Integrated Life: Willingness

During the month of July we will look at the concept of willingness and how it relates to the Integrated Life.  Sunday we started our exploration of  "willingness."  Webster defines willingness as:  Willingness(noun): the quality or state of being willing; free choice or consent of the will; freedom from reluctance; readiness of the mind to do or forbear.   Some antonyms for willingness are: apathy, aversion, denial, dissension, indifference, refusal, reluctance, or unwillingness.

We don't often hear about willingness being an integral part of our spiritual life.  What we do hear more often is about how we need to exert our willpower to make things happen.  There is a subtle but critically important difference between the two.  In the first, we are by "free choice consenting our will to do or forbear."   In the second, we are actively asserting our will on a given situation, person or condition.  In willingness, we are a "receptive participant," aligning our will with God's.  In self-will, we are the primary driving force determining what is best in a given situation or condition.  12 step wisdom describes this difference as being either into "willingness or willfulness".  

Jesus, when faced with the reality of His upcoming crucifixion, modeled for us what ultimate willingness looks like.  In the face of His death, He prays, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”   This type of willingness is only possible if a person deeply knows that God is trustworthy, loving and good.  Shortly before His death Jesus is talking with his close friends and reveals this type of knowing and confidence in God His Father.  He says, "I pray... that all of them may be one, Father, just as you arein me and I am in you..that they may be one as we are one..because you loved me before the creation of the world (John 17:20-24).

It took Jesus thirty-three years of intimate union with God to come to this place of willingness.  Thirty-three years of experiencing, growing, and deepening understanding of God's love that allowed Jesus to ultimately surrender His will to that of God's.  We too, in God's grace, are afforded the gift of growing in willingness.  There is no reason we should have already mastered willingness.  The more we grow in our "knowing" (the gut kind of knowing; more so than the intellectual) of God's love, the more we grow in willingness.    Apathy, aversion, denial, dissension, indifference, refusal, reluctance, or unwillingness all can be red flags for us.  If we find that we are in unwillingness, we can simply pray for willingness, or even for the willingness to be willing.  Willingness is something that God creates in us as we are open to Him.  He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  And we find that a life run on willpower woefully pales in comparison to the beauty, serenity, and joy that comes with a life lived in willingness.

Consider this week:
Am I into willpower or willingness?

By Babs May-Clark

Integrated Life: Living a Shared Journey

During the month of June, we're looking at what it means to live a shared journey.  

One of the stories we looked at was that of the Rich Young Ruler in Mark 10.  It's a story that is familiar to many of us.  But perhaps there is yet more we can glean from it as it relates to the integrated life.  First off, it's important to understand that when Jesus is talking about "eternal life" and the "Kingdom of God" He isn't so much talking about what happens after death but rather a state of being, which includes the here and now.  With that in mind, let's look at the story again using The Message translation. 

As Jesus went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?   Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments. He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!  Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.  The man’s face clouded over and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?”  The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: “You can’t imagine how difficult.  I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”  That set the disciples back on their heels.  “Then who has any chance at all?” they asked.  Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it.”

Jesus wasn't only telling this story to the rich young ruler, but to those of us who "hold tight to things" and aren't willing or able to let go.  That which the young ruler held onto ultimately held onto him in return (the same is true for us).  With his life full, he wasn't free to experience the Kingdom of God or the eternal life right in front of him.  He thought that if he kept all the rules and did the right religious things he would be all set.  Despite his belief that he did indeed keep the rules, some part of him knew he was missing something.  So he sought out Jesus.   Jesus saw him for who he was: his rule following and attempts at righteousness.  And Jesus loved him just as he was! Out of that love, Jesus spoke, as he does to all of us, inviting him (and us) to greater levels of freedom and eternal life in the here and now- if only he (and we) would be willing to lay down that which he was holding on to.  

It's willingness that's the key.  The ruler (like us) is unable to let go with only willpower alone.  Jesus knew that, so He said, "what you can't do, God in and through you, can!"  I often wonder what the young ruler decided?  Did he become willing to allow God to do for him what he couldn't do for himself? Or did he refuse, and kept on trying on his own, thereby missing out on the life that was offered?  I hope, for himself and those he would meet, he chose the former.  If so, his life would be free and those things he once held tightly onto would become life for those around him.  

Consider this week: 
What am I holding onto that prevents the Kingdom of God to flow through me to others?

