Pause! A key relationship skill

Our first impulse is likely to be self-aware, at least; self-centered, perhaps; self-protective, likely; selfish, at worst. Love, by contrast, is other-centered. Love doesn’t come naturally, and rarely first. It takes a pause to get there. I don’t often re-post others’ writings, but I think Richard Rohr (with whom I’m not always on the same page) describes this reality well as “The Second Gaze” in the following post.

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The Second Gaze Friday, January 1, 2021 New Year’s Day 

Contemplation happens to everyone. It happens in moments when we are open, undefended, and immediately present. — Gerald May 

Even after fifty years of practicing contemplation, my immediate response to most situations includes attachment, defensiveness, judgment, control, and analysis. I am better at calculating than contemplating. A good New Year’s practice for us would be to admit that that most of us start there. The false self seems to have the “first gaze” at almost everything. 

On my better days, when I am “open, undefended, and immediately present,” I can sometimes begin with a contemplative mind and heart. Most of the time I can get there later and even end there, but it is usually a second gaze. The True Self seems to always be ridden and blinded by the defensive needs of the separate self. It is an hour-by-hour battle, at least for me. I can see why all spiritual traditions insist on some form of daily prayer; in fact, morning, midday, evening, and before-we-go-to-bed prayer would be a good idea too! Otherwise, we can assume that we will fall right back in the cruise control of small and personal self-interest, the pitiable and fragile smaller self. 

The first gaze is seldom compassionate. It is too busy weighing and feeling itself: “How will this affect me?” or “How does my self-image demand that I react to this?” or “How can I get back in control of this situation?” This leads to an implosion of self-preoccupation that cannot enter into communion with the other or the moment. In other words, we first feel our feelings before we can relate to the situation and emotion of the other. Only after God has taught us how to live “undefended” can we immediately (or at least more quickly) stand with and for the other, and for the moment. 

It has taken me much of my life to begin to get to the second gaze. By nature, I have a critical mind and a demanding heart, and I am impatient. (I’m a One on the Enneagram!) These are both my gifts and my curses, as you might expect. Yet I cannot have one without the other, it seems. I cannot risk losing touch with either my angels or my demons. They are both good teachers. The practice of solitude and silence allows them both, and leads to the second gaze. The gaze of compassion, looking out at life from the place of divine intimacy is really all I have, and all I have to give, even though I don’t always do it. 

In the second gaze, critical thinking and compassion are finally coming together. It is well worth waiting for, because only the second gaze sees fully and truthfully. It sees itself, the other, and even God with God’s own eyes, the eyes of compassion, which always move us to act for peace and justice. But it does not reject the necessary clarity of critical thinking, either. Normally, we start with dualistic thinking, and then move toward nondual for an enlightened response. As always, both/and! 

Richard Rohr 

How to Pray for Those with Whom We Disagree

Sometimes it’s hard to pray for people, especially if we disagree with them, think they’re wrong, or consider them an enemy. We read Jesus’ words, “Love for your enemy and pray those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44) and wonder how to do that. Below is a method.

The beginning of love is other-centeredness. Step one is to understand another’s heart, mind, circumstances, and needs. Ask God for that understanding. Pray in light of what you’ve come to understand. Pray for them, Jesus said (not against them).

Total Person Filter:   What is going on for them?

Emotionally

Physically

Intellectually

Socially

Spiritually

Basic Psychological Needs filter: What are their human needs? 

Security

Love

Recognition 

New Experiences

Freedom from guilt and shame

Concept from The Lifestyle of Healthy Leaders: Integrating Spiritual Formation and Leadership Development, by Dr. Charles Miller (also titled: The Spiritual Formation of Leaders), summarized here by Doug Burford. 

What the Heck is “the Gospel?”

The word “gospel” can conjure up images of a judgmental preacher in a bad suit waving a Bible overhead and hatefully denouncing sinners. Ironically, in contrast to that picture, the literal translation of “gospel” is “good news.”  That good news can be illustrated, in part, by the Venn diagram in the header.

