Most mystical traditions teach an ascension path to oneness with God. The premise is to conserve the universal life force (prana, chi etc.) within oneself and engage in practices that enhance awareness of the Divine.
On the contrary, Jesus demonstrated a very counter-intuitive way of transcending the egoic trappings of this world. Rather than focusing on protecting and preserving his spiritual life force, he gave it away. Throughout the gospels we see him extravagantly pouring himself out. He loved. And he loved. And he loved.
Jesus consistently taught that the way to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven is through the letting go of earthly attachments and living in the Spirit. This approach to spiritual formation takes the flesh and spirit through different types of ’emptying’ experiences.
Accepting the Path
I once belonged to a community where everyone had their tidy little lives set up for plenty of peace, rest and an abundance of alone time to ensure that they were engaging in proper self-care. Most of them didn’t have kids.
After a while I began to seriously feel like I didn’t fit in. I meditated in my bedroom with the walls rattling as droves of children ran by, read enlightening books in the tub to ensure a valid excuse for non-response and practised deep breathing exercises in the 5 minutes of ‘alone time’ between dropping a kid off for an activity and arriving back at home.
Something about my life just didn’t mirror what my friends were experiencing in their tranquil, self-focused journeys. Instead of preserving my life force, I was constantly giving it away by caring for my family and others. My teachers criticized what I was doing, saying it was misguided.
Here’s the deal: you cannot be the sole support caregiver of 4 children plus attend to the needs of a sick parent and not give yourself away. God doesn’t put us on a path and then make it impossible to follow. No. I knew I was doing what was right for me, I just didn’t understand how it all fit together.
Often, I don’t realise how much I pour into others or how much they pour into me. It’s a lifestyle I embrace and most of the time it’s pure joy to love and serve. In giving, I also receive. But sometimes my flesh gets caught in a downdraft and I crash.
For instance, lately I’ve been feeling increasingly weary and worn out. I thought I’d be real smart and responsible around that and finally book a weekend off for myself, a retreat where people would minister and pour into me a lot. The retreat I was to attend would be free, which was perfect. I made my plans. Got all my ducks in a row.
Just as I finally let my mind begin to anticipate what I perceived as much needed time away, I was sent an email that said, “sorry, we actually don’t have room for you this time.” And that was it…my flesh had a tantrum.
Letting go of egoic attachments has got to be the most agonising experience of emptying in this temporal existence. There always seems to be a reason why I’ll die or go insane without the person or thing I think I need. Nevertheless, it’s essential for the ego to feel abandoned before it will acquiesce to Holy Spirit. It must be allowed to cry and argue and bargain and feel completely forsaken if healing is to occur. David demonstrated this masterfully throughout the Psalms.
Here’s where it gets good.
The scriptures talk about the Refiner’s Fire, a process where gold is repeatedly melted down to dispel its impurities. Modern processes use heat, acid and a variety of other harsh chemicals to achieve the same end. It apparently smells real bad too. The resultant product is pure, with enormous value and function.
My fleshly meltdowns are like that; ridiculously intense, ugly processes that unhinge me from my earthly attachments so that I can be free to enter into unity with the Father. When I let go of the illusion of egoic fulfilment, Abba opens his arms so wide that He swallows my little world up whole and for a transcendent holy instant there is nothing but pure Love. Its absolutely indescribable.
If you’ve experienced this, you’ll know it’s worth the existential crisis. If not, I dare you to let go…to allow your soul to purge itself in the sacred safety of Divine love.
It’s impossible to stay in a funk after an experience like that.