul self and into God’s kingdom and that I will continue to learn and grow into his love for the rest of my life.
I hope it doesn’t take you that long. I am a slow learner and God, who knows me so intimately, led me step by step out of a fully resistant state into the great peace that I experience today. Bit by bit, baby step by baby step, I was led into letting go of preconceptions, limited ways of thinking, and my attitude of “my way or the highway.” How I got here(and I have no idea how to name this state of peace)was by my own perseverance in addressing all the non-kingdom thinking and cultural conditioning by which I used to live. This perseverance was the gift of my initial surrender. I have written in my book in the kingdom about some of the steps and graces along the way at http://www.bythewaters.net/meditations/20130106-1100.pdf, but here I want to remind you that God is working in you to the extent that you are willing to cooperate with his/her plan for you, just as he/she has been so instrumental in my life.
Because of God’s gift of free will, I think we’re all pretty much alike in that we’re all slow learners. We have so much to unlearn before the real learning about life and love and God can take hold. How many Paul’s are there among us who experienced Christ once and, in three days, completely repented of his former life and walked a new path for the rest of his days? There is so much in our modern times to unlearn, to let go of, but I’m not saying that our task is harder than Jesus’ contemporaries and followers. Whatever culture that we live in lies at the root of our resistance, along with the difficult and wonderful experiences from our childhood that form our thinking, our feelings and our basic response to life.
Beneath the culture the kingdom is always beckoning us, cajoling us, trying to get our attention from deep within where the Holy Spirit speaks to us. If we want an authentic, connected and full life, we have to leave the culture and its dictates and premises behind. We have to give up the materialism that so defines our culture today and yield to a higher standard, a standard that seeks the best for everyone, that honors e-v-e-r-y-one, that truly connects us to the Earth and all that it means as our home and as the bearer of God’s ultimate grace to us, the gift of life.
We have to live from a higher and wider perspective, a perspective of love and peace, not just promoting or talking about how important love and peace are, but being love, being peace. The guiding principle of my life right now is St. Francis of Assisi’s admonition to his monks as he sent them out into the world: “Preach the Gospel wherever you go; use words if you have to.” Francis taught that we are to seek the state of being that Jesus modeled; that serving the Lord means conforming as much as possible to Jesus’ teachings; that we are to live the Christian life in integrity, that is, where our speaking and doing echo the inner state of being that is love and peace, where our inner state of being is the same as our public face. No incongruities, no hypocrisies, nothing in our words, actions or being that would put the Holy Spirit to shame.
Our being love and peace constitutes the Life of the Spirit, the life lived in, with, and for God. Now, given that we are human beings, full of flaws and good stuff, it takes the action of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. It is the Holy Spirit who transforms us from an ordinary human being to a Spirit-filled person. I still have my flaws and I do trip often still, but I am filled with confidence and faith that the Spirit has brought me this far, can take me all the way to living in the kingdom. Thanks be to God!