By Babs May-Clark

Integrated Life: The Importance of having Guides

During the month ofJune we're looking at what it means to live a shared journey.  The integrated life was never meant to be lived in isolation, but rather shared with God and others.  This week we looked at the importance of having guides along the journey.  

Most of us wouldn't dream of taking a journey to a far away place without consulting someone who's been there before.  That someone may be a person whom we know and talk to or may be in the form of maps, books, travel guides, or internet research.  It's a wonder, that for the most important journey any of us can ever travel, we fail to seek and utilize guides.  Perhaps that is because we often fail to realize that we are on a journey.  It's been said by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, "We are spiritual beings having a human experience" or human journey.  Unfortunately, most of us live lives unaware of this. We act and believe that we are simply human beings, having an occasional spiritual experience.  Just as we wouldn't expect a human baby to learn and grow and mature without guidance, the same is true for us as spiritual beings on this "human" journey.

For this "human" journey we need spiritual guides who know the "lay of the land" and who have traveled ahead of us.  Just like in the physical journey, these guides take on various forms.  They can be persons whom we know and talk to, biblical figures, literary or virtual mentors, or even, in some cases, inanimate objects or nature.  The point is, if we want to explore and experience all that spiritual beings can during this  "human journey" we need someone who is just a little further down the path than we are.  Someone/ something that can shed just a little (or in some cases a lot of) light on the road we travel.  

The writer of Proverbs encourages us to "Become wise by walking with the wise" and, if we are wise, to "listen and add to our learning and get guidance." (Proverbs 13.20, 1:5).  Often it is fear or pride that keeps us from seeking out a guide.  Fear tells us (often because of past hurts) that it isn't safe to trust others.  If this is the case- we can pray for wisdom, healing willingness to risk, guidance, and begin to take baby steps in reaching out.  If it is pride that keeps us from seeking a guide, then perhaps we may find the "Gift Of Desperation" will help us move in the direction of humility and reaching out.

However we get to that place of willingness to learn from a guide, once we are there, we find that we are no longer alone in the journey.  We experience a shared journey knowing that we are part of an intertwining story that God is unfolding.  We become simultaneously led by our guides and leading those who can learn from our journey.  The shared journey in this way is a beautiful thing!  

Consider this week: 
Am I going it alone?  If so, what steps can I take to change that?  If not, how can I be a "guide" to someone along the journey?

By Babs May-Clark

Integrated Life: A Shared Journey in the Context of Community

During the month of June we're looking at what it means to live a shared journey.  The integrated life was never meant to be lived in isolation.  It was meant to be shared.  Shared with God, our neighbors, our communities, and the world.  This week we looked at what it means to have a shared journey in the context of community.

Ironically, the most fruitful shared communal journey is one that is grounded in "aloneness" and solitude.  It's in solitude that we experience and deepen our relationship with God.  As that relationship deepens, we find that our "need" for others begins to change.  We start to understand that all we "need" is found in God.  In Him, we find, as John says, we are truly "home" (John 15:4).   That isn't to say that others aren't important and necessary in our lives- they are- critically so.  However, we no longer need a "specific" someone (partner, sibling, friend, child, boss, etc.) or something (power, prestige, possessions, etc.) to meet our needs.  God becomes the source to which we turn.  

As we continue our practice of solitude, we grow in trust that God will provide what we need from whatever source and in whatever time He deems best.   As result, our expectations and "need" of others lessen.   We then free others to be themselves versus expecting or needing something from them.  As our trust in God's provision grows, we too become freer to discover and be our true self,  freely offering love, time, and service without any need in return.  Henri Nouwen describes a community for which solitude is integral to its shared journey.  It is this type of community that the leadership of Journey is passionate about, believing that God uses it to reveal, love and grow His Kingdom.  

Consider this week: Henri Nouwen on Community
    "Solitude greeting solitude, that’s what community is all about. Community is not the place where we are no longer alone but the place where we respect, protect, and reverently greet one another’s aloneness. When we allow our aloneness to lead us into solitude, our solitude will enable us to rejoice in the solitude of others. Our solitude roots us in our own hearts. Instead of making us yearn for company that will offer us immediate satisfaction, solitude makes us claim our center and empowers us to call others to claim theirs. Our various solitudes are like strong, straight pillars that hold up the roof of our communal house."

By Babs May-Clark