Being Precedes Doing By Aaron Craner

 In Being

A MYSTIC: (as defined by Richard Rohr)

Is simply, one who has moved from mere belief or belonging systems to actual inner experience of God…more represented in John’s Gospel than in the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke)

Alan Watts wrote: “From the beginning, institutional Christianity has hardly contemplated the possibility that the consciousness of Jesus might be the consciousness of the Christian, that the whole point of the gospel is that everyone may experience union with God in the same way…as Jesus himself.”

Watts also wrote: “The truth that religion, to be of any use, must be mystical has always been denied by the seemingly large number of people, including theologians, who do not know what mysticism is…  Its essence is the consciousness of union with God. “ [1]

Who we are and what we are, will dictate thoughts, words and actions.  A dog barks, a duck quacks and so forth. We cannot manipulate this, we cannot change who we are by modifying behavior or by reading a script.  But this does not mean we cannot change. In fact, if you look around, you will see that change is inevitable for all of life. This process of change is often gradual, tricking us into believing that it is not continually taking place.  The truth is that none of us, living and breathing, are the same today as we were yesterday. If we accept this reality in the spirit of fear, we will believe we are victims to time and age, and change will be something that robs from us. But if we accept this reality in the spirit of love we will have hope that we don’t have to stay the same, that we can be different, better, more loving, more creative, filled with peace and joy.  The hope is that we can and will become more and more like Jesus. This thought, that “being comes before doing,” is not meant to discredit our responsibilities in the actions we take. The way we live, the actions we take and the words we speak, reveal who we are and the faith we have. James in his epistle says that “…faith without action is lifeless.” And there are modes of thought, like that of the Franciscans, who believe we are to live our way into new ways of thinking.  Truly, if you sit in this, the ideas of both “being precedes doing” and “the importance of our actions” do not contradict one another. In fact, both are important, who we are and what we do, both pointing to the other, so it is not being or doing, but being and doing. 

But where does this kind of change, rooted in love, seeded with hope begin? 

For most, when we think of changing, we begin to feel overwhelmed and even defeated at the impossible task set before us. A work that may prove little reward. If you feel this hopeless perspective on change before you, I believe it is because you think you have to do it alone and be the cause of change for yourself. The truth is: you cannot change yourself. This does not mean you don’t have a responsibility in the process though, because it is also true that for this change of betterment to happen, you must have a yes for it and agree with the process. So, the irony is, that instead of grasping, clawing, striving and working toward change, we simply need to agree, let go, surrender and rest.  The world says we must fight for what we want and take what we need. God says we must surrender to him and receive. This surrender takes courage, for it will challenge us in a myriad of ways and it will feel much like a battle.

Before the city awakes,
Before the giants rise from their slumber,
Demanding our production,
Before our lists of to-dos begin,
We must simply be, 
We must listen, 
be still, 
rest, and
Be present.

Where does this change or transformation take place, or at least begin?

In the quiet, in the stillness, where the I Am of God is met, and the I am of us is set before him, and communion between the two take place.  We are not alone in our efforts; in fact, it is much less about effort than it is about surrender. Surrendering to the very presence of God and his nature in communion with him.  
This is enough, he is enough.

In John 6, Jesus preaches an all-inclusive message that empties the mountain side of his followers, the crux being verse 56:

“The one who eats my body and drinks my blood lives in me and I live in him.”

He makes it clear shortly after that he is speaking of spiritual matters and not cannibalism. But the offense has already set into the crowd and it is only his devoted, surrendered disciples that remain. If you are following Jesus be sure that you will be offended, but if you have the resolve that Peter displays, “…Lord, to whom would we go?” , you will continue to grow in your union with Jesus and will also learn of his deep care and compassion for you and the world.

Jesus is speaking of becoming one, where he calls us to him, and we go, receiving him. 

We are to go to him hungry and desperate.
He is the main course.
He is the meal set before us.
We don’t change Jesus, he changes us.
We are what we eat!

