Days of Preparation: Week Four/Session Three.
Theme: God’s Invitation to Greater Freedom.
Our reading for today: Philippians 3: 7-16.
The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by Him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. (Philippians 3: 7-9 MsgB)
Sure sounds like Paul has decided to do some housecleaning, don’t you think? As a matter fact, it appears that the apostle from Tarsus has done some pretty deep soul-searching and has come to the conclusion that most everything he had accomplished in his BC life (before Christ) was about as valuable as the gooey contents of a pooper-scooper!
I recall hearing the wise pastor/theologian, Don Williams, teach on this passage and declaring that all of our English translations of the original Greek are actually cleaned up here. So much so, Williams stated, that most Christians today would be offended if translators used the actual word Paul wrote in his letter to the Philippians. According to the original Greek, the phrase Eugene Peterson (above) calls dog dung, is so crass that if we really insisted on true biblical accuracy, translators would need to insert the word…“bull-s…” into Paul’s sentence!
Now, we’re getting somewhere!
It was Ignatius’ hope that his Spiritual Exercises would bring retreatants like us into a place of spiritual freedom. In one of his writings, Ignatius stated that the Exercises are intended “to overcome oneself and to order one’s life, without reaching a decision through some disordered affection” (SE21). As I see it, Ignatius was being nice when using the phrase, “disordered affection”, to describe his fleshly, self-centered, self-consumed life. Paul used the word, “B.S.”. So I guess, I’ll cut to the chase and just say that my life outside of Jesus Christ and His work in me is nothing short of bull-crap. There I said it.
Author Kevin O’Brien, in his excellent sourcebook on the Exercises, states, “People who are spiritually free know who they are – with all of their gifts and limitations – and are comfortable with who they are. They are able to discern God’s presence; find meaning in their lives, and make choices that flow from who they are, whatever the circumstance.”
Yet this trek to spiritual freedom that both Ignatius and Paul describe in their writings is not arrived at without addressing, as O’Brien states, “the numerous preoccupations that get in the way of our hearing and responding to God’s call: fears, prejudices, greed, the need to control, perfectionism, jealousies, resentments, and excessive doubts.”
O’Brien continues, “These tendencies,” (Ignatius called them disordered affections or disordered attachments, Paul called them B.S., and I call ‘em bull-crap) “bind us and hold us back from loving God, ourselves, and others as we ought to. They create chaos in our souls and lead us to make poor choices.”
So, I guess if I really want to find true freedom in Christ, I need to be more like Paul, who decided to address his dysfunctional, un-redeemed self as it really was, throwing off the heavy chains of “some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules”, and then run, full speed, into the loving embrace of Christ.
Hmm. Sounds pretty liberating, huh?
Anybody ready to take the contents of our pooper-scoopers to the trash?
My prayer: Jesus, I pray this prayer used so often by the Jesuits, “O Spirit of God, we ask You to help orient all our actions by Your inspirations, carry them on by Your gracious assistance, that every prayer and work of ours may always begin from You and through You, be happily ended. (For Your name’s sake.) Amen.
My questions to ponder: So what bull-crap is calling my name today, trying its best to woo me away from Christ’s unwavering commitment to me? What disordered affections are setting up shop inside me, doing their very best to rob me of the spiritual freedom found in following Jesus alone?
So what is God speaking to you today as we ponder together The Ignatian Adventure?
Over an eight month period, you and I will be working our way through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. For more information on our journey and how to begin…click here!
To go onto the next journal entry…click here.