Reading Chapter 3

Rohr pictureRichard Rohr writes, 


How hard it is for God to give us a ‘face’,
to create a partner for conscious relationship…
(See Things Hidden, p. 54)

The whole Bible is a school of relationship…
it is giving us a face capable of receiving divine dignity…
(see p. 57)

Mystery is not something you can’t understand,
but something that is endlessly understandable…
(see p. 62)

Trusting in the Mystery of God is the difference
between a belief system and a living faith…
(see p. 63)

Learning to live in relationship

Rohr writes that human consciousness began in the tribe (see p. 55-56).  I take him to mean that human wisdom – our understanding of ourselves and the world we live in – is collective: it was in the early tribes that human languages, music, art, and religion all developed to build and support the life of the community.

But to grow spiritually, each of us needs to grow out of the tribal mind into our own mind. (“God has no grandchildren,” the South African preacher David duPlessis used to say – because each person has to experience God’s reality for themselves.)

And so, in our own lives, we see the gradual evolution of our personhood – the unveiling of our own individual ‘faces’, as Rohr puts it.   We all start with tribal thinking (simple consciousness, trusting in what the group teaches us); we gradually move towards individuation (complex consciousness, as we blend our own experiences with the group’s thinking).  Only then can we break through the boundaries of group and self to unitive consciousness.

Experiences of unitive consciousness lead us to understand that there is one coherent world, and one ‘Significant Other’ in relationship with the world (“You shall have one god before you” – Exodus 20:3).  Without this ‘Significant Other’ (which Rohr also calls the ‘Face’ of God), each of us becomes our own center and circumference, bound into our own narrow boxes.

Being ‘possessed’

One way to think of being ‘possessed’ is that there is an unhealthy ‘other’ who defines who we are.  That ‘other’ might be a parent, a boss, a spouse, a political leader, or anyone we allow to have power over us.  (Rohr points out that we may even be influenced by one person after another.)  In contrast, encounters with the ‘Significant Other’ center us, transform us, and give us our deepest and truest identity.

And so the Gospels tell the stories of encounters with Jesus. Each person he meets is invited into a relationship with him.  When people respond to him, they not only begin a relationship with Jesus, but through him a relationship with God.  Along the way, each person who encounters Jesus – and starts to follow him –  begins to grow into their true self. (For a wonderful example of how an encounter with Jesus brought personal growth, see the story of the Samaritan woman in John 4.) 

Inclusive language for God: Is God ‘He’ or ‘She’?

We live in a time when we want more than masculine words and images for God.  Over the past half century an astounding variety of feminine images for God has emerged from study of the Old Testament – a document once seen as exclusively patriarchal.  But the God of the Bible is far more than masculine or feminine.

Rohr tells us that the Bible’s real pronoun for God is ‘YOU’ – not HE or SHEGod invites us into an ‘I-Thou’ relationship – a personal relationship with a living God, who invites us into a living faith.  (see p. 60). 

Some questions for your reflection:

Rohr says that the Bible shows God working through persons (not just ideas and images). God has a relationship with these persons – and through these persons God invites others into relationship as well.  Rohr writes, “We find the mystery of presence in encounters where one person’s self-disclosure evokes deeper life in another. This is actually a transference and sharing of Being” (see p 64).  

In your encounters with other people,
have you sometimes experienced ‘a transference and sharing of being’? 

In your meditations,
have you experienced ‘a transference and sharing of Being’ with the Holy?

In your prayers,
does it make a difference to talk to God as ‘YOU’? 

One thought on “Reading Chapter 3

  1. I don’t believe it coincidence that this week’s readings and reflections highlight the value and transformative nature of relationship through the genuine giving from another as I mourn, with many others, the recent death of Stephen Levine. Relationship, with the Divine, with self and with Others was at the core of his lifework. I must admit that the bulk of my meditation and reflection time this week has been spent rereading and honoring Stephen’s writings.

    I am reminded by his willingness to show up and share with bare honesty his personal struggles and Mother Teresa’s willingness to meet all Others as they experience their most vulnerable physical struggles, that I, too, am asked to “show up” in my everyday moments. For me, that is where I am blessed to see the Face of God.

    (Hello, my dear California friends, I miss you but feel privileged to share these discussions with you)

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