Wednesday, November 09, 2011


I have some friends who are facing difficult seasons in their lives.  One of them has a husband with cancer.  Another has a wife with cancer.  Two of my friends recently lost their jobs.  These are all scenarios we would rather not find ourselves in.  We would never choose them.  And yet, there are people who do choose the hard way.  A book I am currently reading about a nun who has mystical experiences tells about women in a convent who desire to share in Christ's sufferings.  If you read the writings of faithful and godly people like St. John of the Cross, Teresa of Avila, and Julian of Norwich you will find this theme as well.  They request pain and affliction in order to be closer to Jesus.  We really have no concept of that in our comfort-driven, pain-avoiding culture.  We do not consider it an honour to suffer.  

I had a dream a few days ago in which I conversed with some of my friends who are in seasons of discomfort.  We talked about the things that God chooses for us versus the things we choose for ourselves, and how the two are not always the same.  I remember saying something similar to these words in the dream:  "Whatever God chooses for you, embrace it.  Let his choices for our lives become our choices in life.  Then we are making space for something really significant to happen." 

I don't want to fight against what God has chosen to bring into my life.  He promised suffering.  Why do I resist it?  He promised challenges.  Why do I cower in the face of them?  He promised to always be with me.  Why do I turn away from his nearness?

Today, let me choose what Jesus chooses.

the photo:  several planes of images at St. Joseph's Oratory:  reflected stained glass, ironwork, a glass door, and my hands.


Anonymous said...

"I don't want to fight against what God has chosen to bring into my life. He promised suffering. Why do I resist it? He promised challenges. Why do I cower in the face of them? He promised to always be with me. Why do I turn away from his nearness? ... Today, let me choose what Jesus chooses."

So, Jesus chooses cancer for your friends? To be close to Jesus we must embrace/choose ANY suffering God chooses for us?

"Whatever God chooses for you, embrace it. Let his choices for our lives become our choices in life. Then we are making space for something really significant to happen."

So, should your friends feel guilty for having feelings of resentment because they have cancer or lost their job? Just what exactly are you trying to say here?

Honestly, I don't think God chooses much for us. We must claim responsibility for our actions, like using carcinogens in consumer products and creating an economy which serves the rich. These aren't God's choices. These are ours.

Matte Downey said...

I don't believe I said that Jesus chooses cancer, though I can see how one might come to that conclusion from what I wrote. What I was trying to put into perspective was that we usually choose the easy way. Jesus did not.

I do not blame any of my friends if they feel some measure of resentment towards God, but I don't believe that resentment is helpful.

Yes, I agree that we must take responsibility for the consequences of our actions, but honestly, there is so much grace and mercy extended to us that we rarely feel the full brunt of what we truly have coming to us.

The point I was really getting at is surrender, and when that happens, God's choices become our choices. The question is not so much, "Does God choose cancer for us?" but "In the midst of this horrible circumstance, where is God to be found?"

Anonymous said...

"'The point I was really getting at is surrender, and when that happens, God's choices become our choices. The question is not so much, 'Does God choose cancer for us?' but 'In the midst of this horrible circumstance, where is God to be found?'"

"Surrender" certainly means not surrendering to the anti-social systems we live in, which consistently remove the burden of responsibility from our Western shoulders today, and yoke the necks of "the other" and future generations. God can only be found in challenging the status quo and its set of beliefs, beliefs that give the false appearance of the removal of burdens of responsibility through confessions of faith or through orgiastic ritual.

"Surrender" certainly means that our actions are important, and that we must leave the results up to God. Our friends' burdens are almost always a product of some sort of (anti)social choice. Your friends' unemployment, your friends' cancer, are the product of your choices, my choices, our choices. What God chooses or desires, in terms of fate, is not so clear. God may be found in "the social" and awareness, or consciousness, that our neighbour's burdens are our burdens.

The "easy way" is to pray, to attempt to feel good, to focus on God and His "presence" while completely ignoring material reality. The hard way is to choose to see that we are intricately connected to those around us, to the planet, and to its inhabitants, and that our actions matter-despite their ethical colours of grey. The "easy way" is to focus on "God" and not our neighbour. God's choice for us is that we choose to be conscious of our neighbour. This is why God does not offer us forgiveness, and grace, unless we forgive those who trespass against us.

The "easy way" is the lie of evangelicalism, which is a false version of the teachings of Jesus and a product of the Antichrist.

Anonymous said...

The "easy way" is not limited to evangelicalism. Chris Hedges on the "easy way" and the liberal Church:

"One of the great failings of the church is that, with the rise of the Christian right -- which I look at as a mass movement, not a religious movement -- a group of Christian heretics, people who have acculturated the worst aspects of capitalism, imperialism, greed, chauvinism, racism, into the Christian religion. The liberal church remains silent -- it says nothing. I see no purpose in spending three years, as I did, in seminary to study the Gospels and the teachings of Jesus Christ if the moment you step into the outside world and see all of those values ridiculed and deformed, you remain silent. Why even go to seminary? Yet that of course is precisely what the liberal church has done. And in the process, they have surrendered their moral authority. They have nothing left to say to us, which is of course why they're dying. The retreat by the church into a spirituality, as they define it, which is centered on "how is it with me?" is a form of undiluted narcissism."