Insight from this retreat at BGST.
‘be still’ is not the lack of physical activity but the ‘state’ of being in God’s presence to know him.
Insight from this retreat at BGST.
‘be still’ is not the lack of physical activity but the ‘state’ of being in God’s presence to know him.
A special guest post from a dear friend, Christine Aroney-Sine. I contribute an occasional post to her wonderful and inspiring blog, Godspace
Yesterday I made yoghurt. I heated the milk to 160F, allowed it to cool to 125F and then added 1/2 cup of yoghurt from my last batch. I ladled into quart jars, placed them snuggly under a warm blanket and six hours later I had yoghurt. I stood and stared at it in awe, amazed by the fact that tiny microbes have been at work diligently transforming my milk, solidifying it into a delicious tangy yoghurt.
This is the first time I have ever taken notice and been fully attentive to this wonderful fermenting process. Usually I just take it for granted, but this month I have decided to take the “awe and wonder challenge” and find at least six things each day that give me a sense of awe. Today it was my yoghurt making that first caught my attention.
Sadly though children experience awe a hundred times a day, adults rarely do. So much of what seems miraculous to a child adults dismiss as unimportant. Or they rationalize it away with scientific knowledge destroying the mystery and wonder of God in the process. We live in an awe deprived world. We sit in front of computers, not under trees and rarely take time to notice the grandeur of God’s world and of those we share it with. Yet awe and wonder change the way we look at ourselves and our world reorienting our thinking and our actions away from ourselves to the needs of those around us.
This month I have added a “daily dose of awe” experience to my spiritual disciplines. My husband and I have rechristen our daily walks “awe and wonder walks” pointing out to each other the blossom laden trees and brilliant smiling daffodils that take our breath away. Sometimes we stop for a few minutes just to admire them. It is fun and inspirational, connecting us to God in vital and enriching ways.
I am increasingly convinced that rediscovering child-like wonder, is essential for our spiritual health too. It was this conviction that prompted me to write The Gift of Wonder in which I explore twelve childlike characteristics that I think make us fit for God’s kingdom. Did you know that a daily dose of awe makes us more caring and compassionate people? Regular reminiscing and nature walks make us healthier physically, emotionally and spiritually. Gratitude transforms our lives and our faith in incredible ways.
My own growing joy and delight from my “daily dose of awe” experiences encouraged me to apply the same principal to other activities. On the plane, I am the one with my window shutter down when everyone else is trying to see their screens. I am inspired by the landscape we pass over. I look down at the meandering rivers shining in the morning sunlight. That’s God doodling I exclaim.
The Bible too is full of awe. We hear it in David’s exclamation of praise in Psalm 65:8 for example
The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders
Where morning dawns, where evening fades,
You call forth songs of joy.
Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go.
Awe begets awe. As we take notice of the awe inspiring aspects of our world, we start to notice awe and wonder wherever we go. We gasp at flowers sparkling in the sunlight, and stop to drink in the song of birds in the trees or stand on the hill to better watch the wind rushing through the grass. Then our eyes shift to the people around us. The image of God is etched in each one of them. It is not just our friends and family who give us a sense of awe. The resilience of the homeless and the strength of the abandoned also inspire us.
Opening my eyes to notice the awe inspiring world in which we live and the awe inspiring people we share it with has transformed my faith. I want to continue noticing the wonder of the changing seasons and immerse myself in their beauty. I want to increasingly be drawn into the presence of our fun loving, joy filled God. This is a great time to get out and have some fun in God’s world. Will you join me in discovering the wonder of God and of God’s world? Take the awe and wonder challenge with me. See how many miracles unfold before you each day.
