“You Are Not Your Own”
I grew up with a family where church was simply a part of life together. It was, and still is, a small church embedded in a rural county, surrounded by thickets of pines and pastures of hay. A portrait of Jesus hanging on the wall stared at me every Sunday as we recited the Apostle’s Creed. From the little, brown and slightly tattered Cokesbury hymnal our mighty congregation of about 30 would sing “Dwelling in Beulah Land,” although no one in particular was in a hurry to go there any time soon.
Since my beginning, and I am certain at my very beginning, it was impressed upon me that my life was not my own and that I am a part of something much bigger than my solitary life. I stopped being the center of my universe many years ago, although my own orbit still tugs against the hidden gravity keeping me from being fully consumed with self-centeredness.
I suppose you are expecting me to write about all the certainties I have unearthed along the way about faith. I will save those sermons for other pulpits. I am content enough to saunter deeper into mystery. It is enough for me to know that I am but a part of the Great Mystery’s work.
My mentor, Thomas Merton, who died two years after I was born, wrote:
…if we could let go of our own obsession with what we think is the meaning of it all, we might be able to hear His call and follow Him in His mysterious, cosmic dance.
I have spent the better part of my first few decades trying to wrestle out meaning and purpose behind every act and every event. Now I am okay with simply peace. Purpose has its place, but purpose, at the risk of redundancy, is not the purpose.
My life, according to the Apostle Paul, is not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19). It is not about me, and I am okay with that. When I hear a lonely whipporwill on a hot summer evening; when the air is thick with the smell of smoke from a campfire; when the noise of a crashing surf lulls me to a sweet emptying; or when I look up and the stars shimmer and pulse with the life of the universe, I am at peace that my life is not my own. I am not the center, but I am a part and have a place, and that is blessed peace.
…no despair of ours can alter the reality of things; or stain the joy of the cosmic dance which is always there. Indeed, we are in the midst of it, and it is in the midst of us, for it beats in our very blood, whether we want it to or not.
Yet the fact remains that we are invited to forget ourselves on purpose, cast our awful solemnity to the winds and join in the general dance. (Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation)