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What is real?

Since the Ash Wednesday service I wrote about in last week’s blog, life has had that interesting feeling of being “the same, yet different”. The same challenges and routines go into each day, but there’s been a different undercurrent of thought going on in me. Perhaps more reflective than usual. Many of us in our community are going through a small book of daily meditations for Lent by one of my favorite authors, Richard Rohr. It is called Wondrous Encounters. Each day has a short reading based in scripture, ending with a prayer Rohr gives as a “starter prayer”.

My friend Bev and I decided to support each other through this Lenten journey with some email exchanges, writing about the themes that Rohr brings up. We’re sharing the struggles we both have, and how God meets us in the ups and downs. Sometimes the emails are just prayers that we write out, for ourselves and each other.

Something struck me during the week. I began to wonder, “What exactly is real here?” Almost always, I have a battle with anger or depression or anxiety going on just under my skin. No doubt if you’ve read my blog, you’ve noticed this! These battles can feel so real, like they are the only thing that is true, but what exactly is real here?

Like clouds in the sky, these battles come and go. I know the battleground well enough by now to know that there is something deeper going on. They are not the only reality I encounter. There is a truth, or a person, or a Reality (capital R) which is more true than all those battles. This Reality is what I call God. Julian of Norwich (14th century English mystic) famously said, “All will be well.” When the inner dust settles (and it always seems to, sooner or later), I am reminded again that everything really was well all along. Scripture says that there is a “peace that passes understanding,” and this describes what I mean.

As I bring the Lenten meditations with me into each day, I thought about Plato’s story of the fire in the cave. It’s one of the lessons I remember well from from my Intro to Philosophy class in university days. In his famous story, there are prisoners sitting in a cave. They’re chained and forced to face a wall. Behind them is a fire and a parade of human life walking across a bridge, which casts all kinds of shadows on the wall in front of them. Because they’ve been chained there all their lives, they think that what they see is real. In his allegory, Plato is teaching his students that the philosopher is like a prisoner who is freed from the cave and freed to understand that the shadows were not real. The shadow of a person, for example, is not the same as a real person. (For an excellent 3 minute claymation of this allegory, check out this youtube video.)

This is a very helpful allegory as I consider what I see each day. The shadows on the wall are obvious enough to me, but I am no prisoner. I am free to step into the light of day and see what is true. This stepping into the light of day is the pilgrimage of faith that I am called to. As I considered these things this week, here’s what I saw:

What is real:

  • Prayer helped me remember that I’m not alone in this life. There is a mystery called God who helps me along by restoring peace and a deeper will to stay rooted in what matters most. It’s hard to describe, and my prayers are almost always faltering, but God breathes life into me. The email exchanges between Bev and I have been part of that prayer this week.
  • Like when I run, I often feel like quitting, but there is something, or Someone, who urges me to carry on and keep my eye on the goal. Something greater than me always seems to kick in during each day, in running and in life, and for that I am eternally grateful.
  • Friends who are on the same journey are real. They constantly encourage me, pray with and for me, remind me to laugh at myself and remind me of the bigger picture.
  • On the Louis Riel long weekend, I had coffee with my dad, who wanted to talk. After reading my blog, he shared with me struggles he has which are similar to mine, but also the prayers and scriptures that have helped him. I felt encouraged by our visit, and reminded that there is a Spirit which connects us beyond our blood connection. Thanks Dad for your and Mom’s love.
  • I am always thankful at how our community get togethers (movie nights, bible studies, suppers together, etc), are restorative.  I often notice that Lyle and I are happier and easier together afterwards, which to me is a good sign.
  • This week Marilyn and I sang at the senior’s home, and our joy at the simple act of singing  some old tunes together was one of the highlights of the week. We were all lifted out of ourselves.

    This joy is for real!

God, help us all remember what is real. Help us to see life through Your eyes and Your vision for the world.

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