The Truth Shall Set You Free. . .
March, 2021 “You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” John 8:32 Dear friends, In one of my recent Zoom meetings, participants were being trained as “interventionists” (how to intervene in drug and alcohol addiction). As one of the speakers, I was introduced to the group as a person who had an “authentic spirituality.” I was privately surprised and wondered what they meant by that description? After the conference, I wrote down a few thoughts; here are my reflections on the topic of what it means to be “real” or “authentic.” At some level, being authentic in any spiritual experience is about “letting go.” In our consumer society where we want to attain more and more, letting go of anything is not a high value. Usually the world thinks that more is better--more stuff, more security, more food, more of whatever (fill in the blanks). Jesus reminds us, however, that “the truth sets us free.” Once we understand the entanglements around us, we see them as traps which can keep us from real freedom, real honesty, and real spirituality. One’s first steps in spiritual growth can often be the willingness to “let go”—let go of our own will so that we can follow the Lord’s. My friend and mentor, Father Mathias, a monk at the New Melleray Monastery in Iowa, put it this way: “The spiritual life is more about subtraction than addition.” The Alcoholic Anonymous first step is pretty clear: “My life is out of control and unmanageable and I turn my life and will over to God as I understand Him.” The freedom Jesus offers us calls us to “let go” of our ego, identity, cultural biases, and, yes, even our fear of loss and death. Freedom in Christ means letting go of wanting or needing more, releasing control and ego, and relinquishing our illusion of being right or even manipulating God to fit into our own needs. Remember, as I often say, “your ego is not your amigo.” Recently my friend who runs the corner deli was preparing to return to his war torn country of Yemen in order to help his family. His name is actually Mohammed but he goes by Mike; we became friendly and he laughed when I started calling him “Mohammed Mike.” He and I created our own street ministry where during the early days of the pandemic lockdown, I sent the homeless to him with a coupon, and he would provide them a deli sandwich and drink, for which I paid him later. As we said goodbye recently, Mike said, “Mr. B.J., I am taking two things back to Yemen-- your “very important book” (FELLOWSHIP: Stories of Transformation) and the value of our friendship. It seems to me the “authentic” spiritual life revolves around loving one another as Christ has loved us. Let us pray that we can start by letting go of various impediments to friendship, lack of forgiveness, judgment, potential prejudice, or fear-based politics (on either side). Wisdom comes with inner peace and freedom from self, without which we cannot truly love. Jesus says in John 13:34, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” Let us pray to befriend people, reach out to those who are alone, lonely and disenfranchised. We never know how a kind word or loving embrace might bring about a friendship like my deli friend Mike, whose only exposure to the love of Christ has been an old rugby player who enjoyed a cup of coffee at his local deli while we chatted about the meaning of life, love, and Jesus. Praying for such a grace for us all, B.J. Weber