Over the years I am slowly coming to understand how much my literal approach has been limiting the reach of my life as a whole.
As many of you probably know the literal way is one of the most shallow and limited ways to approach our journey. Though it can be a good starting point it will never allow us to venture out into the wide-open fields of grace. This passage to freedom can only be experienced if we engage the contemplative side of our being which is found within our heart. From here we are able to see further than the limited judgments of our dualistic minds.
Contemplative seeing, unlike liberalism, is capable of impacting every part of us. For example, things like reading the Bible suddenly become fun as one can slowly see that the text is merely an excuse to show us something deeper that lies below the words that we read. Lately, I experienced something that spoke volumes about this perspective I am sharing today. It pertains to the verse in the Bible in the book of Luke which says, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
For years as I read this literally all I noticed was the event of plowing a field and that once started we needed to keep going and finish the work. Those that looked back were unfaithful and doing this would mean not being able to be used by God like others. Yet a few weeks back while looking out at a field near Jerusalem this same verse surfaced up from my heart. This time however I began to see and hear with the contemplative side of my life and soon the whole verse took a new spin.
Suddenly I understood that the field was our heart. The Ox was God and we were the ones that were holding the plow. I also saw that looking back had nothing to do with finishing the work but instead with the regret of how good things appeared to be on the surface of our lives before we had begun to engage at the deeper and most important parts of it. But most importantly I noticed that normally in this process the Ox always follows the direction of the person in charge of the plow.
Plowing as we all know is done to give direct access to the richness and goodness that is already contained inside the ground. Likewise with our heart plowing is necessary to clear the things that stand in the way of what God has put within them, amongst other things, the discovery of who Christ is in us and we are in Him, also known as our True identity. Up until this point, this sounds like a simple task however as we all know it is far from it as often in all of our hearts deep wounding is found. This wounding is often very painful and of course, the last thing we want to happen here is for a plow to go through it. Clearly, this will inevitably not only spell suffering but it will also mean facing emotions and memories which are bound to be ugly and uncomfortable. Yet, like the man holding the plow that directs the Ox through it, so we too have the ability to guide and decide which part of our hearts we allow God to engage and when.
In my experience, if we leave it up to him, he will always start on the parts where we are sitting in the most darkness and pain. But because God is humble and gentle we can, of course, stop him by redirecting his attention towards the part within our hearts where we don’t feel as vulnerable. Once this has been looked at however in my experience as any good Father would, he will try and return to the spaces we stopped him from plowing. This process will continue over and over as long as we continue to direct him away. This is why for so many of us our walk with him feels repetitive and often like it is going around in circles.
As a former tennis coach and now a spiritual one too many people, I get this and that’s why I approach my work much the same way. Often with the insight and help that is given to me I guide people to a part of their heart that is responsible for keeping them handicapped as well as spiritually and emotionally unconscious. Normally they choose not to address it or perhaps they try and waltz over it so as to not really engage it fully. As this happens they guide me, often without realizing it, to another area which is normally a by-product of the main area they just avoided. Unfortunately, no matter how hard they try, this indirect area, will not see any real change as the by-products in our lives will never disappear until the main roots are healed.
I wonder what part of your life today you are continuing to redirect God away from because you can’t see past your literal mind?
Please allow me to encourage all of us to consider the fact that not allowing God to use our contemplative side to communicate with us will render our inner transformation largely ineffective. Often this ineffectiveness will be due to us not being able to see what is really going on, what God is really trying to communicate to us, and why. Literalism has a funny way of always putting the cart (our ego) before the horse (God). And as I am sure we all know it doesn’t take contemplative eyes to understand that when it is this way around nothing much can really happen – literally!
Therefore Consider – That perhaps there is a good reason why God looks for contemplative lovers, like King David, that are happy to lose themselves in him instead of literal soldiers, like the Pharisees, that are only interested in staying in control of their lives by fulfilling tasks that are black or white.