This post is the last in the series of excerpts from my upcoming book Return to Our Senses, which will be available in mid November. It is already available through Mustard Seed Associates at a pre-publication discounted price of $15. I appreciate those of you who have interacted with the material and look forward to further discussions when the book itself is published.
On October 10, 2010, Tom and I joined an estimated 1 billion viewers around the globe watch the joyous rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped for months below the earth’s surface. We watched with bated breath as that first miner gingerly stepped into the capsule that would take him through a tunnel in the rock to safety.
Their literal rebirth out of the darkness of the tomb into a new world filled all of us with hope and excitement. We watched as they embraced their families, reaffirmed their marriage vows and spoke of new possibilities for the future. Life in that moment was a fresh, new creation not just for them but for us as well.
For these miners to be rescued, they needed to believe that a new world was not only possible but desirable. They needed to believe that the new world they envisioned was more worthwhile than the one they currently were experiencing. Imagine what could have happened if that first miner had been unwilling to step into the capsule that would transport him through the “birth” canal to reach the outside world. After all 69 days in their tomb must have made these men feel fairly secure, in spite of the severe limitations of the life it offered. In some ways it would have been easier to mourn for life as it had been than to step out into a risky journey to the surface.
Do we mourn the past or midwife the future?
We too can mourn the past or acts as midwives to the new future God is giving birth to. Our world too is in a time of transition, change and turbulence that beckons us with new, exciting but scary possibilities. Like the Chilean miners, we too need to believe that a new world is not only possible but desirable. We must see that at the center of that new world is the God who is love, the kingdom that is an expression of that love and prayer which is the outpouring of that love.
Times of transition are opportunities for us to re-examine and recreate the way we express our faith and practice our prayer life. They are opportunities to give birth to new communities that draw us closer to God and to God’s kingdom ways. They are opportunities to draw closer to the loving heart of God and re-imagine all we are and all we do with God’s loving presence at the center.
For that to happen we need to be willing to let go of the past, learning to be grateful for the foundations it has provided, but recognizing it as the stepping stones out of which something new emerges. We can either weep about what was and is no longer or we can anticipate and bring the new future into being. Concerns about climate change, political and economic upheaval, changing church and faith all make many of us feel we have just jumped out of a plane without a parachute. Yet in the midst of these changes we have an incredible opportunity to give birth to God’s new kingdom.
Rebirth and recreation, that is the main message of Return to Our Senses. The book began by redefining prayer as an exercise in love. I started with the awe inspiring imagery of God’s breath filling and enlivening us. I challenged all of us to examine our assumptions about prayer and reinvent our lives centered on the love of God and the kingdom of love which God is giving birth to. As I said in the introduction, our prayers and the practices that shape our lives become the habits that continually point towards God’s future and our longing for a coming kingdom in which justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
In our acts of prayer, worship and other spiritual practices we come to renew our covenant of love with God and with our fellow worshipers, not just with those present with us, but with the entire family of God around the world, so that we can be renewed, restored and empowered to live into God’s hope for the future. I hope that the techniques and habits I discussed in this book have hooked your imagination with God’s vision for the future, and given birth to something new in your prayer life. I hope it has started to retrain your heart, your mind and your spirit to desire, and to more determinedly practice, what God loves. Perhaps it has inspired you to look and listen more intentionally for the signs of God’s new world that are emerging – new communities of mutual care, new expressions of faith, new churches, and new awareness of the interrelatedness of all God’s creation and our need to be better stewards of it. I believe that this is the only approach to prayer that will sustain and strengthen us into the future.
If prayer is indeed an exercise in love, then it should connect all the experiences of our everyday lives to the life that God intends for us, not life as it was or even as it is now but life in all the fullness that our loving God has planned for us. During a season of change and turmoil like this we carry the responsibility to do all that is possible to ensure that the new that emerges is healthy, more humane, more compassionate and more loving towards neighbors near and far.