The Way of Descent (4)
1. God's Grace Embraces Us Whole
the praying personality (overall picture)
concerned with all levels of our personality
to re-order them in relation to each other and our awareness
to realign them to God, so that the Spirit can flow
God's desire is for our wholeness - whole people wholly offered to God
Love the Lord your God with all your .......... (Luke 10)
2. Prayer is the Descent into Our Inner Self
the work of the inner room - the inner room as the image of the inner self (Matthew 6)
becoming aware of how each layer of our praying personality operates
and how distortion can corrupt its working
cleansing that layer, disciplining it, purifying it, enabling it to operate most effectively in prayer.
hard work, but energises us for engagement with the Other
3. God Desires Truth in our Innermost Being - 1
Inaccuracies in our perception mean that we cannot relate appropriately to other people (and can also harm our relationship with God) (Matthew 7)
The more accurately we see ourselves, the more we accurately we will be able to see the Other person and how to help them/serve them/evangelise them. We will have more authority with them because they will sense that we understand their wounds from the inside. Not superiority but another person who is a "work in progress"
4. God Desires Truth in our Innermost Being - 2
In order to become aware of our inner lives, we have to take time to study how we are thinking and feeling. Monitor, record and reflect upon our reactions to what happens. Journal, letters to a friend, painting, talking with a good listener. What am I thinking/feeling? Why am I thinking or feeling like this? How should I respond? By externalising our thoughts and feelings we can see them more accurately and assess them with greater objectivity.
Benefit is cumulative. Over time, we begin to see patterns emerging, both in what seems to happen to us, and how we respond to it. Not only individual incidents are important. These patterns are the raw material of wisdom about ourselves, and others.
Missing an odd day does not matter. Persistence and perseverance matter. Keep going. (Psalm 51) Understanding energises us.
5. God Desires Truth in our Innermost Being - 3
God wants those who will worship him in Spirit and in truth (John 4). The truth referred to here is not just the truth of Jesus, but the truth of ourselves. Key is a rigorous honesty. The more honest we are with ourselves about ourselves, the more we will understand Jesus, the more deeply we will relate to him, identify with him and come to resemble him.
6. God Calls Us to Baptism
Baptism is the sign that we have begun our journey with Jesus. It is a statement of our faith in Jesus as the One who has saved us from the eternal consequences of sin and evil. Jesus did this by showing us, once and for all, that love overcomes all our adversaries, including and especially, all forms of destruction and death.
The keys to progress - Honesty, Humility, Love, Faith, Hope
This “way” is the experience of people whose compassion, confidence, creativity and courage are tested and tested and tested again; who must find within themselves the capacity to make a generous response to each new problem and each new enemy, despite the fact that there is no end to them; and who must face each layer of fear as it arises and act in faith, love and hope regardless of the fact that they are afraid. It is our journey through the troubles of life to the point when we meet with death.
Essentially, it is the story of how the faithful one travels through dreadful perils for the sake of a rich-reward. The path they follow – always difficult – becomes more dangerous with every step they take. Though they set out with companions, at the end they are on their own. Alone, they must make the fateful choice on which everything else depends. The reward itself has faded or become ever more remote, until they are left with the journey and the need to complete it. To save what they love, they must give themselves utterly, reserving nothing, accepting fear and loss and grief and death. All that they value, hoped for, dream of, falls away, but still they continue on the narrowing way.
Sometimes that is the last that we see of them.
For those who take it, this is a way of grace and discipline. It can only be described, envisaged, interpreted and analyzed in images, metaphor and story.
Our need never grows less. Indeed, as we travel, and the “way of descent” takes us into the depths of ourselves, our communities and our world, our need increases. Compassionate work - whether with individuals or communities - can be gruelling. Our engagement with broken hearts, fractured minds, bruised egos, wounded souls and corrupted spirits can be abrasive. But if we travel with honesty and trust, this very abrasiveness becomes the means whereby we are emptied out, scoured clean, purified in such a manner that our capacity to receive the Spirit of God is enlarged.
Baptism is the sign of the journey not just because the road is hard but because we need to remember abundance as we travel it. Indeed, only by remembering - or imagining - abundance, can we travel it. The fountain of life and light is one image that helps us to do this: that gives us access to the abundant life of God. Imagining abundance, it is possible for us to hear and answer the call, not just at the beginning, when we first come to Christ, but every morning, as we open our eyes upon the world and face the day.