Kinks in the Christmas Spirit   2 comments

Dec. 2: Simplicity: Spirituality on Rations

Charlie Brown treeKimberly and I are boxed in by limited resources, especially emotional resources.  “Blessed are the poor in spirit” Jesus said, and though it doesn’t feel blessed, I find it carries a spiritual wealth that others miss.  In fact, the really hard part of our experience is not from our personal limits, but from our society’s values and judgments.  Our daily choices must break through a constant barrage that threatens to swamp us.  Our society has traded in Jesus’ version of abundant life for the American version of abundant life.  It is now measured by success above faithfulness, impact above humility, drive above being, power above brokenness.  How can we grasp in today’s world any sense of the blessedness of poverty?

Here are a few of the riches we found in our own experience of poverty.

1) Focused orientation: Excess breeds a casual spirit.  With few resources comes a focused life.  Superficiality is stripped away, and the things that really matter really matter.  If you have one true friend, for example, you learn a depth of friendship that a crowd of pals won’t teach.exclamation

2) True values: Someone with a folder of opportunities and a stash of resources has a wide range of choices.  Those of us with few resources must guard our priorities or suffer dearly for it.  Since my spirit falters under criticism, for instance, I choose carefully the issues on which I take a public stand.  I have not always been this way–I used to voice every disagreement with relish, aggressively.  That was not good for me or my relationships, or even good for the truth.  It was a potent defense mechanism, which I have laid aside, making myself much more vulnerable, but also more authentic, a high value for me now.

3) Enhanced growth: I expected in theory that more resources would create more potential and freedom, but I found in experience that suffering and stringency are much more fertile soils for self-discovery and growth.  When life is smooth, I have little need or motivation to go plowing up my soul, but daily struggle demands attention.  Patience and courage and perseverance and faith are strengthened by the obstacles we face.

fragile box4) Deepened empathy: Recent studies have shown that those who have more care less about others.  Statistically, the poor are more generous than the rich.  Those of us who feel threatened and battered by life can better understand and feel compassion for others like us, and we feel safer with someone whose soul has been deeply cut.  The tender are tender.

5) Healing relationships: Deep connection doesn’t come through sharing our strengths and abilities, but rather, like grafted branches, our exposed wounds bind us together in a living, vital way.  It is in shared weakness and want that we create strong community.  When the window dressing is stripped off–all our efforts to look good and capable and successful–then the real me can connect with the real you, and acceptance of my true self has astounding power to heal.grafted branch

I can resent my poverty or scrabble to escape it or pretend it isn’t there, but when I embrace my poverty, the true spirit of Christmas is released.

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Posted December 3, 2013 by janathangrace in Personal, thoughts

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2 responses to “Kinks in the Christmas Spirit

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  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. This is so powerful for me today.

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