Lessons from Richard Rohr

30 Nov

Over the course of the month of September, I began reading Richard Rohr’s book entitled Simplicity.  This book provides an acute analysis of the meaning of community, contemplation,  and their connection to the art of letting go.

Here are some of the more poignant pieces of the book to me and how they connect to my JVC journey:

1. Community:

  •  “When people get together in solidarity and unity, not out of power, but out of powerlessness, then Christ is in their midst.”
  • “The secret lies in the way you let other people get through to you, and the way you move out of yourself.”
  • “The Gospel is before all else, a call to live differently so that life can be shared with others.  The gospel is ultimately calling us to a stance of simplicity, vulnerability, dialogue, powerlessness, and humility.

These excerpts stand at the heart of what I believe my time in JVC community to be about–authenticity and humility.  Living in an intentional Christian community calls for much more than being roommates.  And it is definitely more than merely tolerating one another.  It is also more than being best friends.  It is, instead, about living with one another, challenging one another to grow, and being open to being challenged.  It is about sharing all of oneself and thinking about more than one’s selfish needs or even reasonable desires.  It is about putting the betterment of community first and working to live out the gospel, every day, as best one can and through the help of others.  It is not easy and it is not instantaneous.  Authentic community comes from putting away walls, false images and egos of oneself, and the quest for recognition and power.  Authentic community comes from being honest and mostly about being honest with oneself.

2. Contemplation:

  • “Contemplation is a long, loving look at what really is.”
  • “It is absolutely crucial to go ‘deep in one place’ and let your God lead you to a place of surrender, love, and humility.”
  • “We are not always good, but we are always holy.”
  • “Don’t be afraid of the silence because God is with you and leading you in that holy silence.”

The JVC program comes from the Jesuit tradition of being “contemplatives in action.”  These two aspects, contemplation and action, cannot stand alone and one is certainly not better than the other.  Instead, they must accompany one another.  JVC calls for daily examination…of self, of faith, and of the world around us.  Sometimes, what we find might not always be good, right, or beautiful, but it is important to find the truth and to take that truth lovingly.

3. Letting Go:

  • Learning from the 12 step programs–that of letting go and offering it up.
  • “We can’t convert ourselves, we get converted through God’s grace.”
  •  “Fear always comes from the need to control.  And we are not in control anyways.”
  • “Bring your emotions and your mistrust to the Lord as an act of personal powerlessness.”

I have found that, like I’m sure others can relate to, I like to be in control.  I like to know what is going on, when it is going on, and with whom I can expect it is going on with. I especially like being the one to create the plan.  So, how does this need to control or possess power translate to being in a foreign country with strangers, not having mastered the language, feeling out of place at work, and missing people from home?  Well, my guess is that it will surely manifest itself in other ways.  It may come with me trying to control something within my house/JVC community.  It may come when I find something I might be good at and become fixated on that one thing.  It could come out in a lot of ways.

But, what is at the root of me trying to be in control…? Fear.  Being scared of failing.  Being scared of not fitting in.  Being scared of not adjusting.  Being scared that I might not be able to finish this program.  Because of these fears, I could look to grasp control…power.  But, as I reflect upon the words of “fear always coming from the need to control,” I think about what that ounce of “control” brings me.  It doesn’t bring me  authenticity in community and  it won’t bring me a true strength in self.  I’m sure it will only bring me distance in relationships and help me to stray from the truth.  And this is where the letting go comes in and where faith takes over.

I sincerely hope that I will be able to take these lessons with me as I begin to experience what community, contemplation, and letting go truly mean during my time in Nicaragua.



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