Tag Archives: Teilhard de Chardin

The living water bubbling up in the Nazareth of you.

Nathanael Under the Fig Tree — James Tissot

When Philip told Nathanael about Jesus of Nazareth, he responded “What good can come from Nazareth?” (John 1:46)

That response probably made it into the Bible because Philip never let Nathanael forget the look on his face when Jesus, the Nazarene, revealed who he was with a scripture-filled personal introduction. The fact is, Nazareth, where Jesus lived, comes from the Hebrew word for “branch.” Jesus is the Branch growing out of the stump of the Kingdom of Israel just like Isaiah prophesied. Amazing things grow in surprising places, it would seem.

Nathanael did not see the possibilities resident in the out-of-the way Nazareth. The glory in Jesus had not been revealed to him before he dismissed it. And, as I suspect he soon found out, the faith and character Jesus called out in him that day, although they were hidden under his initial scornful response, could be found in the outlying and hidden places in him, and could be chosen and lived.

Finding living water

Many of my psychotherapy clients and friends are not living out great faith in Jesus, but they can certainly dip their toes in living water if they don’t scorn the unlikely places it can be found in them.

Apparently, one of Karl Jung’s favorites parables touched on this truth. It is about the water of life and how it made itself known, bubbling up from a deep well in the earth without effort or limit. People drank the clean pure water and were nourished and invigorated. But humankind did not leave it at that. Someone eventually fenced the well, charged admission, claimed ownership of the property around it, made laws as to who could come to the well and put locks on the gates. Soon the well belonged to the powerful and the elite. But the water stopped flowing. The thieves were so engrossed in their power systems and ownership that they did not notice the water had vanished. But some dissatisfied people longed for it and searched with great courage until they found where the water bubbled up again. Soon that well suffered the same fate. The spring took itself to yet another place – and this thread winds through the story of humanity. It is a sad story, but the wonder is that the water can be found if one searches.

My clients, and probably you, are on the search. Usually, what quenches our thirst for life and love dries up and we become dissatisfied. Or maybe we have been cordoned off within some fence around a dry well, waiting for a bubbling up that never happens anymore.  Or maybe we have been fenced out from someplace which might have what we need by some powerful elite or thieves. Our angst usually intensifies after we have found our place in society and come to the end of the left-brain logic that makes it such a prison. We feel there is more. But we just can’t get to it.

Many people are like Nathanael who can’t imagine that “more” they crave coming from some  “Nazareth.” Many people fail to find their God-given living water because they are not prepared to search inside, especially in the parts of themselves they disown. Nathanael heard “Jesus of Nazareth” and was sure nothing good could come from there. Jesus looked at Nathanael and saw his heart. This is not always the case, but, as a result, Nathanael quickly looked past his ignorance and scorn and saw who he was meeting, and in that meeting met himself.

The Nazareth within

Psychotherapy is not the only place this happens, of course, but it is one place in which people can begin to explore that “Nazareth” place in themselves, even that place that seems as dead as a stump, and see what might be sprouting.

Most of the time were are looking outward with a face that allows us to fit into our family and society. We’re also looking out because we are afraid of what people might do to us if we don’t! When we look in we often retain the same fearful outlook and just find the elements in us that don’t fit in or don’t make us lovable. The fear we have of others also makes us afraid of what the hidden things in us will do to us if we let them get up into consciousness. In some sense we look at the deep places in us as a “Nazareth” — and what good could come of that? You might not think that way, but a lot of people do. It is easy to hear the rattling of skeletons in our closets. We scorn that Nazareth in us.

During Easter week in 1916, Teilhard de Chardin, the famous Jesuit priest and scientist, was in the middle of the Battle of Dunkirk as a medic. He said as he suffered with the casualties, and as he trembled with the earth when bombs blasted out craters, he felt the Presence of Love being wounded. This would certainly be a strange “Nazareth” in which to meet up with living water! But one of his famous prayers was first prayed at Dunkirk: “I love you, Lord Jesus. You are as gentle as the human heart, as fiery as the forces of nature, as intimate as life itself.”

That moment when you tasted living water

Not all of us could be compared to a psychological Dunkirk! But we have suffered. We carry the wounds of personal conflict and the corporate memory of all the violence that mars history. It is stuffed into places in our hearts and minds we never want to visit. We also have desires and gifts that have also been relegated to “useless” or “despicable,” since they live in the “Nazareth” we are. It hard to accept the wonder at work in us — to see the wells where the living water irrepressibly bubbles up, and drink it.

The missing keys

The other day I thought I remembered leaving the keys to my office in a door as I went to get something from my car. I went and looked and could not find them — not left in any doorknobs, not in my car, my bag, my desk or anywhere in the office! I began to think I was a fool who had let my keys get stolen by someone who would rob the office later in the night (What good can come out of Nazareth?!). So I sat back and prayed, “Lord please help me find my keys.” I immediately scorned my babyish prayer but stuck with it anyway and retraced my steps. I was back out on the sidewalk when someone called to encourage me. As I stood there talking, I looked down and there were the keys in a very unusual place! Should I really see Jesus loving me via an infantile prayer, through a coincidental phone call, in such a Nazareth? Sure! I am searching for the next place the living water is going to bubble up.

That little example is like what my clients are experiencing as they see into what is buried in them looking for something they know is lost but have little hope of finding and feeling a lot of fear about what will happen if they don’t. The little encounter of Nathanael and Jesus shows the disciple getting a good taste of living water even though he initially had no hope in who Philip had met. He thought Jesus was a nothing and it turned out that Jesus showed him how he was not a nothing. May you have such friends who let your scorn pass and turn around and bless you.