The good news is that God has met in Jesus Christ the spiritual longing that every human feels and may try to fill with things incapable of occupying it. Financial, social, physical, intellectual, relational, emotional, and recreational pursuits—as important and satisfying as they can be (witness Kansas City’s Super Bowl win)— cannot fill the spiritual longing shaped like Christ. The gospel is the answer to that stubborn  emptiness that refuses to be filled by worthy pursuits or worthless distractions. 

To be clear, that interior void is in the shape of Christ, not religion. Religion is man’s  attempt to draw near to God, while the ” gospel” is the good news that in Christ God came to us. Religion properly focused on developing our spiritual closeness to Christ can help, but is itself not the focus, nor was religious practice Christ’s focus while on earth. Listening to and heeding his Father was his focus. 

When people offer reasons for not liking church or religion, I can almost always agree with their reasons. The institutional church has not always represented Christ well, and often does not still, today. But those reasons don’t change who Jesus is. Most people—even people who eschew religion—admire, respect, or even love Jesus. And it is Jesus as he is who fills our spiritual longing. That said, a church focused on him can offer a supportive community essential to growth in mutual relationship with Christ.

So, back to the question, “What the heck is ‘the gospel?'” The gospel is that in Jesus Christ, God entered human form so that people could understand God; the gospel is that Jesus suffered hardship, temptation, and death, just like ourselves, yet was without sin, unlike ourselves. Since he had no sin to separate him from the “godhead” (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), the grave had no hold on him and he took up his life again. (This is why the disciples who abandoned him at his arrest went to their deaths refusing to deny him  as risen Lord and God-incarnate (Immanuel) (Matthew 1:23). Christ then transferred his payment for sin (of which he uniquely had none) to us who need it (1 John 2:2). Acceptance of that free gift of forgiveness secured by Christ’s atonement for sin on our behalf is what it means to be or become a Christian. It is that dependence (faith) on Christ’s forgiveness through no merit of our own that fills that spiritual void and gives us identity and purpose other areas of life cannot. 

As a counselor and pastor, I know this by experience. Therapists, psychologists, doctors and psychiatrists have good things to offer hurting or struggling people. But, therapy, insight, interpersonal skills, and even medication can not bring peace with God. Christ does. The Sinless one meets the sinful and welcomes us into a living relationship that fills our deepest longing. He says, “Come unto me all who are weary and heavily burdened and I will give you rest.” If life seems empty at its center, or its dimensions out of balance, Jesus invites:  “take on my yoke and find a secure fit. Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it to the full.”  (Matthew 11:28-29; John 10:9-10) 

The gospel is thus an invitation… an invitation from God to come to Jesus to come to life; it is an invitation to satisfy that deep interior longing, not with religion, but with a relationship. The gospel is not about us seeking after God, it is about God seeking after us. The gospel is that in Jesus Christ God came near, in order that we might know closeness with him; that we may know a love we’ve never known and be able to love others in a way more selfless than our own. 

God runs to us in Christ like the father in  Luke 15 ran to the prodigal son who had cut himself off from his father, but later turned back. In his father’s embrace the prodigal found welcome, not punishment; he found love, grace, peace, and life anew. That’s the reception that God gives through the gospel. Jesus Christ came to give us new life; life that completes us at our core. That infilling relationship can be found by accepting Jesus’ invitation, “Come unto me and find rest for your souls.” 

Like the prodigal, this means turning from imbalanced or false pursuits, to him who alone can fill the center of our being. It is trusting in his forgiveness and entrusting our lives to his leadership.

Pray, “Lord, Jesus Christ, take your place in my heart and life; fill that central place reserved for you. Forgive whatever separates me from you and lead me in life anew.” 

____________________ 

(Find videos of celebrities and of less celebrated people who have found their center in Christ at IAmSecond.com.)