Archive for the ‘Journey’ Category


A brother just reminded me of Tozer’s words from his classic, The Pursuit of God:

Every age has its own characteristics. Right now we are in an age of religious complexity. The simplicity which is in Christ is. rarely found among us. In its stead are programs, methods, organizations and a world of nervous activities which occupy time and attention but can never satisfy the longing of the heart. The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all. If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now, as always, God reveals Himself to “babes” and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and the prudent.

Tozer always has a way of speaking into my life, no matter what condition or situation I’m in. Thanks brother for the much-needed reminder!




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Learn to Listen

Today’s reflection:

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Liquid Love

Over 60 years ago, Eric Fromm asserted that:

Society must be organized in such a way that man’s social, loving nature is not separated from his social existence, but becomes one with it. If it is true, as I have tried to show, that love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence, then any society which excludes, relatively, the development of love, must in the long run perish of its own contradiction with the basic necessities of human nature.

The Art of Loving (emphasis mine)

Yet, in an age that feels less stable and solid, and increasingly fragile and fluid, in “our world of rampant ‘individualization’ relationships are mixed blessings. They vacillate between sweet dream and a nightmare, and there is no telling when one turns into the other. … In a liquid modern setting of life, relationships are perhaps the most common, acute, deeply felt and troublesome incarnations of ambivalence.”  (Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Love: On the Frailty of Human Bonds)

Liquid Love

“As far as love is concerned, possession, power, fusion, and disenchantment are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

In this lies the wondrous fragility of love, side by side with its cursed refusal to bear vulnerability lightly.”

I have to confess that I have embodied those four horsemen at various points along my journey through the “wondrous fragility of love”. Sometimes I wonder if we’re not more in love with the idea/ideal of love.

Bauman goes on to distinguish between desire and love:

Desire is the wish to consume. To imbibe, devour, ingest and digest – annihilate. Desire needs no other prompt but the presence of alterity. That presence is always and already an affront and a humiliation. Desire is the urge to avenge the affront and avert the humiliation. It is a compulsion to close the gap to alterity, as it beckons and repels, as it seduces by the promise of the unexplored and irritates by its evasive, stubborn otherness. Desire is an impulse to strip alterity of its otherness; thereby, to disempower.

Love is, on the other hand, the wish to care, and to preserve the object of the care. A centrifugal impulse, unlike centripetal desire. An impulse to expand, to go beyond, to stretch to what is ‘out there’. To ingest, absorb and assimilate the subject in the object, not vice versa as in the case of desire. Love is about adding to the world – each addition being the living trace of the loving self; in love, the self is, bit by bit, transplanted onto the world. The loving self expands through giving itself away to the loved object. Love is about self’s survival-through-self’s-alterity.

There is much food for thought here and much one could write in response. Where to begin? Augustine’s “rightly ordered love”? Perhaps Kierkegaard’s meditations on love?

… this is a very upbuilding thought, that love abides. When we speak this way, we are speaking of the love that sustains all existence, of God’s love. If for one moment, one single moment, it were to be absent, everything would be confused.

Søren Kierkegaard, Works of Love

Picking up on Kierkegaard’s remarks about God’s sustaining love, I am reminded that “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5; CSB)  The apostle Paul goes on to say that “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8; NIV). Because God’s love is undeserved and unconditional, self-giving and sacrificial, and “has been poured out in our hearts“, we too can love others in the same manner. God’s love overcomes selfishness and the separation between us, and re-orients the distorted, disordered and divided love in our hearts.

Returning now to Bauman’s remarks quoted earlier that “the loving self expands through giving itself away to the loved object”: we can freely give our love away to others even if it’s not reciprocated because our love is empowered by God’s infinite love that delights in giving. As a passionate humanist, Fromm asserted that any “theory of love must begin with a theory of man”, but I would argue that we must begin with God, because God is love: “anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8; NLT). God’s love is faithful and lasting, not fickle and liquid.

Perhaps we should allow Kierkegaard (Works of Love) the last word:

Christianity is not infrequently presented in a certain sentimental, almost soft, form of love. It is all love and love; spare yourself and your flesh and blood; have good days or happy days without self-concern, because God is Love and Love–nothing at all about rigorousness must be heard; it must all be the free language and nature of love. Understood in this way, however, God’s love easily becomes a fabulous and childish conception, the figure of Christ too mild and sickly-sweet for it to be true that he was and is an offense …

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We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.
– Orson Welles

Lately I’ve been unable to fight off this forlorn feeling of futility and forsakenness. God seems unreal and my friends seem so far away. That’s why I could not find the faith and fortitude to face my brothers and sisters these past 2 Sundays. Then I came across this:

All of us are hurting. All of us have our own stories of pain, and we’d be so much better off—all of us—if we’d just trust each other with a little honesty. …

And sometimes, it helps to just know you’re not on this journey by yourself. …

A lot of people work hard to put on a good face and keep up illusions that everything is fine. …

Church should be the one place you don’t have to pretend. Church should be the one place where it’s OK to say, “I’m having a bad day.”

