Engaging a wisdom path can be difficult, but difficult the path never is. The path is always simple, natural, and affirming. The way, then, is to become like the wisdom we seek to honor and live. When we align with Grace, our life, in that one moment, becomes graceful. We can return to this graceful communion at any time, anywhere. We need never tire of returning to Life, for our lives, in a sense, or just that, a returning again and again and again .... This is the rhythm of our walk with Life, even as the breath, through inbreathing, returns into the body, to move outward again, then returns once more.
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A dear member of a church I served as pastor came to me after a Sunday worship gathering. She spoke kindly, "Brian, I see you truly believe what you are saying, but I see you are struggling to live it."
I was relieved this dear one could see and speak what I knew to be true. I could see she was speaking from Love, compassionately. I remain thankful for her words, and those words still encourage me.
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Thankfully, I was struggling. "Thankfully?," one could reply. Yes, how blessed are we if we see Truth and, so, are responding to participate in living Truth.
Most persons, it seems, are not engaged in such a struggle, for they have not sensed a leading to experience this inner call of Grace. So, this is why some persons can show no interest in the Truth at all. This is not a matter of one being right and the other wrong, however. We are awakened or not to the inner summons to Truth, and why one senses the call and responds, why another senses it and does not respond, and why one never has an awareness of the call at all, who knows why? This is not necessarily wrong, simply the way Life works. We are prepared to receive this summons and step out on this way, when we are prepared to do so.
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The process of Grace itself is natural however, as reflected in a Scripture from my youth, attributed to Jesus. A verse from that extended speech in the Gospel of John, verse 5, sums up the heart of the sharing: "I am the vine, and you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will bear much fruit; for you can do nothing without me" (GNB). Then, shortly afterward, verse 9, Jesus instructs us to "remain in my love" (GNB). So, to abide in Christ, is to abide in Love. And we may or may not call this Christ, we may choose another way of speaking of this Life enfolding life. It seems clear, the early followers of Jesus had experienced something in his presence that transcended life and death, and they lived this in conscious connection to the something more in Jesus, even as we experience a transcending Grace through bodies of those we love dearly. And, do we not, when deeply suffering, find relief in the physical appearance, voice, and maybe hug of someone we love and who loves us? So, likely most Buddhists, for example, will link Grace with the historical Buddha, Gautama, as many Hindus will with Krishna, and Christians with Jesus. Yet, this same Life is everywhere, in every face. We will never know, likely, why one loves Jesus, another Buddha, and another another body and face of adoration and worship. Yes, "Christ" has many faces, the "Vine" many appearances.
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The organic communion and fruition Jesus teaches sounds simple, and is simple, as simple as the vine and branch living in each another and, then, the appearing of fruit in agreement with that connection. We see this evidence in nature, naturally, each year, over and over.
If simple, where the struggle? Very little in our environments encourage us into an organic communion with Life. We, rather, are taught to master life, to create a life for ourselves. We call this success.
Yet, in this Scripture, Jesus represents the Life we all participate in by nature. For this to work well for us, we must consciously agree with this native communion and embody it through our own consciousness. We may struggle, then, partly for so much in our mind protests against the organic nature of this communion, including trusting the natural, graceful process of the loving and the fruition.
Basically, the societal message we can get is, "Yes, all that Jesus talk about vine and branch may work for a vine and branch, but not you or me." This vine and branch way is, for most, not pragmatic enough. So, we are taught to seek to impose ourselves on nature and Life. We are even taught to assert our control to produce salvation or enlightenment. We are self-made ones, or so we think. Yet, can we expect natural fruition to arise from an unnatural relationship with nature? with Grace? with ourselves?
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So, what do we do, if we struggle to live aligned with Life? Honor the struggle as a manifestation leading through the struggle. As in my response to the dear one who spoke to me in the church, the struggle is a sign of your intent to say "Yes" with your life to Life. Relax the struggle consciously, without judging yourself. Invite moments into your days and nights to open up to this mysterious Life, to practice the truth that you abide in the Vine, in Love. You may wish these moments to be in silence, or you may wish to pray a prayer of recognition and surrender, you may dance, you may chant, you may sing, you may take a quiet walk appreciating the wonder of the surroundings, or you may attend a worship or meditation gathering. There is no one way to engage this conscious receptivity to Life, to cultivate this communion-in-Love.
And I realize some persons will not feel drawn to any need for formal practice of this communion, yet to deny one needs a conscious nurturing of this communion is likely another of the subtle 'spiritual' traps. A friend told me recently of a woman who, after many years of marriage, asked her husband as to why he never told her he loved her. He replied that he told her that when they got married. This is what I mean ~ communion is a relationship, not simply a something fixed in time-and-space. Communion is a union we consciously nurture to enrich it and be the means of its expression in gracing the world. The communion is and is becoming. So, "I love you" is not merely a fact, it is a movement, a process, implying something living, and living things need attention. "I love you" is to be consciously engaged, nurtured, not simply affirmed as true. This, likewise, with the "vine" and its "branch."
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Does one move beyond the struggle to live in trusting alliance with Grace, living as naturally as the branch lives in and from the vine? Maybe, maybe not. The struggle becomes less however, as we engage consciously releasing the struggle. We grow to be more quietly, calmly responsive to the inner movements of Grace. We grow to be more comfortable in the in-between times, when we are in waiting for what Grace will manifest in response to a need or as to a major decision we have presently no response for.
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We need not fear this surrender. This surrender is simply an agreement and relaxing into the communion itself. When we say "Yes" to the vine, we say "Yes" to the branch, and we say "Yes" to the fruit. And, yes, we say "Yes" to Love.
*Brian Wilcox. 'tranquil waters'. Flickr.
Kennebec River, Bath, Maine.
(C)Brian K Wilcox, 2019