Jesus upended Nathanael’s view of himself by naming the wonder in him, also coming from a Nazareth-like place like him! As a result he saw the wonder in Jesus. When we look in ourselves with sadness or shame, we do well to keep looking. In unexpected places we can find light in our darkness. It is very likely in the sadness and shame we will find Living Water looking for us!

The still points: Finding home in the midst of change

Things change. The world is a transient experience. We are lonely for home – someplace we can feel anchored, someplace certain, someplace where our roots feel secure and stable.

While we are meditating on that, someone plows into our pizzeria or we just hear about ten such things from the 24-hour news alarm. While we are trying to secure our place in the world as the church, our constant failure and dislocated relationships scare us and discourage us until we worry that our fragile connections will deteriorate and we will be alone again.

How do we deal with this lonely, rootless experience we have as humans? The main thing is our lifelong movement toward the goal of oneness with God. That pursuit causes deeper integration, a new instinct for being rejuvenated in solitude, and the capacity to pray. But I think there is even more. There are attitude shifts and decisions we make that provide us with “still points” where we feel secure in a world that keeps shifting. We need to find the “clefts in the rock” where we feel covered.

still point

How can we find these points and overcome the nagging rootlessness that often makes us so lonely? Here are four suggestions.

The still point of faith

So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

When our faith is out of our minds and hearts and also into our bodies and habits, the symbols we use, the language we speak, and the time we share all provide thin places where we experience the security of the cleft, where we feel covered with God’s hand. They all lead to the great still point.

There is something beyond time and history, beyond what shifts in its impermanence. There is something that can’t be debunked by investigation or made obsolete by new discoveries. That something is a Someone. That Someone is known as we journey into the realm of faith, hope and selfless love. That journey in mind, heart and step will help dispel rootlessness if we persevere in it.  Our friends in recovery know this well, the first three steps of the twelve steps are all about facing rootlessness and coming home. #2 says: Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. It takes working the steps to find the still point.

The still point of commitment

I was overjoyed when some of the friends arrived and testified to your faithfulness to the truth, namely how you walk in the truth. – 3 John 1:3

Much of our rootlessness can be overcome by committing ourselves to certain people, values, things, and projects and then refusing to be unfaithful to those commitments. We need to give up on “hang loose.” Otherwise our lives end up characterized by infidelity, broken promises, broken words, cheap commitments, and hastily withdrawn loyalties – and acute loneliness.

Permanence adds a missing ingredient to the words love, friendship, promise and loyalty. It brings the element of timelessness. Teilhard de Jardin, the philosopher-scientist-Jesuit, spent much of his life frustrated with his church family. He was occasionally encouraged by his friends to abandon them. However, he would always dismiss the temptation with the simple statement: “I can never leave because I have given my word.” His commitment gave him a still point.

The still point of history

But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, a wild olive shoot, were grafted in their place to share the rich root of the olive tree, do not boast over the branches. If you do boast, remember that it is not you that support the root, but the root that supports you. – Romans 11:17-18

I think it is great that we can swipe our cheeks and find out from what part of Africa our ancestors derived. The DNA science gives us a small sense of having roots. Maybe it is good that archaeologists become more clever every day and uncover the truth (or fiction) behind ancient texts. They help us feel like our faith has a secure foundation.

We all feel better when we stand within our tradition and know our history. The newest person who comes into our church or any church does better when they refuse to think their history with the group begins when they make their covenant. They are grafted into a long history and are supported by the roots. They are not losing themselves when they adopt certain traditions and add their energy and voice to steering the future. In a real sense they are transhistorical, alive in Christ wherever Jesus has been honored throughout history. That sense of history provides a still point.

The still point of community

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord; in whom you also are built together spiritually into a dwelling place for God. – Ephesians 2:19-22

Finding home is more than finding a building, a city, or a country where we feel we belong. That’s just part of it. It is finding a heart or a community of hearts where we find enough safety and warmth to dare to be faithful and loving, to be true — like when Adam first saw Eve and said, “At last, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh!” That wasn’t just sexual attraction, that was comfort to his heart. He found in Eve what the rest of creation did not have for him.

We go through life needing to find that home. Jesus demonstrated how we find it when he was sitting with his disciples one day and his family came to the house looking for him. No doubt Jesus loved his mother and his family, but he did not immediately get up and go to them. Instead he said” Who is my mother? Who are my brothers and sisters?” Pointing to those around him he said, “Here are my mother and brothers. Anyone who does the will of God, that person is my brother and sister and mother.” He is not disrespecting his mother, he’s just teaching us that home is deeper than blood. Faith makes a family than transcends all the ancestries that divide us.

One of the great scandals of being a Jesus follower is contained in that moment. Jesus respects his origin as a man, but he is king of country that transcends and unites all other identities. Many people would fight even the hint that their personal identity does not make them who they are and should be defended at all costs. Yet Jesus persists in knitting together a new family sharing a renewed blood, heart to heart, bone of bone. In another incident a woman shouted out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus answered, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”  Yes I had a wonderful mother, but I am more than my biology.

Our community in Christ is bound together by something beyond blood, ethnicity and geography and will outlive them all. Our new home in faith is an answer to the loneliness, it is the great still point, the shelter from the storm, the cleft in the rock, that can root out our rootlessness.

Already today I have confronted my weakness, been in an argument, heard about a car disaster, read a distraught email, found myself confused by problems in various structures, lost something, and the Facebook news reported that Texas A&M had also scheduled a white supremacist rally for next month. It is 9:00 am! I am going to reread this post and see if I can’t find that still point I long to live in, sensing God’s sustaining glory in the cleft of the rock.