I was on the phone by a large window in a hall of the hospital (the only place to get reception), reporting to my sister-in-law on her brother’s condition. After we got all the tests, procedures, doctor’s opinions, and medications out-of-the-way, we somehow got on the subject about being stuck in religious boxes. She mentioned a book she was reading which was really opening her mind to new possibilities about who God is and how he deals with us.
I responded with a “Yippee!” – or a subdued version of that more suitable for a hospital. I opined that people in their 60’s and 70’s and beyond are often more free to consider letting in new people, new ideas, new experiences that seem to counter the teachings that have boxed them in for years. As usual, when someone is open to spiritual questioning, I referred her to Richard Rohr and sent her several of his daily meditations, which, she reported, “blew my mind” and opened up new pathways in her heart and soul. My best experiences in teaching have come when a student or a friend or a colleague has a “blew my mind” experience and opens his or her heart to a new experience or a new philosophy.
My road to an open mind came by way of St. Ignatius of Loyala who taught me about letting go and detachment – the necessary spiritual disciplines on the road to open hearts and open minds. It was reinforced by countless books and authors who presented a new view of our relationship with God, and thus our relationship with others.
Ignatius came to his new awareness and calling by giving up his boxed-in life as a privileged nobleman and brave knight in Spain to meditate and pray in a cave in Manresa for a year. Countless others have been forced into “tight places” physically or mentally or emotionally before the hard shell around their belief systems cracked. Think of the disciple Peter who refused to accept non-Jews into his new community until God gave him dream. The apostle Paul had to see a vision of Jesus in order to stop persecuting Christians and start changing the world.
Joseph had to be dumped in a well by his brothers and then jailed before he found the political life that allowed him to save lives in Egypt. David had to leave his life as a shepherd to become King of Israel. Abraham had to leave his comfortable tent to learn about being “blessed to be a blessing.” John had to be exiled to an island to write a glorious vision of the Kingdom of God. All learned that you can’t accept a new opinion or a new calling if you refuse to let go (at least temporarily) of your own long-held positions
Richard Rohr has said, “If it’s true, it’s always been true; truth simply shows up in various ages and cultures through different vocabulary and images” (Daily Meditations, 12/30/18). This stretching is hard for those of us who have been taught “the right way” to think about anything, especially God.
God cannot collaborate with a person who is stuck in any kind of box – racial, cultural, religious, political, or emotional. If we want to join with God to change the world, we all need to examine our sacrosanct beliefs and comfortable traditions and be willing to face ideas and experiences outside our comfort zone. Then we can join God and his followers in an adventure of discovery.