Already There

I was innocently reading along in the textbook for the next class and I hit an arresting line.  Before sharing that line, let me give you the context.  The book I was reading is one of my favorites.  It is by Richard Rohr and entitled, Everything Belongs.  I find the subtitle quite interesting: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer.  It certainly is that, but it is so much more.  In some ways, the book is a spirituality primer.

In a chapter, which Rohr titles, “Vision of Enchantment,” he charges that we modern people have a problem.  He says, “We have to accept that we share a mass cultural trance, a hypnotic trance.  We are all sleepwalkers.”  In many ways this is hard to believe.  I do not generally think I am in a trance.  I certainly do not think I am hypnotized.  I often have wondered what it would be like to be hypnotized, but so far have not stepped forward to let someone do it to me.  So I find it strange to hear Rohr tell me culture has already done it to me!

Rohr sets this context because he wants to get to the main point, namely, we need to learn to see.  Of course, that may strike us as odd since most of us think we see and, perhaps, see quite well.  I may not be 20/20 now, but with my contacts and glasses, I do very well.  I see fine.  What does Rohr mean when he says that we need to see?

In an ironic way Rohr has brought us to the doorstep of religion.  Boldly, he says, “religion is really about seeing.”  So there, I think.  If I can get my mind around that sentence and learn to live it, I will have full understanding.  That may be true, but it is going to take a little more pondering---and maybe praying.  So let’s ponder---and pray---and read a little further in Rohr.

If religion is really about seeing, that must mean, according to Rohr, that we don’t really see.  We don’t really see what’s there.  Like someone with cataracts, we have distorted vision.  That is exactly what Rohr is suggesting.  We see, but we don’t see clearly.  To see in a distorted fashion is to be misled.  Seeing what’s there is key.  Seeing clearly what’s there is imperative.  So what’s wrong, according to Rohr?

Rohr shows me, at least, my cultural distortion.  He says, “We’re used to focusing on attainment and achievement, a sort of spiritual capitalism.”  From here Rohr leads us around an analytical corner to begin to show us how to see.  He reminds us that religion is about seeing.  And then he affirms that spirituality is “not about earning or achieving.  It’s about relationships rather than results or requirements.”  Let’s unpack this to see the deeper truth that he is revealing.

I think it is a fair critique that many folks may see religion as a kind of attainment or achievement.    And why wouldn’t we?  We live in a capitalistic society.  We prize “working” on things.  It does seem like things often have to be achieved or attained.  “There’s no such thing as a free lunch,” is a line I have heard many times.  “You get what you work for” is another one-liner that often is used.  That might be true---or sometimes true---in the financial, work world.  But is it true in the spiritual realm?

Rohr does not think so.  What if God leads with grace?  What if God’s first offer is gift, rather than expectation or demand?  Indeed, in the spirit of Rohr, what if it is already there?

What is “it” in that last sentence?  Rohr suggests, and I agree, that “it” is nothing less than God’s Presence.  It is the very Divinity Itself.  We don’t create it; we don’t fabricate it,  It already is there because God is always everywhere around and surrounding us.  We bask in this Presence and are bathed in it.  Sadly, we usually are not aware of it and, therefore, don’t know it.  And that’s where Rohr’s profound insight comes to the fore.

If God is always and already there, then spirituality is about relationships, not results or requirements.  That is why it is first and foremost about faith.  Faith is the way humans form relationships with God.  And faith grows into love.  Love is the faith relationship lived out deeply and passionately.  And hope is the love of faith lived out in the sure and bold knowing that God is already there and we, too, are “there” with God.

Maybe that is why the Psalmist was so quick to say Hallelujah!  Maybe that is why men and women of God are so ready to say Praise---praise God from Whom all blessings flow.  No wonder we have a hymn of that title!

I will admit it is taking me some time to wrap my mind around Rohr’s perspective.  I think I may be, in part, a spiritual capitalist.  Perhaps I am too good with attainment, achievement, results, and requirements.  My spiritual development may well be an exercise in awareness.  Wake up to the fact that it already is there!  Hallelujah!

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