Church should be the place where you can sit next to a friend and let them know you’re with them and that they’re going to be OK, and not have to use a lot of words. It should be a place where you can simply say, “I’ve been there too…”

Sometimes, all you need is to know you’re not alone. Church should be the place where you know that.

Bingo! I am tired of pretending and I’m tired of seeing other pretenders. Why can’t we remove our masks and be honest, open and vulnerable with each other? Surely I can’t be the only one who yearns for genuine relationships, who longs for the real thing?

I came across a fallen tree
I felt the branches of it looking at me
Is this the place we used to love?
Is this the place that I’ve been dreaming of?

Oh, simple thing, where have you gone?
I’m getting old, and I need something to rely on
So tell me when you’re gonna let me in
I’m getting tired, and I need somewhere to begin

And if you have a minute, why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?

–Keane, Somewhere Only We Know

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Living the Questions

I am going through a season marked by doubt, disappointment, disillusionment, distance, and yes—even despair and darkness. Crossing Kidron only to find myself in the Valley of Baca (Ps. 84:6).

It was providential that my brother called me a few days ago: he too was going through a “dark night of the soul” experience. The difference? He has a more tender conscience, so he is quick to seek deliverance and cry out in repentance. He wraps his cries of lament and complaint with pious praise and self flagellation. I am more prone to unconstrained emotional outbursts of frustration and impious demands born out of brooding impatience. Nevertheless, by God’s grace, the feeble counsel and comfort I was able to offer, though darkened as it was by the bitter waters of my soul, turned out to be just the medicine he needed. He realized he needed to acknowledge and embrace the darkness, to experience it without rushing to seek the light, to not short-circuiting the process, to accept not having the answers.

As theoretical physicist Brian Greene put it, “Sometimes attaining the deepest familiarity with a question is our best substitute for actually having the answer.” I do find this frustrating about many Christians: they are so quick to seek answers, the practical solutions to their problems, that they latch on to the shallow, sentimental and simplistically packaged messages offered by any number of purveyors of Pop Spirituality. Patience has never been a strong virtue of mine, but I have learned to embrace the questions and live without having all the answers. Worse is when they in turn try to proffer this saccharine advice to those who are heart broken and soul shattered.

For me, Rilke’s advice is more profound and helpful:

… be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves … Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

– Rainer Maria Rilke

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Lord, see how I am in distress.
I am churning within;
my heart is broken,
for I have been very rebellious.
Outside, the sword takes the children;
inside, there is death.

People have heard me groaning,
but there is no one to comfort me.

For my groans are many,
and I am sick at heart.

– Lamentations 1:20-22; CSB

In her fascinating talk, Language Failing: The Reach of Lament, Ilit Ferber begins thus:

The cry of lament emerges from the abyss of profound mourning and sorrow expressing the unbearable condition of loss. It is cried out in moments when the pain of loss overwhelms us with such an intensity that we seem utterly unable to express it in words. As if our language had completely broken down, revealing its inadequacy in the face of profound sorrow, by disintegrating into nonverbal exclamations and disconsolate cries. We usually think of lament as an anguished response to deep loss and sorrow expressed in primordial cries and shrieks bursting forth in a vast era of elegies and other poems, biblical lamentations, songs and music.

It brings to mind Paul’s epistle to the Romans, in a key section dealing with suffering, eschatological glory, and the Spirit:

In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groaningsAnd he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will. (Romans 8:26–27; NET; emphasis mine).

In the fallenness, frailty and finitude of our lives, profound sorrow is to be expected and primordial cries is the only language we have in response. However, as Christians, Paul reminds us that because of our union in Christ, we live our lives in the Spirit, who “intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings [στεναγμοῖς ἀλαλήτοις]”, so that despite our weakness [ἀσθενείᾳ]—our groanings, yearnings, laments are “translated” by the Spirit and brought before the Father’s throne, who responds to our groans according to His will (8:27).

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In a recent McKinsey blog post, the author writes: “Disruptive times call for transformational leaders to let go and become more complex themselves to navigate effectively.” He goes on to say that leaders must be more agile and more complex by “building a bigger inner self so complexity feels simpler and allows us to move with greater purpose, clarity, inner calm and impact.”  He suggests several practices that can help in this regard:

  1. Pause to move faster. Pausing while remaining engaged in action is a counterintuitive step that leaders can use to create space for clear judgment; original thinking; and speedy, purposeful action.
  2. Embrace your ignorance. Good, fresh ideas can come from anywhere … listening—and thinking—from a place of not knowing is a critical means of encouraging the discovery of original, unexpected, breakthrough ideas.
  3. Radically reframe the questions. One way to discern the complex patterns that give rise to both problems and windows of emergent possibilities is to change the nature of the questions we ask ourselves. Asking yourself challenging questions may help unblock your existing mental model.
  4. Set direction, not destination. In our complex systems and in this complex era, solutions are rarely straightforward. Instead of telling your team to move from point A to point B, join them in a journey toward an image of the future that sparks inspiration. Lead yourself and your team with purposeful vision, not just achievements.
  5. Test your solutions – and yourself. Quick, cheap failures can avert major, costly disasters.

Such practices might also be helpful in an ecclesial context as well: what do you think?

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