Richard Rohr’s ‘Falling Upward’ is an enlightening, encouraging read for anyone going through a spiritual transition. Rohr explains the process as moving from first to second-half of life spirituality – the first half being the period in which we live with the illusion of certainty and control, and the second where issues such as tragedy, failure, hurt and other challenges nudge us towards a deeper, more complex, more authentic take on spiritual things.
Second-half of life spirituality is likely to mess with everything we thought we knew. Faced with the kind of complexities that never came up in our church teachings, we can find ourselves wandering the wilderness, uncertain if our faith is evolving or just unraveling.
At these times, it may even be tempting to ditch our beliefs wholesale rather than to calmly sort through what we actually have left. But the likelihood is that we’re on the journey because of our commitment to reality… and knee-jerk reactions can leave us in unreality still – just a different version.
So how to make sure during the tough times that you let go only of the things that need discarding, and stay true to yourself ? In my life-coaching work, I have noticed some NLP (or neuro-linguistic programming) strategies come into their own as spiritual transitioning tools; in particular, the NLP approach to cutting through negative ‘limiting beliefs’ to a more accurate picture of where you are really at, can be eye-opening.
Intentionally applying just 3 simple questions to a ‘limiting belief’, or knee-jerk reaction, quickly reveals any contrary evidence buried deep within our sub-conscious. To restore these to your conscious mind and enable you to come up with a more accurate belief statement, just take the time to reflect…
* What am I deleting in order to believe this?
* What am I distorting?
* How far am I generalizing?
I remember confronting my own deep disappointment that, despite all the promised ‘breakthroughs’ over the years, I had never seen any real evidence that God healed. So what was the point of prayer? Consciously stepping back to think through these questions opened the door to some surprising memories….
In fact, there were probably enough of them to fill a whole chapter – maybe even (passing over the disappointing bits) a bestseller: ‘God Still Heals Today!’ Starting from the time that my mum caught sight of my young son’s hands covered in warts, and prayerfully told them to take a running jump – or words to that effect. They began to shrivel from that moment, and in a few days Jay was completely wart-free. Later, my husband did the same with one of our girls, whose own crop of warts didn’t hang around to be told twice.
Fast-forwarding, there was my more recent overwhelming urge to tell a young girl that I sensed she had been praying for something she thought was too big even for God – but that he really was going to answer that prayer. She beamed. Brilliant. Then I discovered that her father had terminal pancreatic cancer – she had been praying desperately for his healing, but told me she now felt peaceful because she knew he would be ok! The cancer spread and chemotherapy was stopped. Then a blood clot was found, and he was scanned following treatment to disperse it: no trace of the clot – and hang on, no trace of the cancer, either! Her father remains fit and well to this day. Just like the young mum I know whose breast cancer had returned, and who told me she felt something shift as she was prayed for. Her next scan confirmed that she was cancer-free…
I could go on. So many instances of people I know personally whose healing stories, great and small, I had completely erased from my conscious memory. True, there had been no shortage of disappointments, but I had distorted the overall picture by choosing to foreground them. I had generalized… ‘we never see any real healings’, rather than tested my statement with an incisive question along the lines of ‘never… not even one…?’
We long for certainty and control in our lives. And if God doesn’t always jump when we say, it may seem preferable to dispense with him altogether, settling instead for the relative sense of control that his non-existence gives us.
Because if God answers prayer here and there but can’t be relied upon to do that to order, then we’re left with paradox… having to hold the uncomfortable tension between our relationship with him and the humbling knowledge that, despite the claims of some TV evangelists, there still remain dark times and deep questions. Yet it’s exactly here, Rohr argues – allowing the pain of unresolved issues to deepen rather than threaten our relationship with God – that we begin to experience true second-half-of-life spirituality.
Over the last few years I’ve learned to make friends with paradox; in fact, I’ve experienced some absolute paradox humdingers. My spiritual life has given up on order and predictability and is the messiest it has ever been. Happily for me though, it is also quite definitely the most real…
This entry was posted in Spiritual Transition and tagged doubt, faith, faith and paradox, Falling Upward, Healing, NLP and Christianity, NLP and spirituality, Richard Rohr, Spiritual transition.