Friday, December 14, 2012

Advent Reflection XII: Intimacy

Jesus, whom now veiled, I by faith descry,
What my soul doth thirst for, do not, Lord, deny,
That thy face unveiled, I at last may see,
With the blissful vision blest, my God, of thee.

Around the time I was learning to play this hymn, I read about seeing Christ in everyone you meet along the road. Not long after that, I read about Mother Teresa's motivation: each of the people she served was Christ.

Sometimes God has to pile it on real thick before I wake up to the heart of the matter. We sometimes understand intimacy as a source of discomfort, which we manage by keeping our distance. But intimacy, or being open to experiencing our own vulnerability, helps us to sit with discomfort. We’re always seeking comfort, and although we might long for transformation, we crave solid ground upon which to stand. We have become expert in isolating ourselves in community. We want to bring ourselves to the table and join in the festivities, but there are all these people (!) and they make us self-conscious, and we're really not up for it because someone has died/is sick/filing for divorce, or we don't anyone to see us when we feel/look/think we're less than our best. The bad news is that people can tell when something's up; we're not fooling anyone. The good news is that everybody has something going on, no one is at their best all the time, and it's not only about us.

It's when we remember that it's about us together that our way is prepared and we are comforted, because the best thing to do when one is discouraged is to encourage others. In his book Everyone as a Friend, author Jeffrey Hopkins writes: It is not sufficient merely to see that sentient beings are suffering. You must also develop a sense of closeness with them, a sense that they are dear. With that combination, —seeing that people suffer and thinking of them as dear, —you can develop compassion.

We do this by learning to link the person in the mirror to the person we would like to see in the world. We feel our way to openness, oneness, and genuine curiosity about one another by beginning with ourselves. We learn to look more than see, listen more than speak, and we learn to sit on our cushion (or chair, or pew) with the things that make us uncomfortable. If we're lucky, self-consciousness, walls, and ego fall away. We begin to drop our defenses and scripts, and learn show our faces, unveiled, at last. Others will reciprocate and begin to show themselves, then it's face to face all the way up. This is one way we might begin to redeem God, and stop worrying about it redeeming us.


  1. Thanks for all these. Could you write some song to 'it's face to face all the way up?' I know one about turtles all the way down, but this sounds better.

  2. p.s. smelped. I am not a robot.