Giving up Heaven

The Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas once said “the only way to the kingdom, is to give up the kingdom.” This has been a quote that has been haunting me for quite some time because the implications of this quote, call me to a much greater state beyond my naturally, narcissistic, defensive, selfish state. For me, it leaves me in a desperate search for something more. The kingdom of God, here and now, is my access to God, here and now. This requires to give up everything, here and now, for someone else’ better here and now.

In my life, I have deeply struggled with the problem of consumption. Consumption has been the perfect masking agent of my own suffering, struggles and to hide from who I am, what I feel, and, is the way I maintain control over “reality”. Consumption, has plagued us all to an extent. America has been conditioned to consume, our well-being depends upon it. As one of the most prophetic movie character in recent history, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) of Fight Club said “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” So what if we gave up the things we didn’t need for the sake of another human being. Maybe, you don’t have the money to give to the poor, but, do you have the time to give to someone suffering? And, if you don’t have the time to listen, do you have enough time to send a thought of encouragement, hope, delight? You’d be surprised how healing these things can be.

One of the greatest things I have learned in my short life, is that the most spiritual things aren’t very spiritual. When we look for God, we don’t go to the rich suburbs (hypocritical, since I live in a rich white suburb), we go to the places of greatest poverty. And, when we look for God, God isn’t in the places where people are in comfort, constant happiness, and strong faith. God is with those who are in extreme despair. For those who live in self-condemnation. I don’t disregard that God want’s your happiness and faith, but, what I do know is that God sees those who live in daily crucifixion. They’re carrying burdens they cannot carry. They’re dying every day. God is in the places where hope is not accessible. For hope, is not present, until it is hopeless, because otherwise they have certainty. Faith, is not available to those who don’t obtain faith, because they have certainty, and, it isn’t needed. God is in the darkness. God is in the sickness. God is in the brokenness. God is immediately accessible to those who are willing to be present with another human being. When we are present with another human being, we are, as Levinas also said, are able to see God in “the holy other.”  As image carriers of God, when we see, another human being suffering, is God not suffering? If God is not suffering, and we are called to be in community with him, to desire what he desires, ought we not to suffer as well?

I don’t find it ironic, that as Jesus’ ministry grew, that Jesus drew himself away from the situation. Jesus knew quite well, that he needed to be well, to be in community with those who aren’t well. He was a master of boundaries. Those who do not receiver their love and worth from God, cannot love and find worth within themselves, and, cannot give love and worth to another human being. However, in order to love what God loves, we need to be exposed to our own brokenness and to the brokenness of those around us. Richard Rohr beautifully once said “we do not change so we can be loved, we are loved so we can change.” We need to fall in love with what is messy in, and, around us. Even, when it hurts. This present earth hurts.

When we live in a race to get to heaven, we lose the mission of God. He wants us to get heaven into us. He wants to bring heaven to earth. I cannot deny, that heaven exists, however, what is the point of this life, if we are just trying to escape. Life was meant to be something that is to be both enjoyed and learned from. When we do not take a moment to stop and examine the world and ourselves, how can we enjoy it? How can we learn from it? When we learn from it, observe it, we also become both broken and delighted in it. We learn to love things that are not perfect, and, when we can love the imperfect, that imperfection moves towards perfection.

In the biography of her life, Mother Teresa said “If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’  I will continually be absent from Heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.” What if we were to take this wisdom from one of the holiest people to walk the earth? What if we surrendered our personal heaven now, to someone else in need of it. What if we were in heaven, and, asked God to come to earth like Jesus did? I don’t think we can children of light, until, we learn how to be saints of darkness.

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