Thomas Merton, in one of his classes for his noviates, was attributed to have said, “in order to have a spiritual life, you first have to have a life’. In one comment, Merton highlighted what is wrong with our spirituality today. Somehow, in the dark corridors of Church traditions, we were taught the sacred-secular dichotomy. Some part of life is spiritual while the bulk of life is ‘secular’. Only a few spiritual elites such as nuns and monks and members of the clergy live the spiritual life. The rest of us who work the earth and brought forth food by the sweat of our brows lived secular or non-spiritual life. This dichotomy fragmented our understanding of spirituality and hangs a false understanding of what Jesus meant to ‘abide in Him’. Merton meant that our spiritual life is to be found in our normal everyday life and not apart from it. It involves working, eating, sleeping, playing as much as praying, studying the Bible and attending church services.
Many of us try to live a spiritual life apart from our normal life. Living this dichotomy is doomed to failure. Trying to divide the body, soul and spirit and dealing with each individually leads to a fragmented, broken, and disconnected life. If we can only understand that Christian spirituality teaches a holistic concept that their spirit, soul and body are one, then we are on our way to integrate our lives as a holistic walk with Christ.
14 Jan 2019
Interview on Christian spirituality in the Marketplace with Grace Emilia
Grace: Could you share your daily life routine and busyness as an MD?
Alex: Life as an MD is busy. I practice in a private hospital which is part of a public listed healthcare chain. The hospital has 400 beds and is a tertiary private referral hospital for the southern part of Peninsula Malaysia. I am a paediatrician or child specialist. My working day starts at 7am when I do a ward round; reviewing all my patients in the ward. Then I start my clinic at 8am. If busy, I will work through lunch. My clinic ends at 5pm. Then I will do l another ward round, reviewing the treatment of the patients in the ward. If I am not on call, my workday will end about 7pm. If I am on call, I will have to deal with sick children coming through the Emergency Department and those in the wards until 7am the next day. Then I will continue and start my day. I have clinic six days a week and are on call frequently, also on weekends (Saturday and Sunday)
Grace: How do you integrate Christian spirituality and your work as an MD?
Alex: My first calling is to God and to grow into Christ-likeness. My second calling is to be an MD. I see no dichotomy between the two. I am called to grow to become like the Son through my services to help and treating sick children. I pray a lot in my daily work because I believe healing comes from the Lord. I believe that God will use his human agents, like me, to effect this healing. I am a witness for the Lord to my patients, their parents and family, and to the rest of the world. My workplace becomes my mission field. My witness is that those who come into contact with me see Christ.
Grace: What’s your definition and understanding of Christian spirituality (in connection with question no. 2)?
Alex: Christian spirituality is living out a life glorifying the Father through the work of the Son and empowered by the Holy Spirit. It means that everything I do is Christian spirituality. Everything I do is sacred, not secular, because of Christ in me.
Grace: Why Christian in the marketplace should also learn theology like what you did?
Alex: Theology helps us to know more about God. Our God is a self-revealing God who wants us to know him and love him. It is not enough just to know about him. We must develop a personal relationship with him through the application of theology and Christian living.
Grace: How many books have you written on Christian spirituality, especially in its integration with life in the marketplace?
Alex: All my books deal with Christian spirituality in the marketplace. Only I do not approach it directly but indirectly. Emily Dickerson in a poem wrote, “Tell all the truth but tell it slant…”. What she meant was that sometimes it is easier for people to receive the truth indirectly. My books deal with the integration of Christian living as a medical doctor: Random Musing from a Doctor’s Chair; A Good Day to Die and Live and Let Live deals with euthanasia and biomedical technology from a Christian perspective; Tales from the Monastery, Spiritual Formation on the Run, and Into the Depths of Living Water is all about developing an integrated spiritual life in wherever you find yourself to be-be it marketplace, homemaking, or ministry work.
Two men were walking towards the town of Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem. They were discussing animatedly about the events of Jesus’ claims, his death, and reports of his resurrection when a third man joined them. This man explained the significance of the events through the Scriptures. During the evening meal at Emmaus, the two men recognized the third man as Jesus! (Luke 24:13-33). They were enlightened both by the dialogue and Jesus’ explanation of the Scriptures until they feel their hearts burning within them. The Truth turned their despair to joy when they beheld the risen Christ.
