Saturday, April 11, 2020

Hopeful Thinking - Saturday, April 11, 2020 - Beauty in the Brokenness

Tomorrow is Easter. A time for recognizing the phenomenon of resurrection. For not all that appears to be dead, truly is. Unless, of course, the particular kind of death of which we speak is less about the cessation of life than it is a death of the old self. The death of our former way of doing things. Is that life new?

Ultimately, rebirth is a word we use to describe something or someone that was once something else, but then, suddenly and forever, changed.

Oftentimes, the choice to make a change in our lives comes as a result of having experienced great hardship. They say there are no atheists in foxholes. We often turn to a hope in the existence of a higher power in times of extreme stress. But is that the only way to start over? Must we experience trauma in order to be reborn? Ot rebooted? And what does being “reborn” even mean?

At this time on the wheel of the year we witness the rebirth and resurrection of the land. Since every molecule of our bodies came from that same earth, we are completely resonant with all that it experiences. We are reborn along with the earth each spring, in a way. We have come through the hardships of winter ready to breathe fresh air and smell the processes of life emerging all around us. We cannot help but become drawn into it. The quickening of the earth is our quickening too.

There’s something valuable here. This season is not just an annual occurrence, it is an annual opportunity. And in the midst of the health crisis we now face, that opportunity is many times greater than usual.

Why do you think the resurrection story resonates with so many? Because it’s about hope. It’s a story of despair turned into triumph. Who doesn’t want some of that?

But we need not take the resurrection story literally in order for it to have value. That does not mean I think you should dispense with your belief if that’s your faith. I mean to say that any spiritual idea worth its salt should be able to stand on its own, regardless of one’s personal beliefs about the miraculous. The benefits of the idea of resurrection, whether symbolic or literal, are for everyone right now.

So, if we take it symbolically, there is plenty to notice about the story. A transformation of great importance takes place through the process of brokenness. Beauty and truth and blessing emerge. A new “lease on life,” as it were. A lasting and profound change occurs as a result of the worst experience imaginable.

The lesson here is to notice the hardships in your life and deliberately use them as opportunities for personal transformation. Jesus had very mixed feelings regarding the process of transformation he was about to undergo, even while he continued moving toward it. He prayed that the ordeal would pass him by, frightened of what may have been unknown to him. Regardless of your personal belief, Jesus was at least also human, after all. As are we.

I think the key here is mindfulness. It’s noticing the hardships in your life and finding ways to mature through the experience of them. It’s not about always knowing what to do next, or having any clue whatsoever about what part of you is really being transformed, or how. You don’t have to know all the answers before the test is even finished. You just have to pay attention.

You just have to be ready for it. Open to it. We have to choose a mindset for ourselves that allows us to even see, much less make use of, the unexpected benefit waiting right around the corner. You can’t anticipate it because you still don’t know what you will need before you get there. Sometimes, if not all the time, the line from point A to point B has many turns, most of them unexpected. All of them valuable. What will you do with your anxiety of not knowing? Let go of your need to control. It’s holding you back.

Right now we are experiencing a very particular kind of brokenness. One that none of us has ever really experienced before. It’s natural to have anxiety over the unknown. But do you want to live your life that way? Or would you prefer to make something beautiful of this experience, from which none of us can escape anyway, so we might as well grow a garden with it, right?

Rooted in the philosophies of Zen Buddhism, the ancient tradition of Japanese kintsugi is an art form which repairs broken pottery using lacquer brushed with gold as the glue to fit the pieces back together. It transforms that former brokenness into a beautiful record of the vessel’s imperfection, and is an excellent example of transfiguring damage into profound beauty. The golden cracks gleam with pride as the restored pottery shows off its life story without shame. There are no longer wounds here and the scars are glorious.

What can we make of all this? It mainly comes down to shame, I think. And pride. Here in the west we are so preoccupied with success, that all forms of failure—although a highly necessary part of any success story—are hidden from view, wasting the knowledge inside every mistake and wrong turn. Is that shame and pride really necessary? What if we adopted a deliberately opposite view of brokenness and failure? What if we chose to let go of our resentment and fear of change?

My faith tells me that this shift in attitude is what transforms us most profoundly. My faith encourages me to take a different view of suffering as a choice of my life practice. That I should not resent God for allowing suffering, but thank God for whatever good is inside the suffering. That we give thanks for whatever love is present, ready to unfold at our notice.

At this time, allow the Easter story to represent for you an opportunity to be transformed into something that does not shrink from its own history, that does not miss out on the fruit of this vine, but revels in what has become of it. You are the master of what God has given us. Take hold of your experience like the wheel of a ship and steer that rudder into a harbor you never expected.

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