Today's post was slotted to be about meeting with Gandalf.
But, I as I looked back over yesterday's daddy-issue subject matter I realized by rushing off into Gandalf I was about to jeopardize the whole transformational underworld journey. Drat! Sorry. I'm learning too, here. :) By skedaddling into the subject of mentors, rabbis, sages, and guides I was running the risk of making yesterday's journal entry on the level with everything else we are going to do, AND IT'S NOT. Moreover, I had to experience this again and again, over and over, since the underworld jabs and pokes and mocks this relationship constantly.
Last year Jed and I were training in Marin Headlands for the JMT we hiked up Hill 88, cut down to Tennessee Valley through Wolf Ridge Trail. This is a good 2-hour hike round trip if you push it. We arrived at Tennessee Valley and he said he was going back. I wanted to put in another 40minutes so I pushed on. We split. He headed back up Wolf Ridge toward Hill 88 and I kicked up some dust up to the rendezvous for Muir Beach Trail.
As I returned back up the steep, rounding a wide open bend that faces off against the Pacific Ocean I stopped to catch my breath. (I'm getting choked up now just remembering this experience). I looked up to the summit of Hill 88, about 1/3 of a mile as the crow flies, and there up on the ridge was Jed energetically waving his hand at me. It's the kind of wave that says, "Hey dad, here I am. I see you. Do you see me? I'm at the top. I beat you back. Are you proud of me?"
I muttered under my breath, "God, I love that kid!"
And when I did, my heart started pounding, I stood there for about 30 seconds crying.
A prayer of gratitude formed from my heart, "What did I ever do to deserve such a wonderful son?" (I don't know how many times I repeated this but over and over I said it).
A strong gust of Pacific Ocean breeze rushed over the open bend, pushing me back and I heard the Spirit say these words, "He's my son. I love him. I enjoy him so much." (and then a few assuring words about his future). It caught me so off guard, I wasn't praying or meditating, just hoofing it. That pretty much put me over the top.
A couple days later I reflected and discussed this with my mentor and he asked, "Why do you think God allowed you to experience that? Why not just tell Jed? What is God saying to you? I don't know but it sounds like God is giving you an experience of what he feels for you by opening you up to what he feels for your son." I knew the whole episode was choreographed by the Spirit to give me an experience sonship, to transform me for what was coming.
Now, to be sure, I had a theology for the Fatherhood of God, but the experience of it moved it from cognitive abstraction to emotive reality and in doing so I owned it with tears, a memory, a relationship and a story--all of which are necessary to reshape an identity. I have in mind here the spirit of Frederick Buechner's quote (right) and these words from the late Brennen Manning, "“My identity as Abba’s child is not an abstraction or a tap dance into religiosity. It is the core truth of my existence."
This subject of the Proudful Fatherhood of God is central to Jesus getting through EVERY, and I mean EVERYTHING. It's the rite of passage into the underworld, the crucible through the underworld, and what transforms into powerful kingdom movement out of the wilderness.
I am guessing the majority of you didn't read yesterday's footnotes that Jerusalem (my daughter) noted in the comment section as really standing out to her. I may be an oddity when it comes to footnotes. Sometimes I don't read the book, just the footnotes. (not sure why). But my footnotes are kind of a big deal :-) so I'm going to indent them here.
*Mk1.11, Jesus has yet to preach his first sermon, perform his first work of compassion, build out his first movement. At this point, all he has done is just be a son. And his Father is proud! Jesus will never attend the prestigious Schools of Hillel or Tutelage of Gamaliel, start a successful business, write a book, or win an athletic event representing his people in the Greek Gymnasium Games at Scythopolis. His Father's pride is not about what he has done or what his potential will be, but just in the relational now of who he presently is.
**Mk14.6, Jews frequently refer to God as "King of the Universe" or "Sovereign Lord," and occasionally referred to God with the more formal “Father,” but what Jesus does here by calling God, “Abba” (an intimate Aramaic term that little children used to express their dependence and affection, akin to 'Papa') is unique. Jesus’ intense spiritual experience and baptismal encounter provide a window into this expression.
***Lk 15.20, As we experience the joy of Jesus, we wonder about our place in all of this, and Jesus speaking to the whores, thieves, swindlers and irreligious cynics reveals God as a Father longingly and lovingly looking out the window for the return of his prodigals.
****Gal.4.6, Paul calls this a mystery. That what Jesus had we have. That the "Abba" experience and relationship is ours.
We don’t know much about the relationship between Jesus and Joseph. We know that Joseph doesn't want to embarrass Mary, who has become pregnant out of wedlock. We know that Jesus is the child of this out-of-wedlock situation. We know that Joseph is obedient and protective. There's a gap and then Jesus is twelve. And we see early on Jesus has a strong sense that his Father’s house and business is in Jerusalem’s temple and not the carpentry business in Nazareth. Then there is another gap from twelve to thirty and when Jesus reemerges it's to reveal who's son he is.
This sense of Who's-Son-Am-I is the battleground, the ground zero, that Jesus fights to defend from start to finish. From opening trailers to scrolling credits his identity is questioned, challenged, and tested. Even before his first lesson is taught, before his first act of compassion is recorded, before his first follower is called, before his first miracle performed the underworld tries to disrupt his mission by attacking the legitimacy of his sonship. "If you are the son of God..."
And it doesn't end there. The questions of legitimacy and identity come up over and over and over. His first sermon in Nazareth is critiqued on the grounds of, "Isn't this Joseph's son?" The Sanhedrin prods him with, "If you are the Son of God, tell us!" And the last temptation he faces on the cross, "If you are the son of God come down from that cross and prove it!" This identity piece precedes his purpose, defines his meaning, and directs his decisions. His organization isn’t qualified in an abstract mission statement, five values, and a vision clause. It's simply a son living out the identity given to him by his proud Father in the face of the doubters, critics, and detractors.
If you get the child of God thing down in your identity-core you have darkness whipped. Its that big of deal. My mentor draws out the identity piece something like this (to the left).
The Diagrams Explained. D1. When we are living out a false-self we usually are striving for something (whatever that something is either God or a god) through our own efforts and works. We are trying to appease the gods (career, academics, parents, culture) or please God. Many times this is us competing against the Other, those that we define as our enemies, our competitors who stand in the way of us becoming our "false-self". D2. When I believe and trust the Father delights in me it transforms my outlook on life, Im grateful, confident and lovingly ready to respond in joyful obedience to his call in my life. This is my true-self. Since he loves me just for me being me, I am free to be me. I have no pressure to put on any fronts or fascades.
CHREIA OF ACTION
- Conversation. Have a conversation with Cleopas. Discuss what you experienced in your lectio divina prayer.
- Reflection. Reflect over the past week or so, what do you sense heaven is seeking to communicate to you?
- Prayer. Pray Luke 3.21-22 using the tools of lectio divina for narratives (yes, again. ). Hear it, way down, all the way.
UPNEXT: MEETING WITH GANDALF