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Burn-Out & God

Burn-Out & God

I guess that God knows all about burn-out, having seen so many of us succumb to that particular psycho-spiritual pitfall. The trouble is, most of us recovering religious junkies found God at a young age when we hadn’t yet discovered who we really are, and perhaps more importantly, what God is really looking for in our mutual friendship. Is it any wonder that so many of us ditch the religion and God of our youth to be ‘normal’, and sleep in on Sunday mornings.

I reckon the whole concept of discipleship is partly to blame. To be a follower of the Nazarene is to self deny and take up our cross ad nauseam. Boy, what a life to sign up to. Thousands of church services over our three score years and ten, months spent in intercessory, battling prayer and of course, last but not least the endless voluntary work, known as ministry expected from all good disciples. It all sounds so holy and sacrificial, and if we know anything the Divine is really into sacrifice, especially that of His beloved Son. Some New Testament scholars believe Christianity to be an updated version of Greek Stoicism, and I can see why. Virtue as the highest form of happiness sounds all too familiar to my religious junkie mindset of old. Yes, God is a quality controller who expects from us the high standards of the Nazarene, especially on Sundays.

So where is the flaw in all of this. What exactly is discipleship and is its end result always burn-out. Well, may I humbly suggest that we have lost the Middle Eastern meaning of discipleship. All Jewish Rabbis, at least those of note and a good reputation had their disciples; generally a band of men, who modelled themselves on their master’s lifestyle and teaching. Of course like all discipleship models it had its drawbacks, with rivalry and power struggles always a possibility. Yet, at its essence it was all about following. Yeshua, bar Josef was no different. He asked his motley crew of men and women, to follow him, but was it a journey into dour sacrificialsm? I believe not.

The Nazarene claimed that his yoke was easy and his burden, light. These rabbinical buzz words had a special meaning. Yoke and Burden referred to the general life teaching of a spiritual master. In other words, Yeshua was saying that what he asked of his followers was quite simple and easy to fulfil, in comparison to many of the other yokes and burdens kicking around the Judaism of his day. Peter, James and John and gang were simply to love God and their neighbours in the same way the Galilean did. Just an imitation of sorts, yet not one to be squeezed out of stoical human effort, but one to be channeled from Divine Source, a reflex action of the Love that touches all. The taking up of the cross wasn’t a call to suffering but a call to liberation from the dictates of ego. Such a radical following of the Nazarene, would release the tortured will into the Divine destiny. A letting go to trump all lettings go.

‘I have come to bring life and life more abundantly’ now begins to make sense. A life of realignment and connection with Source, the Love that flows to all, if only we will ditch our old sacrificial thinking. To follow the Nazarene is not to crucify Self, but detach from ego and its incessant, fear fuelled demands. Self is made to flourish and create in the divine economy, not hang on a religious cross and pride itself on its suffering.

So where does that leave all of us religious burn-outs. Well, I reckon that somewhere along the line we have been presented with a form of Christianity whose yoke is far from easy and its burden, heavier than lead. We attempted to slave our way to holiness in the guise of sacrificial love and it back-fired. Our bodies, psyches and spirits had enough and declared so in quite dramatic fashion. ‘Stop’ they cried and so we did, often unwillingly, for the death loving virus within religion is a hard one to shift. Lying in a faithless heap we wondered if we’d ever again feel the Presence that started it all. And of course, in time the call comes, not to stoicism and religious hoop jumping, but to stillness and touch, the compassionate embrace of the Divine Samaritan. The Master has returned.

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Curve Ball

Curve Ball

When we’re floating along the calm ocean of spiritual experience we imagine it to be plain sailing all the way. We are mistaken. When we reach a plateau of Awareness and inner peace we believe it to be the summit. It isn’t. When we’ve hit lots of home runs and are confident of our spiritual strike rate, we are suddenly taken aback by a curve ball. And so it was last Tuesday! I’d better explain.

For the past two summers I’ve ‘suffered’ from a chapped and often cracked lower lip Initially my local doctor, said nothing to worry about and gave me a hydrocortisone cream to settle it down, which it did for a few weeks. It didn’t last, so I resigned myself to the fluctuations of a lip problem that was probably minor in nature.

Until last week that is when my doctor sent me to a dermatologist who within seconds diagnosed my lower lip as a victim of a precancerous skin condition. In  her pristine white coat and emotionless face she delivered her conclusions with cold efficiency. My poor wee psyche was stunned, spluttering a few irrelevant questions in her direction to try to gain a foothold in my quickly vanishing inner equilibrium.

Being a bit of a hypochondriac, a story in itself, I was programmed to hear doctors proclaim, ‘Nothing to worry about Dylan’. This time the old tapes didn’t roll, replaced instead by a clinician’s non-bedside pronouncement. After hearing the gory details of what non-treatment could result in, I was referred to a maxilla-facial surgeon here in Lincoln, who would more than likely recommend an innocent sounding procedure known innocuously as a lip shave!. it is a misnomer – the removal of my lower lip’s surface layer of skin and the creation of a new lip by stretching excess skin from within my mouth to create a new smiling me.

On the way out my dermatologist friend finally added a ‘nothing to worry about Mr Morrison’, as she handed me a tick box form to record my irrelevant impressions of my consultation experience. Too late the damage was done. My old sub-personalities who see death behind every lamp-post had kicked in, transmitting pictures of a grieving Zan  and a  whining wee black doggy frantically looking for her departed master. Oh, the power of fear! It truly is awful in its vice-like grip on our sense of being.

A week later, I’ve regained some sort of perspective on my new pre-cancerous friends living on my lower lip. They are messengers – transmitters of a call to growth and healing. How bizarre that a prodigal prophet should have his lips tell him something isn’t right. Sounds like a bit of a sick Cosmic joke, but there it is for all to see. Time to break camp, leave behind my spiritual ease and take the next climb up Jacob’s ladder, that stairway to heaven that leaves no stone unturned.

I’m listening to my body and the inner wisdom that I believe is there for all of us to tap into. As I seek to journey into my core Self, frantic, fearful little messages try to knock me off course with threats of an early demise. Flap as they will, this is a time for growth, for an expansion of consciousness, for a new awareness of how much we shy away from our destiny as images of Divine Love. So, I’m listening and waiting. All is well and shall be well, is my mantra of choice to steady the ship of my fragile psyche-soul, as we navigate the unknown seas that stretch out before me. To be honest, I was expecting such a catalyst to further growth and the healing of old memories that lie within. Recently, I’ve had a number of incidents with ‘officialdom’ of various shades, that have released an anger deep within me that I thought had been dealt with a while back. I should have known that Divine Love, the surgeon of my soul would come along and do a lip enhancement, to remove the roots of anger that so easily sharpen my words for war.

My desire is to open all to the prescriptive gaze of both Self and Source. I’m seeing it all as a rollercoaster ride, with its ups and downs but one that will serve me well. My good friend and zen student, Matthew Sammut, has encouraged me to write of my journey through this little Shadow Valley in order to encourage others. Either all our God talk and spiritual experiences help us or they don’t. I choose to go within, to a realm more real than the clinician’s black and white pronouncements. There I hope to hear the messages waiting for me on my inner Voicemail. The roots of my anger and damaged lip, and the Wisdom to do what needs to be done.

I’d value all your prayers and healing energies along the way. Let’s see what Divine Love conjures up from the curve ball pitched at my mouth. Hopefully a more authentic and compassionate Irishman whose words heal and restore rather than wound his fellow-man.

Blessings to you all

❤ Dylan

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