Posts Tagged ‘fulfillment’

PROVERBS 1:20-33

20 Wisdom cries out in the street;
    in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out;
    at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?
How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing
    and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof;
I will pour out my thoughts to you;
    I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused,
    have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
25 and because you have ignored all my counsel
    and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity;
    I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm,
    and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,
    when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer;
    they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge
    and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel,
    and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way
    and be sated with their own devices.
32 For waywardness kills the simple,
    and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure
    and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

The Wisdom literature of the ancient Near East, some of which is represented in the biblical writings of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, and the Psalms, envisions the living form of the human being as maturing along a path toward fulfillment. Imagining a straight line, we might thus represent the ideal trajectory of a human life as progressing from genesis to fulfillment, moving through predictable passages and developmental stages along the way.

In real life, each human being makes choices that take him or her in a winding fashion, at times crossing over but then diverging from this evolutionary life-line. Those points in experience when our path intersects or briefly merges with this ideal line are called “opportunities.” Listening to the voice of Wisdom can increase the frequency of our opportunities and deepen our fulfillment in life.

The voice of Lady Wisdom in the mythology of the Bible is portrayed as calling to the human being so as to choose and live according to the path of greatest happiness. Even though we may think at times that our happiness will be best served by way of this or that pleasure, achievement, or fortune, the truth is that we are happiest when we are following the guiding line of our Human Ideal. Wandering off course brings natural consequences, not punishment.

PSALM 111

Praise the Lord!
I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart,
    in the company of the upright, in the congregation.
Great are the works of the Lord,
    studied by all who have pleasure in them.
Full of honor and majesty is his work,
    and his righteousness endures for ever.
He has caused his wonderful works to be remembered;
    the Lord is gracious and merciful.
He provides food for those who fear him;
    he is ever mindful of his covenant.
He has shown his people the power of his works,
    in giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of his hands are faithful and just;
    all his precepts are trustworthy,
they are established for ever and ever,
    to be performed with faithfulness and uprightness.
He sent redemption to his people;
    he has commanded his covenant for ever.
    Holy and terrible is his name!
10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
    a good understanding have all those who practice it.
    His praise endures for ever!

The ‘fear of the Lord’ near the end of this poem of praise to God is not about being afraid of God, unless we are willing to expand the notion to include the kind of respect and cautious attention we give to things in life that are dangerous enough to do us in, should we lose our focus or balance. Driving a car, for instance, requires what we might call a ‘fear of the road’, which means that it is wise to have the big picture, follow the law, and drive defensively if you want to reach your destination in safety.

Before the religions of modernity domesticated the Holy and began to enclose the divine inside inerrant scriptures and dogmatic orthodoxies, God was revered as the origin and end of all things, the deepest source and highest reality, encompassing yet involved energetically in the world of time. The ‘will of God’ was more than a reference to the ethical commandments; it was thought to be the providential power moving all of creation to its fulfillment.

If you want to come into the fulfillment of your own life, then you need to put yourself into alignment with God’s will. Be careful though, because if you thoughtlessly stumble off the path or intentionally leave it in pursuit of your own glory, you are likely to end up in a ditch. When you respect your place in the order of things and look for the signals of God’s will in your life, you will be given true understanding.

JOHN 4:5-15

5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 

11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

“I thank the Lord, blessed be, that I was not born a woman, a Samaritan, or a dog.” Such was one of the prayers that Jewish men might frequently utter on the street corner or in private, directed to a god who was all about separation, purity, and control.

This poor soul, born as a woman and a Samaritan, was in a bad place culturally speaking. Her people, the Samaritans, had made the unfortunate decision centuries earlier to give up their Israeli pedigree and intermarry with neighboring groups. Just as your typical dog in the street would have been a mongrel and half-breed, so this Samaritan woman was literally a hopeless mix of nonredeemable elements.

And a woman? Maybe even worse. She – Woman as mythic archetype – was the one who first disobeyed god in the Garden and listened to the serpent instead. And the serpent – again as archetype – was a representation of slithering darkness, the slippery principle of metamorphosis, bound to the earth and the very embodiment of rhythmic time. She had fallen for the snake, which subsequently made her a captive to the dark forces of night, moon, and blood.

Woman was dangerous.

But she is also necessary to the tribe’s continuation through the generations. So, woman needed to be carefully controlled. Strict rules about when and how she could be seen in public, what roles she was permitted to occupy in society, and where she stood in the sacred hierarchy of things – all of it kept her busy, distracted, and safely out of the way.

In first-century Judaism, woman was saved by association – not for what or who she was, but for where she belonged, and to whom. So when she found Jesus (a Jewish man) in her path, this Samaritan woman was probably tracing out her proper avoidance maneuvers.

