In my most recent Lectio Divina (Philippians 2:5), I thought about the barriers that keep me from having in me the mind of Christ Jesus. As I begin to be more self-aware of the spiritual universe around me, new revelations seem to pop up out of nowhere. I don’t remember thinking of any of these barriers before, nor of the consequences of my choices as I approached them in the past. It may be that being more aware of the spiritual universe and how I navigate it as a professed Lay Cistercian, I have grown from self to God and don’t even realize it. Each one of us is different than when we were accepted by Christ at Baptism as an adopted son or daughter. This is just the beginning of a journey that is fraught with the land mines of the World. What complicates things is that we live on this platform of life (the physical universe) and must make sense out of it with your human reason and our ability to choose what is good for us (mental universe). What happens at Baptism is our entry into a third universe, the spiritual universe, or the Kingdom of Heaven. The problem for those who just live in the physical and mental universes is that the spiritual universe does not make sense. It was so important to our maturation as a race that God gave us His Only Son to become one of us, imperfect and prone to self-indulgence. Jesus not only told us what was prophecized in the Old Testament about a Messiah but showed us how to claim our inheritance as adopted sons and daughters of the Father. In this context, I thought about at least four obstacles or brink walls that have stopped me in my growth until I figured out how to go over or around them.

WALL NUMBER ONE: THE WORLD BUILDS THIS WALL AND DARES ME TO JUMP OVER IT. The world seduces each of us because of Original Sin to think of how we can be happy and fulfilled by ourselves. The problem with this seduction is that it assumes that the world (physical and mental universes only) can make us happy and fulfilled. Humans can find a great life with wealth, family, power, peace, the absence of conflict, and the presence of love. Here is the first Wall. The world (physical and mental universes alone) is radically different than a person who lives in the Spirit (physical, mental plus spiritual universes). What makes it different is you are a pilgrim in a foreign land. You live in the world as a platform to sustain your mind and body, but your assumptions, the very words you use in the world alone have a different meaning. Peace be with you, says Christ, and this is not the peace that the world gives. This peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of the Love of Christ in your heart. You live in the world with all its imperfections and ambiguities, but your purpose, the reason you follow Christ and have in you the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) is love. This is not the love that the world gives. This love comes to us from God through Christ with the power of the Holy Spirit. To climb this wall, you must be aware that the lure of the world, good as it seems, will not allow you to sit next to Christ on a park bench in the middle of winter and be happy. So, am I saying that only those who follow the path given by Christ make it to Heaven? By no means! Christ is the great judge of the living and the dead. I must follow the path because I know it to be the way, the truth, and the life. I hope everyone goes to heaven because of God’s infinite mercy. Heaven is God’s playground and He determines who He wants to let in to enjoy the rides.

WALL NUMBER TWO: I BUILD A WALL TO KEEP GOD OUT. This wall is a sneaky one because, when you look at it, you think you are on the outside looking in, but in reality, you are on the inside looking out. At the root of all sin (missing the mark or your true purpose in life) is idolatry. What is the very first commandment that God gave his people through Moses? “I am the Lord Thy God, thou shalt have no other Gods before me.” I must have read these commandments hundreds of times in my lifetime. Abraham, Moses was instrumental in translating what they heard from God to the people. At the time of Abraham (c. 1850 B.C.), he wanted to relate to God by offering up his son on the altar. Where would he have gotten these ideas? Abraham and even Moses seemed to think of God as being like the other gods around them, the Baals. Abraham wanted to show God his obedience so he wanted to sacrifice his son, Isaac. Other tribes around them were sacrificing their children to a diety for a variety of reasons. God says to Abraham in his mind, and also to Moses with the Ten Commandments, “I don’t want you to sacrifice your children anymore. Use animals.” When I look at the First Commandment, it says, “no other gods before me.” Early Hebrews seem to believe that all gods were real and God was telling them that I am numero uno. What do you think? When I build my wall from the inside, I do so to keep out the truth from God. If I am walled up, then I can be god and who is to tell me I am wrong. I do the Lay Cistercian practices, I read Scripture daily, so that should do it? Do you see the seduction of this wall? Only Christ has the power to knock down walls. I am the only one who can build them from the inside. The wall I build is the same one Adam and Eve, the architype protogenitors built when they ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Ironically, it is God who tells us what to eat that is good or evil. Eating of this tree is idolatry, pride, envy, jealousy, and placing yourself at the very center of existence. Here is a seeming paradox: physically and mentally, you are the center of the universe quite literally. You only live for seventy or eighty years, if you are strong, says the Psalmist. Within that time, you must discover purpose, meaning, and ask and answer six questions.

