“We would rather be ruined than changed. We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.”—W. H. AUDEN
“There is no practical or compelling reason to leave one’s present comfort zone in life. Why would you? Frankly, none of us do unless or until we have to. The invitation probably has to be unexpected or unsought.”
“If we seek spiritual heroism ourselves, the old ego is just back in control under a new name. There would not really be any change at all, but only a disguise. Just bogus “self-improvement” on our own terms. Any attempt to engineer or plan your own enlightenment is doomed to failure because it will be ego driven. You will see only what you have already decided to look for, and you cannot see what you are not ready or told to look for.” (Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, p.66)
What Rohr is saying here is both profound and true. It also reminds me of the old blues song, “Everybody wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.”
We want real change, to be transformed, but we want it on our own terms. And this is the very thing that’s preventing it from happening. As Rohr said, most of us won’t actually go through this painful process of “death to self” (which is not the same thing as self-sacrifice, and certainly not self-loathing) until this fragile facade we’ve been protecting comes crashing down.
But, then again, this “glorious crash”* is precisely where we meet a most surprising and wondrously gracious God. He walks right in the middle of our mess and shows us what Love actually looks like. So, even though this “death of us” is a frightful prospect, we can be encouraged, knowing that a fruitful life of true freedom—filled with endless joy, infinite love, and boundless grace—is waiting for us on the other side of it. And that’s just the beginning!
24-25 “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal. (John 12:24-25 MSG)
25 Any of you who try to save the life you have will lose it. But you who give up your life for me will find true life. (Matt.16:25 ERV)