Friday, May 11, 2012

"Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on..."

“Paul and Silas bound in jail,
got no money for to pay their bail
Keep your eyes
Keep your eyes
on the prize...”

Jeff shared an insight at church the other that made me think of Sara Groves’ "Eyes on the Prize."

He's given me permission to recount it here.

Walking along an unlighted corridor on campus, he came to a dark boiler room where he heard a very unsettling sound coming from a distant corner. He said that his first instinct was to rush through the darkness, and get to the next illumined space, as quickly as possible.

But, then it occurred to him that what he really needed to do, was act contrary to those fear-based inclinations. It was clear that he actually needed to slow down, lean into the direction of the darkness, and listen more thoughtfully...if he wanted to be sure that there was nothing to be fearful of, or concerned about. So he became very quiet, and listened.

The first thing he realized, was that the sound was coming from a different direction than he first thought. So, he turned and leaned in that new direction, pointing the faint beam of his flashlight into a far corner. And what he discovered was that it was....nothing. Simply the mechanical breathing of the building's boiler plant.

He shared, that if he had rushed through that space, running from what was unsettling...hurrying away from the unknown...he would never have discovered that the room was actually very safe. And, he would not have learned that by slowing down, and listening deeply, he gained a clearer sense of direction while facing his fears...right there in the middle of the darkness. Thereby dispossessing them of their ability to threaten his peace. I loved this.

This week's Bible Lesson references a passage from II Corinthians that I've enjoyed considering more deeply, in light of this story. It says:

“For God,
who commanded the light to shine out of the darkness,
hath shined in our hearts...”

I've read this passage many times, but I don't think I've ever really considered what it actually means, that God commanded light to shine out of the darkness. Wow!

Could it be, that darkness has the potential for being the birthplace of light. And do we, because of our fear that the darkness is a place void of light, run from it...instead of leaning into it and accepting the gift that comes pouring out, from within that space of wonder -- and wondering. The space of "not knowing." Not knowing an answer. Not knowing what's next. Not knowing what something means..or meant. Not knowing the solution. Not knowing what someone thinks about us. Not knowing how others feel about us. Not knowing why, or how, we could have made a mistake. Not knowing where we are supposed to be. Just not knowing...

It's led me to consider Mary Baker Eddy's statement from Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures in a new light:

“Would existence without personal friends be to you a blank? Then the time will come when you will be solitary, left without sympathy; but this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love. When this hour of development comes, even if you cling to a sense of personal joys, spiritual Love will force you to accept what best promotes your growth. Friends will betray and enemies will slander, until the lesson is sufficient to exalt you; for "man's extremity is God's opportunity." The author has experienced the foregoing prophecy and its blessings."

Boy, talk about a paragraph full of paradoxes. We've got vacuums...but they are filled. We are left without friends or sympathy...but these are blessings. Betrayal and slander...that leads to exaltation and progress. She's got real moxie.

But if, as she says elsewhere, Love represents light, and that this "hour of development" is really only a seeming vacuum. And that, this seeming vacuum is already filled with divine Love, then the birthplace of Love, or light, may, at some point, seem to be a place void of light...a place of darkness.

Man, talk about encouraging someone to lean into the darkness.

Yet, consider her focus on salvation and admonition that what we most need is the "fervent desire for "growth in grace..."

If spiritual growth is our greatest, our most fervent desire, then perhaps we might find ourselves not only willing to lean into the scary corners, but actually be eager to slow down, and listen carefully for the "light" sound of His voice "out of the dearness." To feel the whispering breath of Spirit, we know we'll find there.

Eddy is quick to assure us that she isn't encouraging us to go anywhere, that she hasn't already been before us. This corridor is well-traveled. Other spiritual travelers, like Eddy, have left breadcrumbs along the way. Cairns of inspiration. Markings on the rock-ribbed walls. It reminds me of this stanza from Sara's song:

“Ain't know man on earth can know,
the weight of glory on a human soul.
The way is slow, and we've so far to go.
Keep your eyes on the prize,
hold on”

When I think about my own path, and the dark corridors I've "mistakenly" wandered down, as well as the ones I've had to walk...and the ones I know I'll still encounter if I am truly hungering for growth in grace...I am sometimes apprehensive. But I'm not resistant to the darkness, or ready to run from it.

Yet, when I consider the same journey for loved ones, it is often hard to remember that, as the hymn says, "darkness cannot hide Him {God, Love]..." and that their seeming vacuums are also, already, filled with divine Love.

That's when I have to ask myself whether I want them to just get through the dark boiler room quickly...but still think there are monsters behind them in every the corner...or do I hope that they will be inspired to slow down, lean into the darkness, listen for direction, and discover that they are free to feel safe...even in the darkness.

“When you see a man walk free
it makes you dream of Jubilee.
Keep your eyes on the prize
Hold on...”

It's given me a lot to think about this week. No matter what our dark corridors and noisy boiler rooms may look, or sound instability, fractured relationships, confusion, unemployment, sorrow, mistakes, anger, doubt, fear...these seeming vacuums are already filled with divine Truth, Life, and Love.

And perhaps, if we face them knowing we are not alone in the darkness, they will be the manger we have been wandering in the desert of our hopes looking for. The still space where Love gives birth to the light of the divine...patience, humility, grace, meekness, compassion....already within us. This promise is helping me keep my eyes on the real prize, "growth in grace..."

and hold on.

always with Love,


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