  1. What is the purpose of life?
  2. What is your purpose within that purpose of life?
  3. What does reality look like?
  4. How does it all fit together?
  5. How do you love fiercely?
  6. You know you are going to die, now what?

Not everyone will even ask these questions, much less answer them. You can get your answers from one of two places: the world (Physical and Mental Universes) or God (Physical, Mental and Spiritual Universes). One of these will fulfill your destiny as a human. One leads to death, the other to life eternal.

3. WALL THREE:MY PERSONAL EGO WILL NOT ALLOW ME TO SEE A DEEPER DIMENSION TO REALITY THAN THE PHYSICAL OR MENTAL ONE. It is not as though we don’t have the answers to these questions that don’t make sense, it is that leap of Faith into the unknown, in this case belief in that which I don’t fully understand into a spiritual universe that is the opposite in some cases of what I know to be true. I can’t make that jump without God giving me the energy (Faith) to do so. In fact, God thought is so important that He sent His Son, to take on human nature so that he could make the jump first and then show us that we should not be afraid, that something wonderful awaited those who, unlike Adam, did His will.

4. WALL FOUR: MY HUMAN NATURE RESISTS GOING TO A PLACE WHERE NO ONE DARES TO LOOK. I put up many false faces throughout my life to show others how strong or beautiful or powerful that I am. The one place I fear to look is within me, yet that is the only place to contain those signs of contradiction that lead me to becoming fully human, fully an adopted son or daughter of the Father. By the grace of God, I discovered Lay Cistercian spirituality which in turn is based on the long tradition of Cistercian monks and nuns (c. 1090 AD) who themselves are founded on the Rule of St. Benedict (c.540 AD). This approach is a way of life which demands a period where I must practice and practice how to love others as Christ loved us. I do so, not as a monk, but as part of the gathering that following Cistercian principles and charisms in the world that is my scope of existence. I seek to transform myself from my false self to my true self with humility and obedience to God’s will. I try to use Cistercian practices of Lectio Divina and Liturgy of the Hours, to name a few, that help me focus on moving from self to God. Humans have an immune system to help fight off disease and illness. In the spiritual universe, I have an immune system to make sense out of the contradictions that my nature flings up in response to my mind and heart wanting to be like the sign of contradiction, Jesus. From the moment of my Baptism and commitment that Jesus is Lord, my physical and mental universes struggle with my spiritual universe to make sense out of what is beyond reason, beyond any human experience, that of unconditional love of God for all humans. This is not human love, which is the only thing I know about. It is the love of a person, Jesus, both God and Human, who bids me to take that step of Faith each day, and live outside of my humanity. It is only by dying to self that we can rise to what love is for those who seek to just sit in the presence of Christ and feel the joy of being resonant with all that is. My Cistercian practices help me to focus on having in me the mind of Christ Jesus (Philippians 2:5) with the five S’s: silence, solitude, sustainability, stillness, and seeking God each in whatever situation I find myself, as I am.

It seems like I spend a lot of time tearing down walls that come from my ego, my human nature, my acceptance of Jesus as Lord and Savior. No wonder I feel exhausted as a Lay Cistercian, but it a feeling of fulfillment at doing what I must do to be in the presence of Christ.


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