Good vs Bad, Part 4
There are not sacred and profane things, places, and moments. There are only sacred and desecrated things, places, and moments – and it is we alone who desecrate them by our lack of insight and reverence. Fr. Richard Rohr
In my early adulthood I worked as a landscape designer. I focused on trying to recommend plants and planting schemes where the natural growth pattern of the plants would co-exist in a complementary way with their surroundings without a lot of trimming. I tried to create what I considered a sacred symbiosis between plants and structures. One of my pet peeves, then as now, was when others would use hedge clippers to (in my opinion) desecrate plants by forcing them into globes, squares, or other unnatural shapes that made them fit the limited space they were given to grow. Of course for some, plants trimmed neatly into various and convenient shapes makes the desecrated sacred. Which type of landscape is sacred and which has been desecrated? Of course, it is a matter of opinion, but if only plants could talk… Regardless, we tend to judge one as good (sacred) and the other as bad (desecrated).
Contemplative author Richard Rohr teaches that nothing is profane, in and of itself. Everything is sacred. It is we who desecrate the sacred, often with seemingly good intentions. But even our desecrations do not have the final word for people, places, things, and moments. Anything that has been desecrated can regain its sacredness because everything remains sacred at its core regardless of what has happened to it It may always show the scars of its desecrations, as Jesus did in his resurrected body, but its inner sacredness, its true nature, cannot be defiled. When we are abused, physically or emotionally, the marks and memories of that abuse do not disappear. Abuse does not, however, define who we are. It is something that happened to us in an imperfect and sometimes unfair, dangerous world. Once others look beneath our weathered appearance, they will still see the undefiled image of God from which we were created.
When some churches and church leaders try to draw clear distinctions between good and bad, right and wrong, or sacred and desecrated, they usually fail to share that the story is not over. We cannot know how any of our stories end because even though books and movies have beginnings and endings, we do not. Our stories began long before we were born on earth and will continue long past our days here. Churchianity often truncates our stories as if God has placed a period where God only placed a comma. Yes, our life may be a painful mess today, but who is to judge the work that God may be doing with and through our messy life? Just because we are a work in progress does not make us bad or evil. We may become desecrated to a greater or lesser extent on our way to manifesting our sacredness. That – making the desecrated sacred – is arguably God’s greatest work on earth.
In order to help restore the sacredness of something that has been desecrated we must first open a place for it within ourselves. Too much of churchianity attempts to deny or reject what has been desecrated, which is like trying to live one’s life in daylight by rejecting nighttime – nighttime just keeps returning. Life is and always will be a mix of light and dark, good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant, sacred and desecrated. When we try to live in only one half of reality we live permanently unbalanced. Better to enlarge our acceptance to include all things and circumstances, recognizing they are all of God. Darkness is dark and fearful only because we cannot see what is there. We can, however, expose what is dark in our lives to the light. Once exposed to even the dimmest light, what is hidden in darkness becomes known and less troublesome. Jesus remade desecrated lives whole and holy again by accepting them into his reality and providing the loving attention needed to allow the image of God to become visible again. If we are to be followers of Jesus, we are to do the same.
For whatever reason, good and bad things happen all around us, all of the time. Some people die from certain conditions that others survive. It is not given to us to know why. What we can know is that life does and always will produce what we consider opposing results and confusing circumstances. And we can know that God and those we love will go through cycles of unpleasantness with us, just as they do with cycles of good. Ultimately, however, good and bad are One.
This is the 39th in the series of Life Notes titled Churchianity vs Christianity. I invite your thoughts, insights, and feedback via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through my website, www.ContemplatingGrace.com. At the website, you can also sign up to have these reflections delivered to your Inbox every Thursday morning and browse the archives of my Life Notes, Podcasts, music, books, and other musings.