Spiritual direction is this Emmaus walk where two (or more) disciples through dialogue, Scriptures, and discernment are led deeper into God’s revelation of Himself by a third person. This third person is the Holy Spirit whom Christ sent in his place when He ascended. The true spiritual director is the Holy Spirit. In our present context, a human spiritual director is one of the disciples on this road who helps the other disciple to hear correctly what the real spiritual director, the Holy Spirit, is saying to him or her. The human spiritual director’s role is not to counsel or offer advice but only to help the other disciple or directee to hear what the Holy Spirit is speaking into his or her life. Unlike counselling which focuses on the resolution of a specific problem or pastoral care, or of a specific situation or life event, spiritual direction focuses on helping the directee to hear what God is saying to him or her. Spiritual direction is hence useful for those who have major life decisions to make, or those who want to deepen their spiritual relationship with God. It involves prayers, dialogue, silence and stillness, listening, and discernment.
Spiritual direction is an intrinsic part of the Christian tradition. Throughout the ages, it may be known by different names such as ‘one anothering’, spiritual guide, spiritual father or mother, and mentoring. Jesus as recorded in the Gospel is the spiritual director par excellence. He helped his disciples to grow closer in their relationship with God. The role of the spiritual director became more established in the early church in Acts; Ananias and Paul after his Damascus experience, Barnabas and John Mark, Paul’s decision to turn to Macedonia in his missionary journey, and Paul’s pastoral letters to the churches. When the church became institutionalized in the 3rd Century, the Desert Fathers and Mothers moved out to the deserts of Syria and Egypt in order to be closer to God in these barren wastelands. Though initially they were solitary hermits, the Desert Fathers and Mothers were soon sought out by those who seek a closer relationship with God and they became spiritual directors to these seekers. A community soon grew up around these spiritual directors. These became the site for the great monasteries.
When the Latin and Greek speaking churches split in or around 1054, each tradition continued with spiritual direction enshrined within it. The Greek Orthodox tradition offered spiritual direction as a part of community life, whereas the Latin Roman Church restricted spiritual direction to its clergy and the elites of its Orders. When the Protestant churches split from the Roman Church during the Reformation, about 500 years ago, the Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin incorporated spiritual direction into their new churches. The practice of spiritual direction remains strong in the Orthodox and Roman Churches while in the Protestant churches, it declined with the rise of evangelicalism. It has been experiencing a revival since the middle of the Twentieth Century when evangelicals began to realize that talking to God is more important than talking about God.
The heart of spiritual direction is our relationship with God. Our relationship with God involves our spiritual formation and transformation into being Christlikeness. There are three dimensions in our relationship with God. The walk to Emmaus and dinner revealed how Jesus formed and deepened the personal relationships of the disciples with God (person-in-formation). This is the first dimension. The narrative did not end there. They rushed back to the other disciples- in their community- where Jesus appeared amongst them (Luke 24:33-45). This is relationship at a communal level (persons-in-community formation), the second dimension. The third dimension of the relationship with God has to do with the mission of God which is to redeem the world and save the lost souls – the missio dei (persons-in-mission formation). Relationship with God involves being involved with his mission because the disciples are the witnesses (Luke 24:46-49). Helping a person in spiritual direction means helping the person through the Holy Spirit to develop these three dimensions of our relationship with God. God has always been working to deepen our relationship with him. Unfortunately, we are often not aware of this. The role of the spiritual director is to help the directee to be aware of God’s presence in his or her life and what God wants to do to deepen that relationship.
The role of spiritual direction in soul care or the nurture of the spiritual life in Christians mainly involves two major categories. One is in significant life event decision-making and the other in seeking to deepen our spiritual life. In life, we are often faced with making important life changing choices. These choices are not the choice between good and bad. The decision here is obvious. It is often between good or better in the light of God’s call on our lives. These are difficult decisions to make. The human spiritual director comes in to help the person making the choice to discover his or her underlying motivations through prayers and dialogue and also to help spiritually discern the leading of the real spiritual director, the Holy Spirit, on the matter. Ignatius of Loyola’s Spiritual Exercises is a major influence on spiritual direction decision making. It was originally written for Jesuit novices to discern their calling to join the Order and its monastic vows. It is a manual for a 30 days retreat where the retreatants are led to make their decision by a series of structured exercises involving prayers, self-examination of self and emotions, with the help and discernment of a spiritual director. The modified Spiritual Exercises is still in use by spiritual directors and its principles still remain valuable today.
