It is instead a question of aligning one’s intention with the God within and with us, through love and in grace. To make the alignment possible, Jesus proclaimed a message of radical forgiveness, not only forgiveness of humanity by God, but also forgiveness of one another by people. In this radical forgiveness, it is even possible to be freed of attachment to one’s own guilt for or justification of the wounds one has inflicted upon others. True love of self, a reverence for the essential goodness of God’s creation, is made possible. Herein lies the potential for endless freedom in the service of love. Nothing, not even one’s own sinfulness, has to remain an obstacle to the two great commandments.
This is the contemplative option-not any system of complicated exercises, but the simple and courageous attempt to bear as much as one can of reality just as it is. To be contemplative, then, is not to be a special kind of person. Contemplation is simply trying to face life in a truly undefended and open-eyed way.
We must not lose hope: God is always and forever at work in the soul and in history. Even this secular world continues to produce mystics and saints.
Men and women are still falling in love with God, especially after they realize how much God has loved them when they were unlovable—and how God trusted them when they could not trust themselves, and how God forgave them when they could not forgive themselves. Be honest, what else would make you fall in love with God?
Authentic freedom and love will not be captured by attachment. Therefore, the journey homeward does not lead toward new, more sophisticated addictions. If it is truly homeward, it leads toward liberation from addiction altogether. Obviously, it is a lifelong process…
There is a strange sadness in this growing freedom. Our souls may have been scarred by the chains with which our addictions have bound us, but at least they were familiar chains. We were used to them. And as they loosen, we are likely to feel a vague sense of loss. The things to which we were addicted may still be with us, but we no longer give them the ultimate importance we once did. We are like caged animals beginning to experience freedom, and there is something we miss about the cage.
Like the Israelites in the exodus, we know we do not want to go back to imprisonment, and we sense we are moving on to a better existence, but still we must mourn the loss of the life we had known. This is a poignant grief, yet somehow soft and gentle. With time, it will grow into compassion: compassion for the spiritual imprisonment of our sisters and brothers, and compassion for the many parts of ourselves that still remain in the chains of addiction. Grief and compassion are part of spiritual growth, the homeward pilgrimage from imprisonment to freedom, the homemaking of deepening love.
Until we walk with despair, and still have hope, we will not know that our hope was not just hope in ourselves, in our own successes, in our power to make a difference, in our image of what perfection should be. We need hope from a much deeper Source. We need a hope larger than ourselves.
Until we walk with personal issues of despair, we will never uncover the Real Hope on the other side of that despair. Until we allow the crash and crush of our images, we will never discover the Real Life beyond what only seems like death. Remember, death is an imaginary loss of an imaginary self, that is going to pass anyway.
This very journey is probably the heart of what Jesus came to reveal.
For the addicted person alone, struggling only with willpower, the desire to continue the addiction will win. It will win because it resides, as we shall see, at the level of biological conditioning, and it is always operative. Willpower and resolutions come and go, but the addictive process never sleeps. The caring community around the person has more potential than this. Even though this community is bound to have its own mind tricks and mixed motivations, it has a chance for a better perspective. Most importantly, the people who care about a chemically addicted person have one another. Grace is always a present possibility for individuals, but its flow comes to fullness through community. Grace flows toward appreciating the truth, toward an accurate understanding of what is going on beneath the confused surface of addiction.
Henri Nouwen – Standing erect, holding our heads high, is the attitude of spiritually mature people in face of the calamities of our world. The facts of everyday life are a rich source for doomsday thinking and feeling. But it is possible for us to resist this temptation and to stand with self-confidence in this world, never losing our spiritual ground, always aware that “sky and earth will pass away” but the words of Jesus will never pass away (see Luke 21:33).