With the dog days of summer upon me (in this hemisphere) I am experiencing moments of emptiness. It’s like a void opens up wanting to be filled, by something/anything. My new book is in the final stages of being edited – no work to be done there; the site is relatively quiet with everybody away on holidays; my speaking gigs don’t ramp up until the fall; I’m retired. I realize that my ego wants to fill the emptiness, but my soul wants to inhabit it more deeply. For the past thirty years I’ve been a worker. I’ve been driven, to a degree that I wasn’t even aware of.
For me, the emptiness is a kind of aggregate consisting of all the stuff I’ve done over the course of a lifetime, stuff that I did because I was supposed to do it, because it’s what you do if you are a card-carrying member of a driven society. I once took a job painting houses. It lasted for a week. I hated it. As I was painting, I kept asking myself what the meaning of doing this was – other than making some money for university in the fall. I suspect that I stayed working in the church for as long as I did because I got a regular paycheque and was building up my pension. When you’re in it, of course, it’s almost impossible to be honest with yourself about what is keeping you in it.
Now, this is a category—making a living (somehow/anyhow) so that you will be able to achieve another end eventually—that could fill a lot of blog space. Our capitalist system fosters a kind of individualism, whereby everybody lives in their own private silo, overworking in order to have a life some time in the future. Not everybody, I know, but what I see is so many people are devoting precious life energy to a career that holds little meaning or purpose. Jimmy Buffet had a great few lines about some corporate professionals who take a few days off, and go fishing. “They sit on their butt, discuss who caught what, trying to cram lost years into four or five days”.
Or it could just be me.
I sometimes wonder what kind of freedom Jesus must have enjoyed. If it’s true that he was a carpenter, he walked away from it, penniless, trusting that his “Father” would provide, and that Earth would provide, and that the surrounding towns and villages would provide. And he would teach people how to put the Kin(g)dom first, and trust that everything else would be provided for.
Now that I’m sixty, I have tasted that freedom. Just a taste. But for the past two years, since retiring from ministry, I’ve wrestled mightily with trusting like that. I bought into that corporate motto of whatever bank it was, Freedom 55—that freedom was determined by how much money you’d put away by the time you were 55. Well, that went up in smoke when I realized that my marriage was over, and all the grinding and saving and sacrificing, so that one day I could be free, evaporated. I put my trust in the technology bubble. Seek ye first the leading stocks in the leading sectors.
When you are relatively financially secure, it’s almost impossible to know where your security and freedom are located. You can fool yourself into believing that you are trusting Life/G_d. This is why the story of Job is so compelling. That dude had it all and Satan was calling bullshit on Job’s righteousness. Take away the cattle, the sheep, the land, and Job’s true colours, said the devil, would show. Satan even managed to get G_d to doubt Job’s righteousness – that he was a man who put G_d first. This is such a great story because it reveals how tricky it is to discern where one’s heart truly is – that the capacity for deception is so deep that even G_d can’t tell what’s driving you.
But Job prevailed. His heart was actually pure. Even after it was all taken away from him, he showed Satan, G_d, his so-called friends (who I’m sure were delighting in Job’s misfortune), that he was putting the KG first.
Well, my heart wasn’t as pure as Job’s. But it’s getting there. This is what happens when you talk a lot about G0d, but don’t actually experience God. And you don’t experience G_d until you actually trust G_d. And you can’t trust G_d, if you central project is laying up treasure for yourself. Which is why Jesus was always telling people to sell all their stuff, give it to the poor, and hit the road with him, “on the way”. Then the soul comes on-line. Then you have to work through all your anxiety because you’ve let go of a false god who feels a lot more real than the real G_d, because this god is literally “money-in-the-bank”. And then, if you are lucky, you get to taste true freedom.
The emptiness we feel transcends the personal. There is a collective void, I am convinced, caused by generations of people living lives that are not their own, having bought into, through no fault of their own, a system that is not designed for soul. It is not designed for eccentricities. It is not designed for the idiosyncratic. It is not designed for people of the Spirit—the windy, nomadic souls—the ones who you don’t really know where they came from or where they are going. It’s designed for something else. It’s an off-the shelf society that has us confusing endless consumer choice, and money, with freedom.
And while it’s not our fault—most of us were born into it—it is our responsibility to awaken from the consensus trance. Awaken and redeem. Awaken and redeem. Live by love. Only love. Don’t do another thing out of sleepy habit. Awaken, my soul. I am listening, now, finally, I am listening.
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