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Faith My Family Personal

Great love and great suffering

There are only two major paths by which the human soul comes to God: the path of great love, and the one of great suffering. Both finally come down to great suffering—because if we love anything greatly, we will eventually suffer for it.

When we’re young, God hides this from us. We think it won’t have to be true for us. But to love anything in depth and over the long term, we eventually must suffer.

Richard Rohr – Life Coming to a Focus Daily Meditation

I’ve often remembered this thought from Richard Rohr – said in different times and different ways, but basically: the path to transformation is either great love, or great suffering.

I used to hear it and struggle to imagine the great suffering. My life has usually been pretty comfortable.

But he’s right, if you open up enough to experience love, then you’re opening yourself up to suffering too.

Parenting has been that journey for me.

A greater love than I knew was there. More pressure than I knew I’d face. More resilience than I could have imagined I’d had, and more than I thought I’d need. More awareness of my own fragility. More delight too.

Our family is definitely still in the pressure cooker. Its hard to say what the lessons learned will be, what the transformation might look like from the other side. For now, it’s hard to get through, and not much sense of hope for change.

Remembering this thought from Richard Rohr gives a glimpse of purpose to the love and suffering of parenting. Maybe this is one of the paths to God.

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Faith Personal

Get Analoguer This Advent

(Disclaimer: My startup journey and my faith overlap in this post. For those of you who want to avoid the theology stop reading now!)

I’m almost at the end of PhDo, a 6 week startup night class that I have been LOVING. One of the key lessons has been about getting your idea started in the quickest, cheapest, fastest way possible.

The idea is that if you wait too long, you work on your idea in secret, you never put it in front of customers, it’s just an idea. You don’t know if it’s something they’ll want or need or appreciate. Until you reach out and touch a human being, you might as well not have done anything.

Sam, the guy running the course, coined a word. Rather than planning a digital masterpiece of an app that might take years to build, is there a simple, manual, analogue way you can solve the same problem for the same person, now.  Not once you have all the resources and the app and the staff team and investment and… No. Can you help meet a need today? Start meeting a need now, help someone out, see if it’s well received, then worry about scaling the solution up for more people.

Get analoguer. Get dirty. Get doing – solve a problem today. Scale later.

I did this wrong with my School Management System app. I never met with the staff, and completely underestimated how complex the problem of tracking student attendance is.  My solution was way too simplistic, and would never be adequate. The project blew out by 10 months and caused a lot of frustration as a result.

I tried to be a messiah and solve this problem, thinking it would be easy.  But I never entered in and felt / understood the pain first. How can you offer help if you have not stood with people and felt their pain and understood the complexity of the problem first?

This is the difference with how Jesus chose to work. He could try solve the world’s problems from in Heaven. Or send some prophet to do the dirty work. Instead he chose to get dirty, get personal, and get in touch with those he was trying to help. Understand their pain and show his solidarity, feel the full weight and complexity of the problem, and show those facing it that you are eager to help, in any way you can, even if you get dirty doing so. Even if it means suffering with them. Even if it means dying with them.

Jesus left the ivory tower of Heaven. He was God, but put his rights as God and abilities as God behind him, he became an ordinary human, wrapped in ordinary human flesh. He got analogue.

Today is the first day of Advent – the season where we anticipate the coming of Jesus to earth, culminating in Christmas.

We join Mary in expecting the birth of the baby Messiah, the God who gave it all up to come and understand our problems and join us in this often-painful world, and resolved to help us in any way he could, no matter the cost.

And we join with the people of faith around the world expecting the second time Jesus will come, having grasped the full complexity and pain of the human condition, and having felt it for himself, he’ll be back with a solution that scales.

Until then, let’s get analoguer and show love to people, not waiting for the perfect plan, strategy or opportunity, but starting right now in a way where you get as close to the problem as you can, and give what you can today, even if it’s not a full and perfect solution.

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Faith Personal

Cloudy Mornings

I’ve been using a book called “Common Prayer“, which acts as a kind of guide to help me think of things to pray about and let my mind chew on each morning, lunch time and night.  (Example: when I usually get distracted by what I’ve got on for the day, it says “pray for others”.  Good idea!)

Anyway, each morning the prayers open with this line:

Lord, let me soul rise up to meet you

As the day rises to meet the sun

The last few weeks, I’ve mostly been reading this and praying this as I begin my walk to work, walking down the street, the morning is still cool, but the sun is shining, and I visualise it: the earth reorients itself once again, so my little corner is facing the sun.  Jason, your turn, reorient yourself, turn and face God.  Starting the day this way is good.

This morning however, it wasn’t sunny.  And I came to pray this line, and went to look up at the sun, to help visualise it, and I couldn’t see it.  It was gone.  The clouds had taken it away.

Now of course, the sun wasn’t gone.  It’s still there.  If it were not, it would be pitch black (not just a little grey), the temperature would be dropping so rapidly we would probably have frozen to death by now, and in general things would be falling apart.  I might not be able to see it, and I might be a little chilly, and a little wet with rain, but if the sun were not there, things would be far, far worse than they are.

This is helpful on the days that I feel a little uncomfortable spiritually, can’t see God and struggle to believe he’s there.  Or maybe I’m not struggling with his existence, but just wondering why he’s not doing anything helpful for me with everything I’m struggling with.  On those days, it’s not that God is gone.  He’s still there, and he’s still keeping the general universe running, even if it’s a little obscured, and even if I’m not as comfortable as I want to be.  If he was genuinely not there, or genuinely had ceased taking any interest in me, things would probably be far worse than they are*.

 

* footnote: I’m lucky enough to be healthy and live in a first world country.  My idea of struggles of course aren’t worth even mentioning when compared to what people in different circumstances.  Something else this prayer book is teaching me to be mindful of.  Is God still there for those people?  I hope so…