Many people have found spiritual direction useful in deepening their spiritual life especially in a life of prayers. John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila are two interesting examples. They took turns to give spiritual direction to each other as they progressed in deepening their spiritual lives. Most Christians lead very superficial spiritual lives. God has invited us to jump into his depths and to experience a deeper life in Christ. Soul care work is not easy. We will meet the ‘dragons’ of our shadow self as we peel away the layers of our false self to find our true self. It may be disturbing and scary. This is where spiritual directors are very helpful. They journey together with us and teach us how to slay these dragons! The spiritual quests and dwellings which make up the movements of our spiritual lives are also movements of the Holy Spirit. Jonathan Edwards and John Woolman are two examples of spiritual directors whose writings offered profound insights into the deepening of our spiritual lives.
Spiritual direction is an important part of soul care together with spiritual friendship, mentoring, disciplining, coaching, counselling and pastoral care. The present day Church needs a deeper spirituality in Christ. There has been increasing interest in spiritual direction in the Protestants and evangelical churches. With the rapidly interconnected world, spiritual directors and directors do not need to be in the same room or even the same continent! This is a positive development if spiritual direction is to be available to a Twenty-First Century Church who is hungry for spiritual depth.
Eugene Peterson, former pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland and Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology in Regent College, Vancouver, Canada passed away at home on 22 October 2018. He was 85 years old. In the Spiritual Formation Movement, I regard Dallas Willard as the head, Richard Foster as the hands, and Eugene Peterson as the heart. Dallas Willard who died in 2013 provided the ideas that formed the infrastructure of the movement. His ideas were often abstract and his concepts difficult to grasp. Richard Foster consolidates the movement by recovering the spiritual disciplines and the formative programs of Renovaré, an organization that he started. However, it is from Eugene Peterson that I discovered the heart of the movement.
I only met Eugene Peterson once many years ago at a Spiritual Formation Forum in Los Angeles. It was late in the day and he was tired yet he was willing to spend half an hour talking to this unknown Asian guy over a cup of coffee. I do not remember what we talked about but I do remember I was impressed by his authenticity and spiritual presence. I remembered leaving the encounter spiritually uplifted and convinced that I should continue to be involved with the movement. This was before the publication of the Message, his paraphrase of the Bible, which made him internationally famous . I have been reading and studying his writings before this chance encounter and continued to do so. I regard Eugene Peterson as my spiritual director even though he may not know it. His books, writings, lectures, and sermons provide spiritual guidance at the most appropriate times in my life. Like all spiritual guides, he draws me closer to God with his wise counsel.
The centrality of the Word lies at the heart of all his writings and teaching. Being a linguist himself, Eugene Peterson was familiar with ancient Greek and Hebrew. He emphasized the need to know the Bible and to apply it in all areas of our lives. I find Eat this Book and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction representative of Eugene Peterson’s thinking in this area. Megachurches, modern theologies and the prosperity gospel did not impress him. A thought which he shared that have stayed with me was that he would not pastor a church that has more members than he can know personally. I believed he gave the number as 300 members. And he held true to that conviction, faithfully pastoring a small church in Bel Air for over 23 years. I am totally convinced of his concept of a pastor as being a part of a community. Reading his personal memoirs The Pastor, community and place were featured prominently as his areas of emphasis. Christian spirituality was a deep interest of his and his books Run with the Horses and Subversive Spirituality taught me the importance of our spirituality in Christ in the ordinary events in our daily life.
Though he is no longer with us, his legacy lives on. A gentle man with deep roots in the Word and in God. An earthly man with deep roots in his communities. A thoughtful reflective man whose body of work continues to inspire and guide others to engage in subversive spirituality in a materialistic world.
