Are you or your friends scared to face 2024? After everyone finished their reports on the December sicknesses last week, many people went on to report their anxiety about the coming year — for some it was more than anxiety, it was terror.
I can see why they feel that way. The Trump effect has created trickle-down lawlessness that makes simply driving one’s car frightening. The decades of partisan power struggle in U.S. politics has leaked into everyday transactions. Left-leaning institutions cancel their leaders, right-leaning institutions fire their pastors and directors and everyone has a litmus test, everyone is primarily concerned with power. Jane Coaston coined the term, “vice signaling,” to describe how Trump’s core supporters convey their tribal allegiance and show how little they care about conventional moral norms. The basic questions of life have become “Is my side winning? Am I getting what I deserve? Am I getting ripped off? Can anyone be trusted?”
It is not like humanity has ever stopped asking those questions. But cultures all over the planet have found striking ways to fight our sinful impulses. People keep reporting how they don’t have anyone fighting for them and don’t have the strength to protect themselves.
We all have something to give
We may have more capabilities to cope and even thrive than we think. That reality also appears in my office every day.
We all have something to give that makes things better. I think Jesus followers, especially, should feel an obligation to express the truth and love in them — that truth and love which is given to you in a unique way only you can give. In light of that I have been trying to figure out how to keep putting some truth and love out there that is not just outrage about Trump or despair about how many bad things have happened to me (e.g. – I have Xfinity issues).
My attempt at truth and love today centers on my recent, new soul friend, John O’Donohue. I think you could use some time to meditate on the teaching I received from his book Anam Cara. It could soothe your fears and even help you find a way through all those things you dread. Throughout his book, O’Donohue keeps describing the basic alternative to the constant power struggle we are all sick of and sick from.
Life is not about who wins the election and who controls the economy. If it is, then life is just about getting power, and most of us do not have a life. That is, the life we have remains hidden from us.
In his Celtic way, O’Donohue reinforces what every baby knows and every adult longs for: life is about love.
O’Donohue can’t help but write poetry, even when he is writing prose. So I took a nice section of his book and made stanzas out of it, like a poem. I gave each section a title.
After you’ve used it all to meditate, I’ll make a few comments in closing.
See if this meditation gives you a non-anxious few minutes and fans the flames of God’s love in you. I believe as we claim such space in the world and live out of it, the Spirit of God transforms fear into fulfillment.
Your face is the icon of creation
Against the infinity of the cosmos and the silent depths of nature,
the human face shines out as the icon of intimacy.
It is here,
in this icon of human presence,
that divinity in creation comes nearest to itself.
The human face is the icon of creation.
Your heart is your inner face
Each person also has an inner face,
which is always sensed but never seen.
The heart is the inner face of your life.
The human journey strives to make this inner face beautiful.
It is here that love gathers within you.
Love awakens what is divine in you
Love is absolutely vital for a human life.
For love alone can awaken what is divine within you.
In love, you grow and come home to your self.
When you learn to love and to let your self be loved,
you come home to the hearth of your own spirit.
You are warm and sheltered.
You are completely at one in the house of your own longing and belonging.
Longing and belonging fuel the fire of fulfillment
In that growth and homecoming
is the unlooked-for bonus
in the act of loving another.
Love begins with paying attention to others,
with an act of gracious self-forgetting.
This is the condition in which we grow.
Once the soul awakens,
the search begins
and you can never go back.
From then on, you are inflamed
with a special longing that will never again linger
in the lowlands of complacency and partial fulfillment….
Love unlocks eternity
At the deepest level of being,
possibility is both mother and transfigured destination
of what we call events and facts.
This quiet and secret world of the eternal is the soul.
Love is the nature of the soul.
When we love and allow ourselves to be loved,
we begin more and more to inhabit the kingdom of the eternal.
Fear changes into courage,
emptiness becomes plentitude,
and distance becomes intimacy.
Godless people are going to try to use fear, emptiness and distance this year (and always) to dominate us and steer us in the direction of surrendering our true selves to their power. Trump even shared a fan-made video on Truth Social saying he was chosen to save us.
What should we do?
I am going to keep re-membering as the powers try to dislocate my insides and separate me from loved ones. I plan to keep turning into the truth and love in Jesus.
I am going to go back to James:
For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing. — James 1:23-25
I am not going to forget what my face looks like, whether distorted by AI or tracked by cameras. My inner, unique face is going to be shown to the world through self-forgetting, transfiguring, and embracing love. I don’t need the world’s power if I am secure in the heart of creation, resting in the grace of God in Jesus. I may use my power to good ends, but I will never try to live off it like it longs to feed on me.
Today is the MLK National Holiday in the United States. If you’d like to join in and learn what it is all about, visit The Transhistorical Body.