Prayer, Boundaries, and The Center

This is a long one today, but this stuff from Richard Rohr’s book Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer is really, really good.

Those who rush to artificially manufacture their own identity often end up with hardened and overly defended edges. They are easily offended and are always ready to create a new identity when the current one lets them down…living only in reaction to someone or something else.

Many give up their boundaries before they have them, always seeking their identity in another group, experience, possession, or person. Beliefs like, “she will make me happy,” or “he will take away my loneliness,” or “this group will make feel like I belong” become a substitute for doing the hard work of growing up. It is much easier to belong to a group than it is to know that you belong to God.

The gift that true contemplatives offer to themselves and society is that they know themselves as a part of a much larger story. Their security and identity are founded in God, not in being right, being paid by a church, or affirmed in the eyes of others. People who have learned to live from their center in God know which boundaries are worth maintaining and which can be surrendered…which, ironically, requires an “obedience,” to listen to a Voice beyond their own.

By contrast non-centered people have boundaries that must be defended, negotiated, or worshipped: their reputation, their needs, their nation, their security, their religion, even their ball team. You can tell if you have placed a lot of your eggs in these flimsy baskets if you are hurt or offended a lot. They are a hurt waiting to happen…in fact, they will create tragedies to make themselves feel alive.

I believe that we have no real access to who we really are except in God. Only when we rest in God can we find the safety, the spaciousness, and the scary freedom to be who we are, all that we are, more than we are, and less than we are. Only when we live and see through God can “everything belong.”


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