I started my first Peter Rollins book last night. I’m reading ‘Insurrection – to Believe is Human, to Doubt, Divine’ as part of The Collective‘s Virtual Insurrection on-line group reading experience. This is the book whose mere title inspired an entire blog post about Doubting Thomas.
In the introduction, Peter Rollins promises that this book won’t be an easy read, in fact, many will find it disturbing as it will burn up our false concepts of a religion concerned with life after death to reveal the true transformation of Christ that takes place now in our life before death. It sounds terrible… but wait a minute, isn’t that a good thing?
I guess it depends on what part of your self you are identifying with – the part of you that wants to hang on to ignorance and suffering or the part of you that wants to awaken into Light and happiness. If you identify with your ego, I guess it’s disturbing and uneasy. If you identify with your soul, it’s a downright party! Woo hoo – freedom and transformation, let’s go!
So, why not say this book will be a great experience because it will set you free from false outer holiness to experience happiness in the transformation into what is truly holy inside your very soul! Doesn’t that sound like more fun? Why should awakening be so hard and painful? Why should awakening be something we embark upon with dread because we know it’s really good for us, kind of like eating brussel sprouts or broccoli (which can actually both be quite delicious).
Last year I went to the Ash Wednesday service at Trinity. The pastor started talking about how Lent is the time to rend our hearts and offer up anything that is unpleasing to God and I thought “YES! How wonderful, thank you – I so long to purify my heart of anything that is unpleasing to God.” I was so happy! “What a wonderful time of year Lent is,” I thought.
Then all of a sudden the pastor starts saying, “I know, you’re squirming in your seats, you want to hang on to all your attachments and desires, you want to hide all that stuff from God, I know you’ve been dreading Lent all year.” And the rest of the sermon was all about how we don’t want to purify our hearts. Say what?
Why wouldn’t I want to get rid of anything in me that is unpleasing to God? If it’s unpleasing to God, isn’t it unpleasing to me? And what’s more, if it’s unpleasing, wouldn’t it be unpleasant? Why would I want to hang on to attachments and desires that cause me disappointment and suffering? Why would I want to keep a bunch of ugly ego stuff that is festering inside of me keeping me from transforming into the happy, fulfilled, loved and healed human being God wants me to be?
And what’s more, why is the pastor who is supposed to be guiding us closer to God, saying that it’s an awful uncomfortable thing? Isn’t that backwards? I guess he’s trying to be relatable, acknowledge the part in us that is actually attached to our attachments. But there is a big difference between acknowledging a part of us that might have resistance to transformation and identifying our selves as that part. Why not identify ourselves with the much much bigger part of us that has been yearning to purify our hearts of suffering for many lifetimes? As long as I’m identifying myself as a soul, the only thing I’d be renouncing or “giving up” for Lent is my suffering.
Otherwise, even in church we are teaching each other that we don’t want to be close to God – that we don’t want to be pleasing to God. And I’ve heard the same kind of thinking in yogic self-realization circles, talking about awakening as “ego-death” or “walking through the fire.” If even in church or our spiritual communities we keep identifying ourselves with our baser selves and ego desires instead of our souls, then we will keep telling ourselves that we don’t want our own happiness and spiritual liberation and that it’s something we should be squirming to avoid.
Instead of making Lent out to be so terrible and difficult that the whole congregation should be squirming in our seats, why not simply say, “I know some of you might be having some thoughts of resistance, but remember that to let go of that which is unpleasing to God will make you so much happier! Your soul longs to be free!” Let’s not turn some thoughts of resistance into WHO WE ARE. Wanting to awaken and be happy is after all the Divine Purpose of selfishness – let’s put our selfishness to good use.
Instead of making the reading of a transformational book out to be some difficult task and making our awakening out to be some terrible chore or some painful trial by fire – let’s make it a party! It’s joyful. It’s wonderful. Let’s break out the bongos and marshmallows and burn up all our misconceptions of God and what is holy in a big ole bonfire and dance around it with glee. Let’s live here as our souls! Not only will we realize the Secret to Immortality, but we can go about this whole awakening business with the realization that it’s fun to be set free!
To join me in all the Awakening Fun: