For some of us, our greatest suffering comes not from our actions, but our self-doubt about our actions, our indecisiveness, our fear that whatever we have done is not the "right thing." In our prayer, we regularly ask for guidance. We need to trust that we are indeed being guided and ask instead to be healing of our waffling and fear, our distrust of ourselves. That is the source of our suffering. Love has the power to touch and transform that delusion.
In Father Gregory Boyle's Barking to the Choir, one of the clients of the gang intervention program says of another that he "learned to be loyal to his own life."
Today, be loyal to your own life. Be loyal to your highest nature, your best self. Be loyal to your talents. Be loyal to your intuition. Be loyal to your true identity. Be loyal to your body, giving it what it needs. Be loyal to your heart, giving it what it needs. Treat yourself with respect and demand the same of others. Be loyal to those tasks and people that have been give to you to love.
More from Father Gregory Boyle's Barking to the Choir:
One of the clients of Boyle's gang intervention program describes God: "God is that person pushing the shopping cart and going through your garbage. Sometimes we don't want him to go through our garbage, but he tells us that he wants to. That's how it is, I think. God holds our garbage and recycles it into love."
Today, know that God takes away those thoughts and beliefs that make us feel separate from Love, that make us feel unworthy. Love takes away the belief that we have to fix ourselves before we can be loved or healed.
More from Father Greg Boyle's Barking to the Choir: "We are forever fretting over things we think ruffle God's feathers. God is not feathered, though. A homie once said to me, 'I think God has disowned me.' But Wisdom writes,'You love all things and loathe nothing.' Why is that so hard for us to digest? We are always trying to 'make a good impression,' but God is not interested."
Speaking of humanity's poor choices, Boyle writes, "Disappointment is not the foot God puts forward. There is instead only a redoubling of God's loving us into kinship with each other. If we truly allow that tenderness to reach us, then peace, justice, and equality will be its byproducts"
Today, instead of seeing yourself as a servant, who is trying to guess what God wants of you and most likely falling short, disappointing God and maybe inviting suffering, know God as a loving parent, eager to give you all that you need and more.
Father Gregory Boyle, founder of the gang intervention program Homeboy Industries, writes: "Some people say 'God is good and God has a plan for you." I believe that God is good but also that God is too busy loving me to have a plan for me. Like a caring parent, God receives our childlike painting of a tree - usually an unrecognizable mess - and delights in it. God doesn't hand it back and say, 'Come back when it looks more like a tree' or tell us how to improve it. God simply delights in us."
I can often fall into the trap of feeling good when it seems my life is in control. In reality, we are never in control. Life is aways full of surprises--and other people with wills and agendas of their own. Of course, take positive action toward a life that matches your values, take responsibility and initiative around what matters to you. But don't measure the success of your life by how well you can manipulate it to match your assumptions or goals. As much as we think we have noble intentions, the effort to control often comes from fear and a need to create a sense of safety.
Instead, pause. Breathe. Feel that there is a stable, spiritual foundation under you. That is your safety, in your ability to rest there and to trust. Know that you usually won't see the big picture, but feel the divine forces at work in your life, driving you toward a fuller, wiser version of yourself - giving you what you need, even when you don't understand yet that you need it.
I recently listened to a podcast interview with psychologist Susan David - and then watched her TED talk.
As I was listening, I realized that we live in a culture that makes happiness our ultimate goal. I realized that I had been feeling shame, worry, and a sense of failure during those stretches of the day when I wasn't feeling happy. David says a more meaningful question to ask than "Am I happy?" is "Am I living a life of value?" and "Am I living in accord with my values?" Our emotions (pleasing or challenging) give us valuable information - and point us toward what we value. When we live lives of meaning in accord with our values, happiness is a side effect.
Today, instead of checking in to see if I'm happy, I'll check in to see if I'm making choices in line with my values. I'll remember that valuable work is sometimes difficult. I won't be afraid of that difficulty.
It is so easy to tell ourselves - and others - a story of ourselves based on our deficits, our perceived failings, our struggles. But for many of us, this story is out of perspective, out of proportion. Instead, tell yourself the more accurate story of your resilience. Your courage. Your effectiveness. Your talents. Your ability to love, be loved and to appreciate. See in others their strengths and reflect those strengths back to them.
Instead of working so hard to improve yourself, to be orderly and productive, to face your faults, to instill good habits, to earn a sense of worthiness, today make your primarily discipline feeling the presence of Love blessing you and accepting the blessing. Again. Feel the presence of Love blessing you. Accept the blessing. That is your primary job today. This will make you more full, more useful, more intuitive.
Father Gregory Boyle writes in Barking to the Choir:
"It is indeed a challenge to abandon the long-held belief that God yearns to blame and punish us, ask us to measure up or express disapproval at every turn . . . But we can feel, nonetheless, God nudging us beyond our tired, atrophied complacence toward something more oceanic and spacious. We feel God's desire for fullness to dwell in us. We are always being pushed and inched closer to 'God who is always greater.'"
"God leans into us so that we let go of the image of God as unreasonable parent, exacting teacher, or ruthless coach. God is not who we think God is. Our search for God is not a scavenger hunt; God is everywhere and in everything. Our sense of God always beckons us to grow, to reimagine something wildly more breathtaking than where our imagination generally takes us. We are nudged toward an increasingly wider view and image of God . . . "
Our sense of longing is not a failure - but Love herself longing that we might know her fullness.
Tarn Wilson is the author of the memoir The Slow Farm and numerous essays. You may read more of her work at tarnwilson.com.