If you’re not taught to endure suffering, failures, losses when young, one may never learn it. Those who don’t learn it check out of life, using addictions or anti-social behaviours to cope. To cope well when we experience suffering, we need to accept that suffering is a normal part of life. Yet, our culture does not embrace that. We rail against it. We develop a worldview that is primarily for our ease and comfort.
Philippians 3:10 King James Version (KJV) That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death.
Following the ways of Jesus Christ is an absolute assault on the worldview that culture imposes upon us. Because it is a different mind. The failure of liberalism is trying to critique the mind conforming it to what’s popular. But this is what is called the conniving mind. It is a mind that wants its own way and will do anything to achieve it. The Bible calls it the mind of the flesh. The apostle Paul calls it the old man. It is the egocentric mind that interprets everything in the sense of personal advantage. It is a mind that rejects suffering as a tool for self-growth. The mind of the flesh says, what’s in it for me? How would this situation be to my advantage? What can I get out of it?
If you read everything from that small worldview and read everything methodically, I don’t think you will see life in any new way. You may move along with the political spectrum from left to right and back again, but your life won’t change. But Jesus teaches us a different way of seeing, a different perspective, a different advantage point, and a different starting point.
Einstein said that the problem cannot be solved by the same mind/ or consciousness that caused the problem in the first place. This is because the mind reads everything in terms of personal advantage, cause and effect.
The word contemplation became popular through the works of Thomas Merton, which is reasonably recent. In the fifth 50s and 60s. A lot of people use the word meditation which is more or less the same thing. The word that most Christians are familiar with is the word prayer.
We need to be aware that the understanding of prayer has a different connotation here in the West than in the East, where it originated. In the West, prayer became something functional, something that produced an effect. It became – what’s in it for me!
This is due to the idea that the ego is the centre of their universe. For example-
· It’s all about me.
· If I get offended, I’ll sue somebody.
· If someone hurts me, I’ll take revenge.
· If I don’t get what I want, only to react in some way.
· If I can’t resolve the conflict ill just cut the people off.
· If someone has something that I want, then I go out and get myself in debt to better it.
Western culture has taught us that – it’s All about me, the egocentric self is all about me. Sadly, this attitude has hugely overlapped Christianity. Individualism rules and reigns in the West. That’s why a lot of people could not cope with lockdown and bulk at the rules. They wanted to do things their way, to benefit them. They did not think of the others who they could pass the virus onto.
This kind of behaviour is not what Jesus intended for us, and it’s certainly not what he taught. As soon as you make prayer an exercise to get something, it puts you in charge. However, Jesus does say ask, and it will be given. We must be aware that this kind of prayer is from a humble and obedient submissive attitude towards Jesus Christ in the first place.
most people approach prayer with egocentric consciousness, which says- I will try to get what I want to get from God. however this is the world’s way; worldly values are the seat of our culture. In this way, instead of being a transformed mind or consciousness, we remain egocentric and try to manipulate God and everyone else, and we think we did okay.
That’s why Christianity is in dire straits today because it’s not transforming people as the Bible clearly states that it should and does. It’s just giving people a form of religiosity to be in charge and control. It still the ego/natural/fleshly/false self.
Jesus always talked about was the transformed self (John 3). The apostle Paul uses that beautiful phrase, it’s no longer their lives; Christ lives in me. So it’s a different way of being. It’s a different sense of self. As long as you’re operating from the egocentric will, you’ll never be free. You will never be transformed.
THE EGO SELF
The ego-self can be pious, religious, be theologically sound, may even be a church leader in some way, but never totally free. So religion has always performed two very important but two very different Stages.
The first stage is to create meaning for the self. The first stage offers mixed narratives, truths, and rituals to provide meaning. And that’s okay. You’ve got to be aware of the self to move beyond the self. But most religions stop at that first stage by simply giving you a positive self-image.
Christians rarely move beyond this first stage, and it’s perhaps because they don’t think there’s anything else beyond it. This satisfied with the fact they believe they are a religious, moral person with good standing in a community. However, most people do not go beyond that. The problem is that this kind of religion does not raise or transform a person’s consciousness. It does not deliver true freedom of overcoming the egocentric self. This type of religion does not transform or fully satisfy the true self. Instead, it fortifies self-comfort, and even deceives this true self into thinking, you are okay – I’m okay.
Underneath it all, there is this innate satisfaction and unrest, a yearning for something more and not knowing what it is. Christianity is the best thing in the world and the worst in the world. Why? The religious often think they are right in all things and start from that vantage point. And when one thinks that one is always right, they become egocentric, narrow-minded and intolerant of others.
It’s challenging to get to know egocentric people because the ego is so sure that they are right and you are wrong. They will protect their point of view at any cost, even the cost of hurting others leading to spiritual abuse. Spiritual abuse is prevalent, which is why I wrote a Master of Art thesis on that subject as it’s so common in the churches- but that’s another subject.
If the egocentric self is warm and fed and thinks it is correct, it is then convinced that it is saved. But what does being saved mean?
Most people think that being saved is a ticket to heaven, and fire insurance from hellfire. For them, it is something that is not here now but will come one day. It’s always in the future. It’s by the sweet by and by. The egocentric self says If I am religious enough, good enough, say the sinner’s prayer, and I do the right thing then be saved, I’ll get to heaven.
This point of view comes from a punishment and reward system. If I play the game right, I will be rewarded. It is about the works that I can do, and God will be pleased, so I’ll get into heaven. That point of view has absolutely nothing to do with transformation, absolutely nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus Christ. This, unfortunately, is a lot of Christians point of view, but Jesus had something completely different in his mind when he spoke to Nicodemus, as written in John chapter 3. Please turn to it and read the whole chapter.
A FREE GIFT
It’s by the grace of God we come into fellowship with God. So then, in God’s strength and ability working in us, we learn to be patent and pray, renewing our strength. When our strength is renewed- transformed- we then mount up with Eagles’ wings, we will run and not be weary, walk and not be faint.
Accepting God free gift of salvation, confessing our sins, and repenting (turning away from sin) is the basis of our prayers. God is in the business of transforming you because He loves you. It starts with the renewing of your mind in Christ Jesus. Mindful prayer is a life’s style that will help you transform the self into A Different Way of Being.
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Paula Rose Parish