Who's really asleep in the boat in the Gospel of Mark? Thoughts from Alexander J. Shaia on God's presence amidst the darker times we face or are facing in our lives.
(Film and discernment guide streaming for free on Facebook page as well).
PREPARE TO LISTEN/WATCH
Stop. Quiet yourself. Take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. Take in the following line from an intimate prayer of Jesus to his Father. Repeat the phrase a few times to let it resonate. Write down what rises up for you. Keep listening :)
“We think, we believe, and we feel that our God has gone to sleep…,” especially in our times of great suffering.
During the turbulence that of course comes with being alive and human and living according to the world order like we do, when things get hard, and our bodies and hearts and spirits are bruised and broken, there is a phrase that in one way or another emerges. It starts to show up as we’re losing our grip on things, and at different times as we're slipping down. It’s especially uttered at the end of our rope, while we’re dangling at the bottom with two tense fingers pinching a single thread at the end of our rope—“God, where are you?!”
We follow up that question with pleas to modify our current situation, whether internal or external, and many times we throw in a bit of bargaining to shore up the request “I can change, I will stop doing whatever I am doing to create the problem…” all the while never opening our grasp and letting go of our things, our thoughts and/or beliefs, our delusions of control, and our very identity. Because we have more faith in the rope than in God, we believe that somehow, God is going to help us climb back up.
However, God is just fine with descent. God understands being unable to change the condition of the world (including the hearts and minds of humankind), being stripped of everything, dying to one reality, and coming alive to an altogether new way of being that was unimaginable before.
When we come to the end of our striving, God invites us to the path and practice of letting go. Of detaching from what we think we need and even who we think we are. God invites us to become the Via Negativa, an ancient prayer practice of discovering the positive through the stripping of the negative, thereby revealing who we are by acknowledging and letting go of who we are not.
We may be people on ropes, but we are truly not the people on our ropes. We are not exactly who we think we are, but we need to see and accept that’s who we think we are so that we can ironically see that is who we are not and let go. It’s okay to let go of the rope, it’s okay to let that story die and lay down in the darkness of it and turn our will and ways over to God. God will be there, God has always been here.
On to the And Your Will Be Done video above...
Take in the film and try not “analyze” it :) Take note of what rises up for you. Make a note so you can revisit it.
Read and listen through the questions below. Does anything in particular “rise up” from the questions? Maybe something from the film not listed that stood out for you? Don’t expect yourself to respond to every question. Listen deeply to what you are supposed to hear.
What word, phrase, truth, or idea stood out to you from the film?
Tell your life story to yourself or a friend. See if you can see the ways of your will, of your striving. Try and do this without judgment, just as an objective, study of yourself. Is there a common thread that rises up throughout your journey? That’s the rope. Name your rope.
Where has God been awake where you have been asleep? How does the outer turbulence you see in your situation or the world reveal what you have fallen asleep to?
What message does the outer storm in your life have for your inner storms, your internal struggle or vice versa, how does your inner storm project into the world? Any attachments to your way/illusions of control being reflected to you?
It may be time to let go of the rope, of this story you’ve been telling yourself for much of your life. In Twelve-Step recovery, the first three steps are considered the surrender steps:
Step 1: We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.
Step 2: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
Step 3: Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. (From the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous)
Describe a moment of complete surrender you have experienced. What did you have to let go of? What was the most challenging part? Where did you notice God in the process?
What is your responsibility in it all?
How has this changed how you are in the world?
More questions to listen through to stir your imagination and memory :)
Where did the video or listening though the questions take you?
Did listening lead you back to an experience in your past?
Was anything there that gave you a new lens to view a story of your past through?
Did listening help you hear any call of your own inner voice?
How did anything change the way you view the story to your life? Did anything leave you with a challenge for your life, possibly changing the way you want to walk in the world?
Journal what you were supposed to hear. (Note-taking is science!) For group discussion, share with others what you are hearing and/or respond to a question or two. (Please don’t respond to them all :))
Using the via negativa as a spiritual practice is a way of “finding the positive in the negative” according to the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Via negativa is a Latin phrase used in Christian theology to explain a way of describing God by focusing on what God is not, rather than what God is. Via negativa can also be used to describe a similarly “negative” way of improving our lives. Instead of concentrating on what you do, the focus turns to what you don’t do. For example, a smoker would greatly improve their life by omitting smoking, taking away a negative to produce a positive.
But also, we can use this practice to increase viability when our belief system and conditioning close down possibilities. For example, through this practice we remind ourselves that our value is not in what we do (i.e. I am not a writer, pastor, engineer, IT professional, doctor) to produce greater flexibility of becoming more and more the essence of who we are.
To begin, find a quiet place, gently close your eyes, and take a few deep breaths. Let a limiting belief or concretized idea of God or yourself rise to the surface. Begin to unravel your belief by saying what God or you are not. When you come to the end of your time, turn your beliefs over to God and pray for God’s will to be revealed and done.
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