What is your spiritual temperature?
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of Darkness”, writes Charles Dickens in his novel, A Tale of Two Cities. The two cities, Dickens has in mind are Paris and London. We, Christians are also living in a Tale of Two Cities. The Bible refers to the two cities as Jerusalem and Babylon. We are part of an epic drama that involves our eternal souls.
We are fast approaching the new millenium, a time of great happenings, a time when our Lord may come again in glory. We are told to be alert to His Coming, be ready for His Coming. “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’ ” (Mark13:37)
Wang Ming Tao, a famous Chinese Christian taught us to always check our life with a spiritual thermometer so that we will be spiritually healthy when the Lord comes.
[place a ‘x’ at the area where you feel are in spiritually at this moment]
|Healthy Spiritual Life||Unhealthy Spiritual Life
|Fervent in prayer||Lethargic in prayer
|Bible reading tasteful
|Bible reading insipid|
|Fully trusting||Anxious and doubting
|Loving God more than everything||Loving worldly things more than God
|Resisting and hating sin||Compromising with sin
|Giving God the glory in all things||Seeking self glory in everything
|Fully at peace||Much worrying
|Giving thanks in all||Much murmuring
|Always happy and singing||Always sad and sighing
|Peaceful and patient in trouble||Easily provoked to anger
|Much consideration of others||Much consideration of self
|Seeking God’s in all things||Seeking men’s pleasure in all things
|Yearning for spiritual things in the heart||Coveting earthly things in the heart
|Speaking words that edify others||Speaking words that criticise others
|Happy to witness for Christ||No power to witness
|Cheerful to give to God’s work||Stingy and unwilling to give
|Rejoicing in other’s good success||Jealous of others’ good success
|A helping hand to those in trouble||Nonchalant at other’s misfortune
|Willing to forgive others||Not willing to forgive others
|Character first||Clothing first
|Happy to keep close to devout Christians||Happy in the company of worldly friends
|Happy to hear faithful admonitions||Happy to hear words of flattery
|Eagerly hoping for the Lord’s return||No thought of things touching on the Lord’s return
The shaded boxes gives a visual aid to the state of our spiritual life, our spiritual temperature. Are we on fire for the Lord and are we stone cold?
Are we spiritually healthy? Can we with confidence say, “ Come, Lord Jesus, Come”
my new book
This is the Afterword in my forthcoming book, Into the Depths of Living Water.
Afterword—Meditation on Writing
The book you are holding is the latest at trying to share the gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ in a different format. I hope you have enjoyed it and in some ways be edified by it.
Writing is hard and gruelling work. It is incubated amidst blood, sweat, and tears. No, these aren’t the ink I write with. I just want to express that it not just physically challenging, but mentally too. The thought of all the work frightens me, as it involves transferring all those ideas that I carry with me in my mind, into words. Ideas brew and form, and run ahead of writing—writing about them is akin to playing ‘catch up’. Such imagery is enough to make me feel breathless. Writing, especially in an authentic voice, makes me exceptionally vulnerable, as my inner thoughts and aspirations are made bare to the world. Such glaring spotlight is not easy on me—an extreme introvert.
So why write? Putting all things on a balance, I sense that a net effect is at work, to pull me towards writing as the means to share my ideas with a wider audience. I hold dear a vision to nurture disciples of Jesus Christ who possess informed minds, hearts on fire, and are contemplative in actions. This process of orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxis are the foundations of my writing. The process of becoming like Jesus Christ is necessarily a holistic one, as we strive to live out the faith in everyday situations, in the various roles we play in community life. In attempting to address such needs, the scope of my interest and writing inevitably takes on a multi-faceted approach. It draws upon insights from theology, biblical studies, spiritualities, spiritual formation, spiritual direction, biomedical ethics, culture and the arts (poetry, literature etc.), science and medicine, popular culture (movies, computer games etc.), parenting and Christian living. At first blush, these seem very disconnected ideas but all of these can be mined for lessons on spiritual formation—the common theme that undergirds my writing.
