Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ego Talk

Altar beside walkway near Cinque Terre, Italy
It's very comforting to read something that feels as if it was written just for you, isn't it? I love that feeling...even when it touches a hard spot in my ego, and puts it back into better perspective, like the readings did this morning.

Here is the devotional from Richard Rohr & CAC today:
"Remember the whole biblical drama begins with an act of transgression; a necessary transgression, I think. I know we pretend to be disappointed that Adam and Eve ate the apple, but we have to know that is the whole point! They had to eat the apple. There is no story without it. That is how the conflict is set up. That is how we break through to consciousness. We don’t come to God by doing it “right.” Doing it right just makes us fall in love with ourselves, not God. In the story of the Prodigal Son we see it clearly (Luke 15:11-32). There is one son who does it right and one son who does it wrong. The one that does it wrong ends up, in fact, right; and the one who does it right ends up dead wrong.
"We can’t see this because the ego does not want to see it. It gives us no sense of the superiority and ego control we are seeking—instead of seeking God and divine union. Paul calls this counterintuitive wisdom by various names, and one is “the folly of the cross.” He says it is a “revelation” from beyond and normal common sense cannot and will not see it (read 1 Corinthians 1:17-2:9). Someone has to tell us with authority that it is true, and I just told you."

This made me laugh - "...and I just told you." How loving, how personal, how direct.

When I came to the part that mentioned that "doing it right" makes us "fall in love with ourselves," and not with God, that made me stop. Um, yes, precisely. Who doesn't want to feel good about himself/herself? And the work which we do is often the vehicle for this - doing, producing, and having some good works or products to show for it makes me feel good.

I was raised this way - it's become "the American Way." And it's not a bad's just not the primary thing, not the only thing. It's possible that my book and video project have become a kind of ego-salve for me right now, just as the guild and raising awareness and funds for cancer research have been. They are good works, but for whom (Whom) are they being done? I'd like to think they are for God and my fellow man...and in thinking so, I feel good - about myself.

Seeking God and divine union is a different motivation than seeking to feel better about my own life, myself, or seeking relief from the pain of grief. Good works are good...but I pray not to let them make me feel independent of God. He is my life, my breath, my love...I am nothing without Him. Being human, most of our motivations and actions are a mixed bag, but it's helpful to be reminded to Whom I (we) belong.
Altar in St. Mary's church, Antibes, France
Another devotional put it this way:
"Many people not only lose the benefit, but are even the worse for their mortifications [i.e., sacrifices, abstensions]. It is because they mistake the whole nature and worth of them. They practice them for their own sakes, as things good in themselves; they think them to be real parts of holiness, and so rest in them, and look no further, but grow full of a self-esteem, and self-admiration for their own progress in them. This makes them self-sufficient, morose, severe judges of all those that fall short of their mortifications. And thus their self-denials do only that for them, which indulgences do for other people--they withstand and hinder the operation of God upon their souls; and instead of being really self-denials, they strengthen and keep up the kingdom of self. - William Law (1686-1761), "The Spirit of Prayer"
Side altar in St. Mary's, Antibes, France
May I please have a glass of milk to go with that slice of humble pie?

Ex 40:16-21, 34-38 says that "Moses did exactly as the LORD had commanded him. On the first day of the first month of the second year the Dwelling was erected. It was Moses who erected the Dwelling...He took the commandments and put them in the the LORD had commanded him. Then the cloud covered the meeting tent, and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. Moses could not enter the meeting tent, because the cloud settled down upon it and the glory of the LORD filled the Dwelling. Whenever the cloud rose from the Dwelling, the children of Israel would set out on their journey. But if the cloud did not lift, they would not go forward; only when it lifted did they go forward. In the daytime the cloud of the LORD was seen over the Dwelling; whereas at night, fire was seen in the cloud by the whole house of Israel in all the stages of their journey."

So for nearly 40 years, "in all the stages of their journey," everyone could clearly see the light at night, and could clearly read the daytime signs as to whether they were to stay where they were, or move ahead. How beautiful, to have directions so clear! And how interesting, that the glory of the Lord was so great that there wasn't room in the tent for Moses. That makes me smile at "ego," too...Moses had done a lot of listening to God, and after his calling, had devoted his life to God...but still, there wasn't room for Moses in that tent, because the glory of the Lord filled it. That fact might encourage appropriate awe and respect for the Lord.
Crucifix, Cinque Terre, Italy

A gentle reminder to the ego: it's not about you; it's about God (and God is Love).


Mary Potts said...

Karen, thank you for these reminders. I think we live in a self-centered society. Somehow things have evolved into me, me, ME, and more ME. I want to think much of what I do now is out of self-preservation as I move through the grief process. But when I look at some of my blog entries (or even the fact that I blog, period!) I sometimes think, get off the soapbox, Mary! Don't talk about it - shut up and just do it!

Karen said...

I didn't like it at first, but now I have grown accustomed to NOT having the answers, not doing it right, not being in control. It's humbling and relieving simultaneously. Now I count on God to cover it all with His grace. Grace is the soft dirt under my feet as I walk an uncertain road.

So nice to catch up with your thoughts after being gone. Full of inspiration...
Much love, Karen

Daisy said...

Made me chuckle. "Doing it right just makes us fall in love with ourselves, not God".

Thanks for this, Karen. That Richard Rohr, eh?

Just trying to catch up. Always appreciate my visits here. (((Karen)))