The third challenge I find to contemplative awareness and the body (mind, heart, spirit) is that we often continue to do things that we know from past experience will lead to discomfort, pain, or other signs that an activity or behavior is hurtful.
This behavior, often called a besetting sin, is something that we feel powerless to fight against, even with awareness of its consequences.
We know it causes ill-being or dis-ease, but we can’t seem to stop.
And often, too, there is a lot of guilt built up over the years. Lots of should and ought and self-contempt, visions of perfection crumbling into the dust.
Guilt is a terrible motivation for transformation.
Transformation will only happen with love.
And it isn’t your love that’s going to do it.
One of my favorite passages of scripture–a passage that stirs my blood (oh, I can feel it stirring even as I type!) is Revelation 12:10-11:
Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have come the salvation and the power
and the kingdom of our God,
and the authority of his Messiah.
For the accuser of our brothers and sisters,
who accuses them before our God day and night,
has been hurled down.
They triumphed over him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
(I invite you to read it aloud.)
While I’m normally not a person to talk much about an incarnate evil, I have no doubt it exists when I hear the horrible accusations that often fill my thoughts, or hear the stories from so many men and women of their own accusing voices.
There is an Accuser and it’s sole intent is the dismantling of our hope, beauty, love, and trust. The voice tells us we are failures, not good enough, not lovable, not capable, powerless, ugly, empty, lacking, and worthless. You probably have your own word that the accuser uses at the worst possible moment.
And I think that often our besetting sins are our way of drowning out that voice. We look for some way, any way, to escape.
But let’s look at the rest of this amazing promise:
The Accuser has been hurled down.
And what did it was not the latest self-improvement project or some act of willpower. Willpower has its place, but only when the focus is off ourselves and the besetting sin.
What hurled the Accuser down was the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ who loved us so much that he walked the path of death to life for us. The first love is not our love, but God’s love for us, and experiencing this love, even in the smallest way, changes everything.
The word of our testimony is our response to this Love: small, ordinary stories about how we’ve experienced the Lamb-who-Loves told to our sisters and brothers, friends, parents, co-workers, neighbors, children, spouses. And especially to ourselves. We tell about the Love who, while the Accuser was hurling its accusations to the throne of God, was willing to become human. We tell about the Love who, while we were yet sinners, was willing to die and be raised to Life for us.
And I bring you to the Love of which all other loves speak, the Love which is joy and beauty, and which you have sought in a thousand streets and for which you have wept and clawed your pillow. –Thomas Howard.
Practice: Extend your contemplative attention to your body–heart, mind, and spirit. What are the accusations you hear? What are your besetting behaviors you know are not life-giving? How might they be connected to the accusations?
I invite and encourage you to set them aside and turn your attention elsewhere. I’m sure that you have confessed them over and over.
How and where do you experience love? Soul-sustaining, creative, hope-full love, without any shoulds or oughts. Follow that feeling in your body–feelings, thoughts, memories, and spirit, and bring it into conversation with Jesus Christ. How is God present in your experience of Love?
I invite you to tell a loved one about one small, ordinary experience you’ve had of Jesus’ love.
Artwork by Sieger Koder