My editor, Shu Phay, encouraged me to share something about my writing journey. Initially. I was very reluctant because my journey is not over yet. I believe I have still a number of books inside me to be written. However, after mulling it over during a retreat, I have decided to share a part of that journey that God has unveiled thus far. Thinking about why I write what I write humbles me—I must aim, at all times, to be a good messenger and steward of knowledge. And yes, I must keep the interest going, to explore and use the most suitable media or technology to communicate with you, dear readers.
For readers who may want to get to know me through my writings, please read on. There could be common interests, you and I, and I welcome exchanges and collaboration.
Random Musings from a Doctor’s Chair (2005); Armour Publishing, Singapore
This is a collection of articles where I experimented with different approaches of writing to connect with my readers. I wrote from the first, second, and third persons on issues that concern me as a Christian doctor, such as depression, suicide, euthanasia and cloning.
A Good Day to Die: A Christian Perspective on Mercy Killing (2005); Armour Publishing, Singapore
This book is a Christian response to controversial and emotive issues of euthanasia and end-of-life concerns. I gave my response from the lens, as well as from the ‘heart’ of a medical doctor. I shared some perspectives to guide Christians to think about this: We live well. Shouldn’t we also die well, with dignity and minimum pain and completely at peace with life’s rhythm and His will?
Live and Let Live: A Christian Response on Biotechnology (2006); Kairos Research Centre, Kuala Lumpur
Here, I injected insights and knowledge from my medical career and theology education to make sense of scientific processes relating to the termination, design and creation of life—abortion, stem cell research, cloning, and transhumanism. I got started on this book after a period of observation about the Church’s attitude to technology and new advances. It seemed to me that there is a general skepticism on new technology, and I ponder if the rejection is a gut reaction— a crippling fear of the unknown blocking attempts to view it rationally and with theological basis. This book is an attempt to fill the gap at a time when response papers were typically written by systematic theologians, rather than Christian ethicists or medical practitioners.
This is a work in progress and the book, admittedly, is a bit dated. One day, I shall get my lazybones to update it!
Spiritual Formation on the Run: Meditations to Build a Busy Life (2009); Armour Publishing, Singapore
Travelling further on my journey in spiritual formation and transformation, I began to realise that many Christians shun the active, intentional formative processes of their faith communities because they are too busy. Somehow, there is an entrenched view that we can only grow spiritually if we are ‘unbusy’. My thoughts were on busy people as I wrote this—hence the short chapters with a key takeaway in each, to be ‘consumed’ on the go. It is my conviction that the Holy Spirit can cause spiritual formation and transformation in very busy people—people who are always on the run.
Tending the Seedbeds: Educational Perspectives on Theological Education in Asia (2010); Asia Theological Association, Philippines
I contributed a chapter on problem-based learning (PBL) in theological institutions. When researching and writing this, I discovered a valuable area—how people learn—and have not stopped thinking about this since, the theory and applications to the Church. A significant milestone in my journey of writing and discovery.
Tales from the Monastery: Spiritual Formation the Asian Way (2012); Armour Publishing, Singapore
Alex Tang (Author), Hai Seng Lim (Illustrator)
Jesus told parables. Parables are stories that have multiple layers of meanings. Stories are a powerful media of communication, cutting through our filters and worldviews. This book represents an attempt to communicate biblical truths through stories. Set in the fictitious Sow Lin Monastery headed by Abba Ah Beng, the book follows a group of mischievous disciple monks (and one girl) on their life adventures (misadventures too) musings, and ‘learning moments’. The book was delightfully illustrated (with cartoons) by Han Seng Lim. I am grateful that many people, both young and old are blessed by it. It is presently in its fourth printing.
Till We are Fully Formed: Christian Spiritual Formation Paradigms in the English-speaking Presbyterian Churches in Malaysia (2014); Malaysia Bible Seminary, Malaysia
This is an academic tome based on my PhD work on spiritual formation. It provided the opportunity to formalise and disseminate my ideas about learning, spiritualities, spiritual formation and transformation, and discipleship in Christian faith communities.
