LIVING from the INSIDE OUT
BY: JAN A. ANTONSSON
JUNE 21, 2014
The Glory Road Blog, A Kingdom Highway
“He who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water.’” (John 7:38)
I am indebted to the little church up the road from my house for this title. It appears on their “message board” outside the building. It caught my eye as I drove past, and I realized it is the perfect heading for the thoughts in today’s writing.
My thanks also to Richard Rohr, the Franciscan Priest, whose writings have nourished many of us. This week’s daily meditations are based on the 12 Step Program made famous by Alcoholics Anonymous. I’m very familiar with the steps because back in the day Lenny and I worked a 12 Step Program for Codependency. The steps are powerful because they are based on the solid foundation of Jesus’ teachings. Rohr has taken them out of the realm of common addictions such as drugs, alcohol, sex, and gambling, and expanded their application to everything in our daily lives, for sad to say, we’re all addicted to something at some time or another in our lives. Religion itself can be the most powerful addiction of all, because it seems so righteous, but like all other addictions, to the degree that it distances us from facing ourselves, it is very self-destructive.
Self medication, after all, is the reason addictions hold such power over our lives until God (and only He can), delivers us from them. Having observed the human psyche for decades, I conclude that no one deceives others without having first deceived himself.
For instance, the Pharisees loved the adoration of the crowds, to the point of having trumpets blown when they gave alms. Jesus said about that, “Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.” (Matt. 6:2) Jesus said “do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (Vs. 3) He exaggerated to make the point that we’re kidding ourselves if we think the applause and esteem of men will get us very far in kingdom living.
Most of us spend the first half of our lives, living from the outside in. That’s a predictable hazard of living in a fast paced world, trying to make a living, rear our children, and still serve God. Looking at my own life, I have to admit that some of my good deeds were done from compassion and the need to spread abroad the Good News. Some of them were done to prove to myself that I am worthy of God’s love, not to mention breathing in and out, but alas, some were done because I felt they were my “duty.”
By the time we reach adulthood, we know very well what our “duty” is, having been instructed, lectured about it and then criticized when we didn’t do it by our parents, our teachers, our church leaders and anyone else who felt the need to jump on that bandwagon, all for our good, of course.
The Bible has sadly been presented to many of us as a list of our duties to God and our fellowman. I suggest to you that IF you pursue this list of responsibilities out of a sense of duty, rather than a response to the love of God you have received, you will be greatly disappointed in the results, as well as thoroughly worn out. At that juncture, the legalists point out that the Bible admonishes us not to be weary in well doing, and so, some of us have forced ourselves to go beyond what we really are capable of doing. That ends up leaving us in disaster, disappointment and depression.
No worries here though, because just when we are completely spent in our own energy, God steps in and does the work through us, if it was His will that it be done. If it was not His will, but merely our duty to do it, He opens our eyes to see that as well. At first, it seems like we’re a total failure, because that’s the way self effort always leaves us feeling, but if we step back from it, own our part in the “hay, wood and stubble,” we begin to realize sooner or later, that all this stuff about doing our “duty” is mostly flesh, rather than spirit.
This is where the 12 Step program shines, because step six invites us to take an unflinching view of our actions toward others, our personal feelings about those actions and persons, and surrender it all to God.
Rohr expressed it this way: “Step Six paradoxically says that we must fully own and admit that we have “defects of character,” but then equally, we must step back and do nothing about it, as it were, until we are “entirely ready” to let God do the job! This really shows high-level spiritual consciousness. The waiting, the preparing of the mind for grace, the softening of the heart, the deepening of expectation and desire, the “readiness” to really let go, the recognition that I really do not want to let go, and the actual willingness to change is the work of weeks, months, and years.” End Quote.
Here, in a few powerful words, he has captured the whole spectrum of good intentions gone bad because of our own flaws and failings, and the sad fact that there’s nothing we can do about it except own it and surrender it to God. This is not easy for anyone to do, and it’s particularly difficult for the young and inexperienced disciple of Christ. We love Him so much we want to please Him, and how could anything that looks so good be so wrong, we think about this or that good work set before us.
It isn’t until we mature in our walk with Him that He enables us to give up living from the outside in, i.e., trying to please others, striving to figure out what will give us the most Kudos with God and man. If you look back at the writings on The Glory Road, you’ll see quite a number of essays on the need to surrender. Why? Because trying to do it myself was one of my most persistent flaws.
What we all want is peace, peace on earth, peace with our fellow man, peace in our relationships, peace with God and with ourselves. None of that is achievable until we surrender, because those are “God jobs” from first to last.
The reason the 12 Step Program is so powerful is because it delivers us from the addictions which separated us from ourselves in Christ, and our fellow man. In an e-mail to a friend with whom I was discussing religious addiction, I suggested that spouting religious axioms (and to that I would add quoting the Bible), does not make us religious anymore than reciting a cake recipe makes us a cake.
Somehow, I really didn’t get that until I had exhausted my own self efforts. Probably I’m just a slow learner, but thankfully, God is totally patient, forgiving, grace endowing always, and completely loving throughout the process.
The Children of Israel in their naiveté and inexperience believed that they could keep the commandments which God gave Moses for them. It took another 1500 years of trying, failing, being punished, then repenting; trying failing, being punished, then repenting, ad nauseam until Christ finally came as the Deliverer out of Zion. In the fullness of time, Christ left the portals of glory and took on flesh so that we might be reunited with our Father and enter back into the garden where we walk and talk with Him. How much sin, sadness, sorrow, broken heartedness, and grief was in the burden Jesus carried with Him to the cross? All of it. He took all of it! He swallowed up every drop of the pain and suffering, grief and angst, and washed it white as snow with His blood. He took all our sins and sorrows upon Himself and “for the joy that was set before Him (saving us all), He endured the cross.” Our physical minds cannot completely understand this, which is why we need GRACE, precious GRACE and Truth given us by the Holy Spirit.
Father, we thank You for delivering us from living from the outside in, by coming to live inside each one of us. We count it our privilege to walk with you in the cool of the day in the garden You have prepared for us. We savor the peace, the Light and the Unconditional Love You provide for us. In whatever way You deem best, we offer ourselves as vessels of that living water, grace and love to others who may be struggling. We fear not what life may throw at us because our Abba, the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth. “For thine is the Kingdom, and the Power and the Glory forever, amen.”