Reflections by Jerry Webber

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Welcoming Whatever Comes

The postures of openness and receptivity cultivate within us a spirit of hospitality and generosity. I slowly learn not to judge what comes to my door as good or bad, as helpful or hurtful. I welcome whatever shows up, whatever life brings to my door. The human experience is vast and complex, and I can never fully know what some "guest" at my door may have to teach me. When I try to apply a filter at the door, though, I pretend to know what is best for me, what can lead me to growth, what experiences or life-situations can best shape me into the person God created me to be.

Perhaps the most basic truth about spirituality is simply that the journey is going to take me to a destination I cannot imagine. For whatever I think I know about myself or about life, I have not yet glimpsed what the end of the journey is like. It takes a profound humility to say, "I don't know". In truth, God directs the journey, and I am not in charge nearly as much as I like to think.

And then the corollary: The journey is going to take me to that destination by a road I would not have chosen. Again, I am invited to the kind of humility that recognizes my limitations, my humanness, my inability to know what is truly most helpful on the spiritual journey. I can create a chart that details actions and outcomes, I can create spreadsheets that say, "If you are HERE, then you need to do THIS", but those acts basically keep me in the driver's seat. They feed my ego, my sense of being in charge. In reality, you and I are not in charge nearly as much as we like to think -- and certainly not as much as we act like we are.

I recognize, for example, that the life-situations which have most shaped me and prompted my own becoming are betrayals in relationships, cancers hidden in my body, the liminal space of transitions, the emptiness of joblessness, and the pain of grieving many losses. I would not have chosen these roads for my own becoming . . . but I was not given a choice. These are a few things that have shown up at my door. Some I have resisted, until I could resist no longer. Some I have grudgingly received. All, though, once received, have become my teachers.

Essentially, then, if I am filtering the life-experiences which show up at my door, the whatever-is, I may be closing myself off from the very things that would make me "the kind of person God has been hoping I would become" (Fr Joseph Tetlow's paraphrase of Ignatius of Loyola).

What I'm describing is a kind of unconditional living, open and receiving what is without judgment or condemnation. Further, this stance of unconditional living opens one more deeply to unconditional loving, that is, love that does not measure merit or worthiness, goodness or badness. It simply loves.

Love loves what is, as it is.

Love doesn't judge what is. Love doesn't need to change what is in order to make it more lovable. Authentic love does not love because something or someone is lovable, nor does it love because something or someone is unlovable. Love loves. Period.

The spirit of openness and receptivity, of welcome and hospitality, of unconditional loving and mercy-ing is at the heart of "The Guest House", a poem by the Persian mystic Rumi, as translated by Coleman Barks.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture, still,
treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~~ Rumi: The Book of Love, trans. by Coleman Barks, 179 – 180.

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