There is much betrothal language in the bible regarding our relationship to Jesus.

Becoming one with him, where our identities are no longer that of a separate individual, but one where we haven’t an identity apart from him.  As though our name is no longer just Aaron or simply Nicki, but Christ’s Beloved Aaron, or Jesus’ Beloved Nicki and so forth. In the gospel of John, John does not give his name to the reader, instead, he refers to himself on a number of occasions as the disciple or one whom Jesus loved (John 20:2).  His identity was/is the Beloved. And as you read John and even the other gospels watch for the deep intimacy that is portrayed between John and Jesus. It is John who leans upon the breast of Jesus at Peter’s prompting during the last supper, to ask his Lord who his betrayer will be. John seemed to hear the language of Jesus, calling his disciples into union with him.  This is all throughout the gospels and understood and written about in the epistles too. I think a challenge for us with this betrothal language is that we have a hard time separating the idea of sex from marriage and this muddies the water. The whole of this topic is for another day, but, let me say this at least… sex is simply the physical representation of deep intimacy and connection within a marriage, which is the most sacred relationship between two people.  A marriage between two people is meant to draw us into deeper understanding of the relationship God desires to have with us, intimate, deep, devoted and covenantal. Most if not all physical things are meant to help us understand spiritual things.  

It is the mystics who thrive instead of simply surviving the faith journey. The rational mind will fail you, for God has established the laws of nature and yet he is not bound to them.  We can see the face of the creator in his beloved creations. I can see God’s might in the mountains, but he is mightier still. I can see his glory in the skies, but even this expanse does not contain him. Beyond into the galaxies he shows us that even in darkness he is light.

It is good to grow in knowledge of God, but without love, accepting him in the unknowing first, this growth and knowledge quickly becomes a box that we will strive to build around God.

A box built to contain God!?

How utterly ridiculous and foolish an idea.

I don’t think many of us know that this is what we are doing to God in our lives. But if you don’t spend time in God’s presence, waiting in the mystery, receiving his love and surrendering yourself to him in love, you are doing this. There are things that our hearts must learn that our brains cannot. And it is only until we have received the knowledge of the heart that we can put words to it.

Think about this when you ask a question of God, are you asking a multiple answer question or an open-ended question? Have you released your need to control God’s answer to you? If you haven’t, it’s likely that you won’t hear the answer, or perhaps the answer from God will be a question. Often that’s how Jesus responded to people in his time of ministry, with a question. He refused to be manipulated or boxed in.  God uses questions to draw us into a deeper relationship with him where trust is built. So, if we are unhappy with a question as an answer from God, maybe we need to reassess our purpose in talking with him.

This moment of being present and surrendering is not a one-time thing. Just like our bodies require the intake of food regularly, our spirit, more importantly, requires the intake of Jesus regularly. Salvation is an ongoing, lifelong journey, where the first step is meant to be the beginning of a pilgrimage. 

Wisdom allows us to hold two or more ideas or truths together in harmony that otherwise would seem to be in contradiction. Such as, Jesus calls us his friend, seats us on the thrones of princes and queens, but he does not call us his equal. This is the invitation to meekness. Knowing who we are in the light of who God is.

In the mystery, that is where change begins and continues, in communion with Jesus.

A revelation from God does not answer all our questions, but it is meant to answer the question that will draw us deeper into the mystery and unknowing. To commune with him, to surrender our lives to receive his life, to allow his nature to become our nature, we must let go of our need to understand all.  It is in this place of intimacy, stillness and quiet, that we grow in trust with him, where his very presence assures us of his purpose and plans of love, “Plans to prosper (us) and not to harm (us), plans to give us hope and a future.” (Jeremiah 29:11) 

It is here that our being becomes one with his being.


[1] Richard Rohr. Inner Experience of God. Sunday, September 24, 2017, Daily Meditations

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