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There’s got to be a better way…

I recently read a blog on emotional mastery.   With all the emotions running rampant across the nation, there seems to be a real need for emotional mastery.  The blog revealed that emotions can drive behavior.  What the article didn’t address is that emotions are created out of our belief systems that have been created throughout the history of our lives.   If I have an emotion, 99% of the time the reaction has been based in a belief system that I have that has been conditioned through time.   It took me many years to realize that it is imperative that I discern what my emotion is based on—the beliefs my mind has been conditioned to believe over time else my life becomes a feedback loop of reactivity reacting approvingly or disapprovingly according to the value system of my beliefs.   Instead of choosing, I react.  Reactivity is primarily based in fear—sometimes with good reason.  Even then, I have to choose to drop deeper into God to lose the fear (and the anger that comes with it) to discern the Spirit’s Presence, Wisdom and direction.  

Adversity is a subject with which most of us have conditioned to view as a “negative” and something to be “avoided” if at all possible.  Human beings have a built in instinct to avoid pain when pain has been built into a purposeful place in the pattern of creation.   To avoid pain without discernment can be said then to be avoiding “reality.”   If we continue to resist adversity and pain when it comes, then our minds become subject to the fabricating alternative realities that have no basis in creation or reality and are thus delusional.   This is a spiritual understanding of much of the unrest we see going on today. 

If we look at the Judeo-Christian understanding of adversity, we realize that Isaiah (30:20) uses the term “bread of adversity” and the “water of affliction” as being ways that they become our “teachers.”   It’s worth it to look up a fine word study on “Bread of Adversity” on Chaim Ben Torah’s website.   Without an understanding of this history of creation, we become vulnerable to false realities that complicate and exacerbate suffering. 

The Hebrew understanding of adversity comes from a dual root word meaning “bread” and “adversity.”  Adversity then can be a means of bread or feeding to us.  Adversity, a word for the much used word today of “oppression,” means to crush or squeeze the life out of someone.  Isaiah most likely understood the Exodus event and the resulting time in the Wilderness to be a means of deliverance which included adversity that was a means of “crushing or squeezing the Israelites’ unbelief out of them.”

As far as the “water of affliction,” according to Ben Torah, “in Hebrew.  Water has many symbolic meanings in Hebrew.

One meaning is that water can be so powerful it can drill through rocks. Hence we would draw the idea of waters of affliction. I have read in Jewish literature that God will give you an affliction that will drill through the rocky covering of your heart to penetrate your heart with the love of God. Just as God gave Israel their afflictions to reach their heart. God does not allow us to go through affliction randomly, He is seeking to penetrate your heart so your heart will be open to Him.

Bread also has many symbolic meanings. One aspect is how bread is made. The taking of wheat, pounding it into a flower, rolling it and then baking it at a high temperature. The Jewish community recently celebrated Rosh Hashanah. It is a custom in baking bread for Rosh Hashanah to invite people who have hurt you during the year to assist you in the preparation. As you roll your bread you forgive them. Hence the bread of adversity. Jewish literature teaches that the adversity brought on by your sinful acts is pounded, rolled, and baked to bring you to repentance and the forgiveness of God. I would also like to add my thought to this. That grain which is pounded, rolled, and baked comes out as something new (bread) to bring nourishment to others. Many people have to go through the waters of affliction for God to penetrate their hearts and then go through the pounding, rolling and baking trials by God to bring them to repentance and His forgiveness in Jesus Christ so that Jesus can make them into something new, something of value to others, to bring nourishment to others.

Adversity becomes our teacher.  Rather something that we react to and avoid like an allergy, we can learn to embrace adversity.  It’s not fun and there are times in which I say “not now, Lord” because I just don’t feel like dealing with it.  But to not look at this is to imperil the soul’s merging into God.  

In order to embrace adversity, we have to allow the stillness of the Spirit, not our emotions, to dictate our behavior.  Emotional reactivity can point to beliefs that are based in our conditioned responses of fear.   A friend of mine is studying Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German clergyman and theologian who was imprisoned and executed by the Nazis in 1945 because he didn’t follow the way of least resistance that most of the church in Germany did by aligning itself with Hitler’s totalitarian government.   Today I am wondering if many of the mainline churches are following the same path in aligning themselves with Marxist Conflict Theory and its offshoot of Critical Race Theory and its polarizing properties.   Polarization is often a symptom of a loss of the spiritual center because it demonizes others and uses force (physical, psychological etc.) against others.  

Embracing our own adversity in most cases leads us into spiritual freedom because we can then hear God’s voice instead of evading him.    When we evade God, we subconsciously take the unforgiven inner darkness of our lives and delusionally place it on others, setting us up as judge, jury and executioner.   Jesus died to dissolve this sin in us so that we might be truly free not to see others as our enemies but as our brothers and sisters—or as our Baptismal Covenant says, “To respect the dignity of every human being,” not just those who agree with us.   It’s not our beliefs that can make us one, but only God himself. 

Beliefs are a guide, not an end in themselves.  God is the true Beginning and the End.  The Alpha and the Omega. 

May the Real Peace of the Alpha and the Omega dwell in you,

Fr. Mark