As human beings, we make an art form out of falling short. Our practical living is often an almost. We are made to enter fully into a life of other centred loving, and yet, who can say they have ever consistently done this? We fall short in the art of love.
There is restlessness within us for the meaning and purpose which a truly loving life can give us. This restlessness can be in tension with a myriad of inner and outer diversions which can draw us away from our greatest happiness: a uniquely passionate life growing in the expression of Love. This greatest happiness is what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, or the Reign of Love. He died being faithful to its vision and his living of it.
I watch Wilco perform this song and questions begin to stir in me: Why do I fall short? Why do we all make an art of it? I hear the dissonance and the frantic energy of the music – the sound of my own frustration and fear. I feel the ache of sadness in the vocals. It all takes a hold of me and I remember my own art of almost, the everyday ways I gloss over the sacredness of human contact. I walk through life fearing the ways others will cost my ego a death to its own preoccupations and self-concern.
The fear is ego’s fear. The death to egoism it fears, however, can make way for the ego’s rising. This rising takes the form of ego’s graceful growth into the ways of Love.
This ego-fear of the loss of self-centred autonomy and control struggles with the deeper and emerging realisation that any commitment to the expression of love does involve an ongoing death to our own egocentric ways. The mystery of it all is that we are happiest when ego is forgotten and perception is at love’s other-centred service. A forgotten ego is a risen ego.
Yet in this struggle between egoism and Love we turn from love too often. It is all there for us this life of Love, ready and waiting for us to become one with it without the loss of who we most deeply are. We hear the “faint ole’” of this love in our hearts and lives, and yet still work against the grain of it. This is part of the human journey. But is this all there is? Turning from Love will be what ultimately defines us? We are nothing but dust and to this dust we shall return – right?
Perhaps the art of almost has a richer palate, a broader spectrum of reality and possibility. Maybe falling short is only part of the story. There is something else: a falling in. As the song says “I could open up my heart and fall in.” Fall into what? Fall into the life of Love already waiting for us.
Deep within the simple and silent mystery of the core of us, deep in the spirit, we don’t need to fall in because we already are in – fully. This is a natural part of being human; the only way Love could have made us. Our being is being in Being. Our basic problem is that the rest of our humanity, our psychic and relational lives, is not faithful to, nor expressive enough of our being in Love. We have forgotten it and often work against it. Our woundedness covers it. Egocentricity distracts us from it. This is the human condition according to Christian spirituality.
The Christian season of Lent is about growth in seeing, acknowledging and accepting the reality of this ‘almost’ condition in our lives. And it is also about something else: the facilitation of a ‘falling’ into the Love life within and among us.
A question for Lent and beyond is: What can we do, practically in the living of life, that will enable the healing and transformation necessary for us to fall just a little more into the life of Love that we are already a part of?
If you have given up something for Lent, say chocolate, in what way is this helping your consciousness to be more grounded in the Love at your core? If you are fasting from, say television, then how is this helping you to become aware of the life of Love within you and all?
Perhaps this time of the year is a good time to commit to the experience of some kind of contemplative practice? A couple of possibilities from the world of contemporary Christian spiritual practice are Centering Prayer and Christian Meditation. Both these forms of contemplatively focused prayer facilitate a growing attention to, and living out of this core of Love. They do it through the practice of re-focusing attention away from the ego and into the Love at our core.
Falling into the Love Reality within us is a human art form – an art form of increments – which is highlighted during Lent and encouraged all our lives. As we grow in this art form our almost is revealed as the potential and the place of our falling in. We begin to experience our falling short in life as an important part of the experience of our falling into Love. Only grace can move us beyond our almosts, making them part of how Love reveals itself in the world through us. For this to happen we need to humbly accept our reality as creatures. Ego-centricity fades in the humble realisation of our creaturely and limited context. Divine Love then uses this realisation, grounded in humility, as the foundation for a life of loving we did not think possible. This is what grace alive within us does.
In time our ‘almosts’ lessen in severity and consequence while our ‘falling into’ deepens with growing trust and faith. In grace our almost and our falling become one as we experience a compassion not our own. This compassion moves in and among us with greater insistence. This compassion is the life of God inviting loving action.