                                                                                             

Everything could have gone without a hitch, but then Jesus spoke up and requested a drink of water from the bucket she had drawn up from the well.

We need to pause briefly here to acknowledge a few metaphorical signals that the author has placed on the stage of this story. The time of their meeting is “almost noon,” just at the apex of the Light principle and before the day begins its slide into Darkness. They meet at a well, a symbol of depth and mystery, provision and life. And then of course there’s the woman herself – archetype of Earth-power, embodiment, and generativity.

This may help us appreciate Jesus’ “living water” as more than a conventional reference to running water, or water drawn from a moving stream rather than a still well. This living water will slake the thirst of the soul for eternal life – not everlasting life later and somewhere else, but abundant life now … now … now.

Every human being, in his or her inmost self (soul) longs for wholeness, fulfillment, and communion. In the spirit of the story’s central metaphor, we all thirst for “deep wellness.” Not life derived or siphoned off some external source, but “gushing up” as a living spring from within.

Precisely because it is not derived and secondary but always accessible by a deep descent into the spiritual ground of every individual’s existence, this living water – this answer to the soul’s quest and fulfillment of its deepest desire – cannot be managed by religion, qualified by orthodoxy, or confiscated by any empire.

Conventional systems of division, hierarchy and control cannot allow for a spirituality that is mystically oriented, direct and spontaneous, transcendent of doctrines, and instantly available to all.

Letting that loose into the world could foment a revolution. And no empire wants that.

 

PSALM 29

1 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
2 Ascribe to the Lord the glory of his name;
    worship the Lord in holy splendor.

3 The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over mighty waters.
4 The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.

5 The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
8 The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the Lord causes the oaks to whirl,
    and strips the forest bare;
    and in his temple all say, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

In addition to the conventional tasks fulfilled by the gods and goddesses of the ancient world – managing the cosmos, blessing the fields, flocks, and women with fertility, giving victory in war and upholding the moral order – the God of Israel was rather unique for his attention to the forward progress of history.

This can partly be explained as reflecting the fact of Israel’s tribal and national experience, beginning as a nomadic people, having to contend with the near-constant threat of invasion once they settled Palestine, and undergoing the profound trauma of deportation and captivity in Babylon.

The current state of affairs for them as a nation was something that kept them looking to the horizon of the future for deliverance, security, or fulfillment. But beneath this psychological explanation lies a deeper spiritual one: the God of Israel was the transcendent anchor-point outside the turning cycles of time, who awakened and inspired in his people the self-understanding of being an instrument of a greater will and purpose.

That’s not to say that Israel couldn’t appreciate the mystery of being in the Now, or enjoy the passing beauty and pleasures of the moment. For them, however, the present moment was not defined so much by the revolutions of time past, as by the progressive realization of God’s promised future. Israel’s difference from other surrounding cultures is most pronounced in this idea of time as evolutionary and forward-moving.

PSALM 147:12-20

12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem!
    Praise your God, O Zion!
13 For he strengthens the bars of your gates;
    he blesses your children within you.
14 He grants peace within your borders;
    he fills you with the finest of wheat.
15 He sends out his command to the earth;
    his word runs swiftly.
16 He gives snow like wool;
    he scatters frost like ashes.
17 He hurls down hail like crumbs—
    who can stand before his cold?
18 He sends out his word, and melts them;
    he makes his wind blow, and the waters flow.
19 He declares his word to Jacob,
    his statutes and ordinances to Israel.
20 He has not dealt thus with any other nation;
    they do not know his ordinances.
Praise the Lord!

Spirituality advances and unfolds through the course of a human lifespan according to a development logic that is well documented and represented widely across the world cultures. Using the conceptual model of trimesters in pregnancy, we have identified the critical opportunities and challenges that human spiritual growth must address and successfully negotiate in the journey to fulfillment.

In summary fashion, we can name the principal idea of God at each stage using the terms Providential Power (stage/trimester 1), Patron Deity (stage/trimester 2), and Ground of Being (stage/trimester 3).

In the first trimester our relationship to God is to One who watches over us, cares for us, and provides for our basic needs. At this stage our world awareness hasn’t yet expanded to to the point of confronting other perspectives and value systems. We simply cannot comprehend that someone else may have a notion of God different from our own.

During the second trimester, however, as alternative worldviews and lifestyles become impossible to avoid or ignore, we will typically come to the conclusion of the psalmist – that these others do not (for they can not) know the true God, who is our God.

If spirituality is allowed to progress, we will eventually come to the awareness of God as transcending (going beyond) theology altogether, while at the same time immanent to all things as the essential ground of being itself.

It seems that this sense of privilege and exclusive favor that comes during the second period is somehow necessary to a healthy spirituality – as long as it can be prevented from hardening into a self-centered fundamentalism.