Treasure in Jars of Clay
The enemy of our soul tries to make us believe lies – that we are weak, incompetent, inadequate, a failure etc. The enemy of our soul tries to convince us that something can and will destroy us. We may fear many things, for example, being or looking stupid, failure, rejection, betrayal, anonymity, being unimportant, being replaced, being hurt, being alone / loneliness, pain of any sort etc. This fear prevents us from living life to the full. “For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin - real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.” [Father Alfred D’Souza] Shakespeare said: “Cowards die many times before their deaths!” The Bible says: You may be “struck down, but you are not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:9)
The Lord gives his people strength; the Lord grants his people security. (Psalm 29:11)
We can believe that we are weak and vulnerable and act accordingly, or we can remember that we have this treasure within us (albeit it in jars of clay that can break), nonetheless, we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us. God’s most repeated command in Scripture is: DO NOT FEAR! In the end you will triumph. It may hurt in the beginning but it will be beautiful in the end. God allows pain and suffering in order to bring good from it. God uses painful experiences to birth our life passions. Eg ex-addicts help others to recover from addictions, those who were abandoned establish shelters for homeless. So do not give the future the right to intimidate you. Let your heart be steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
[Her] heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. [Her] heart is secure, [she] will have no fear; in the end [she] will look in triumph on [her] foes. (Psalm 112:7-8)
Pursue a life with purpose rather than buying into a culture of comfort, easy-living and superficiality – a culture that says happiness comes from having our all our selfish needs met and never-ending desires satisfied. We can give ourselves to something greater than painlessness. We can give ourselves to purpose. We will never be healed of self-centeredness until we are wounded irreparably with love for an aching world. Our soul needs to care for others. Suffering births compassion and the desire to help others.
Trust in the Lord and do good. (Psalm 37:3)
God works all things for the good of those who love Him and seek to fulfil His purposes. (Romans 8:28)
Like a child who brings their broken toy
with tears for us to mend,
So I brought my broken dreams to God
because He is my Friend
And then, instead of leaving Him
in peace to work alone,
I hung around and tried to help
in ways that were my own.
Then, at last, I snatched them back and cried,
“How can you be so slow?”
“My child”, He said, “what could I do,
you never did let go”.
The Struggle to Trust
(this section summarised from Fr Ron Rolheiser)
Perhaps the most important thing we ever need to learn is this: It is safe to love! It is safe to be vulnerable because we are in loving hands. It is safe to surrender because we fall into light, not darkness. It is safe to be weak because the strength we need is found when we give up on our own power. It is safe give up the hurts we cling to because these lose their force when we are in love. It is safe to give ourselves over without fear because, as faith teaches, in the end, all will be well. And it is safe to live our lives with daring because God, as Julian Norwich assures us, sits in heaven, smiling, completely relaxed, his face looking like a marvellous symphony. The world is ultimately safe. It is safe to love.
But it’s not easy to believe that. Perhaps if we had all been loved perfectly, had perfect confidence, and had never been wounded, disappointed, betrayed, or made to cry tears of regret, we would find it easier to believe that it is safe, that we can trust, that we have no need to protect ourselves, and that we do not need to be forever anxious about how we are measuring up, how we are being perceived, how we are being understood, and whether we are worthy of love. Most of the time we find it hard to trust because we find ourselves wounded, lacking confidence, anxious about many things, feeling the need to protect ourselves. It is hard to trust and especially it is hard to show weakness and to be vulnerable. Distrust and self- protection are everywhere. It’s hard to let ourselves be vulnerable, to trust that it is safe to love.
And yet, deep down, vulnerability and surrender are what we most deeply want. Deeper than all of our anxieties and our need to protect ourselves, lies a truth we know at the core of our being, namely, that in the end we cannot take care of ourselves, we cannot make ourselves whole, and we cannot hide our weaknesses from each other. We need to surrender, to trust, to let ourselves fall into stronger and safer hands than our own. But in order to do this we need to trust, trust that it is safe to love, to let go, to reveal whom we really are, to show weakness, to not have to pretend that we are whole and self-reliant. This, as we know, is not easy to do, so we generally risk the cold misery of detachment rather than risk being misunderstood, rejected, shamed, or seen as needy.
How do we move towards trust? How do we, as Henri Nouwen puts it, move from the house of fear to the house of love?There is no easy way, no simple formula. "Surrender and abandonment are like a deep, inviting, frightening ocean into which we are drawn. We make excursions into it to test it, to see whether it’s safe, to enjoy the sensation of it. But, for all kinds of reasons, we always go back to dry land, to solid ground, to where we are safe. But the ocean beckons us out anew and we risk again being afloat in something bigger than ourselves. And we keep doing that, wading in and then going back to safety, until one day, when we are ready, we just let the waters carry us away." [Ruth Burrows, British Carmelite, Guidelines for Mystical Prayer] Surrender is a journey that takes a lifetime. To master this is to be a saint.
God has promised that His grace will be given according to our need. If we trust Him and do not lose hope, we will thrive again. Instead of asking: “What will I do?” which leads to insecurity, fear, stress, anxiety … ask: What will God do? Here are some answers:
I, the Maker of heaven and earth, will:
Perfect everything that concerns you (Psalm 138:8)
Work all things together for your good (Romans 8:28)
Contend with those who contend with you (Isaiah 49:25)
Fight this battle for you (2 Corinthians 20:15)
Equip you with divine power (2 Corinthians 10:4)
Delight to show you mercy (Micah 7:18)
Meet all your needs according to My glorious riches in Christ Jesus ((Philippians 4:19)
Give you grace that is perfectly sufficient ((2 Corinthians 12:9)
Be your power in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)
Do immeasurably more that all you could ask or imagine,
according to the power that is at work within you (Ephesians 3:20)
Some comments from Retreatants:
"Thanks for a magnificent weekend. I benefited so much from the encouragement and the knowledge shared, and I loved the space."
"I gained insight into my life and my pain, and took small steps in healing in my life. The words and exercises we did, had so much love in them. Thank you very much for all the lessons that I learnt; I am so grateful for everything. I gained so much from the retreat. Thank you for your love and for your beautiful hearts."