Conversations with my Granddaughter (2014); Armour Publishing, Singapore
Kids are at the heart of what I do; parenting and grandparenting are issues close to my heart. I thought that the idea of a series of letters to my granddaughter would be a great medium to convey parenting advice in a post-modern age. It has proven to be very popular. A companion volume on letters to my grandson is being written.
A People Apart (2016); Armour Publishing, Singapore
This is a collection of meditations on 1 Chronicles for Asian Notes, originally published by the Scripture Union. I thought it is useful for people, especially busy people, to have access to the materials in a handy, compact booklet.
Meditations in Autumn (2015); Meditation in Summer (2016); Kairos Spiritual Formation, Kuala Lumpur
I have in recent years begun to develop photography as a spiritual discipline, to train the mind and eyes to focus in looking and seeing, and in the process, learn to perceive the world differently. I want to be closer to the Creator by appreciating the beauty of his creation. I have noticed lately that people take in information better if it’s presented visually or as short sound bytes. Thus birthed an idea to develop a four-part series, each a photobook devotional. The first two books contain photos taken in autumn in Kyoto, Japan and summer in Alaska respectively.
Soli Deo Gloria
The absence of a good father figure is a major area of concerns in our society. This absence has an impact on both sons and daughters. The impact is different in different gender. In the male, it is often converted into anger, aggressiveness, ambition, and workaholism. Richard Rohr has much to say about this.
Krista Tippet interviewed Richard Rohr on her website On Being on 13 April 2017. During this interview Living in Deep Time, a wide range of profound topics was touched upon.
MS. TIPPETT: You used the language of “father hunger.”
FR. ROHR: Yeah, father hunger. It’s driving so many things in our culture, even this whole corporate world of the younger male’s need to please the big daddy and get his pat on the back or his promotion.
MS. TIPPETT: I think it’s such a mystery of the human condition.
FR. ROHR: I know, I know.
MS. TIPPETT: That also, in some place you describe someone speaking to you about this father hunger and kind of in the middle of their life and realizing, calling it, saying they realized it was a chasm, a canyon, the emptiness and pain left of a relationship with the father that wasn’t there. And the mystery that we can get very old, and that can still be with us. That this is not something that you just outgrow.
FR. ROHR: No, no.
MS. TIPPETT: And it’s incredible how we can be defined by these broken relationships across a lifespan.
FR. ROHR: Yeah, I’ve had men older than me weep with me, still wanting a daddy, because they never had a father figure. It’s heartbreaking, really.
MS. TIPPETT: You say something that I just want to understand, where you say that “when positive masculine energy is not modeled from father to son, it creates a vacuum in the souls of men, and into that vacuum demons pour.” And you say among other things, they seem to lose the ability to know how to read situations and people correctly. Why is that? Obviously, that can be crippling professionally, personally, but why — what is that connection?
FR. ROHR: Here’s the answer that comes to mind now. I don’t know if it’s the best one. But young men who haven’t been validated by an older male — because we look to our same-sex parent for validation — and when dad doesn’t tell me I’m a man or a good man or acceptable son, I think your first 30 years of life are so frantic, you don’t have time to read inner emotions. Your emotional life — there’s no subtlety to it, there’s no nuance, there’s no freedom, there’s no grace, there’s no time.
I often see it in airports. In 46 years, I was on the road, and you’d see these people rushing through airports, neither looking to right or left, like a deer caught in the headlights. When you’re a deer caught in the headlights, trying to survive, I don’t think you develop an inner world. Do you understand? It’s just the whole life is externalized, and the soul is not born. And that’s why, again, suffering for so many becomes the only path because it’s the only thing strong enough to lead you into the world of grief, for example, or sadness or pain. And those tend to be the holes in the soul that awaken the inner world.
And so an important part of every initiation rite was grief work, letting men get in touch with their unfinished hurt and begin to talk about it with other men. That’s when the floodgates opened, and all of this success that they shined with externally they finally could admit was all a charade. Everything changed after that.
The transcript of the interview here