John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.”
This strikes me as an essential narrative about willingness to surrender, and the gifts it brings.
As Richard Rohr, OFM, points out, Jesus never said “worship me”. However, he did invite others to “follow me”. So, what would it be like to follow him into the water?
Symbolically, this act marks a desire for, and a process of, transformation known as repentance. As I mentioned in an earlier blog (https://soulintentionblog.com/2011/11/13/repent-repent/), this transformation acknowledges our need to go beyond the mind we have – which, as I have experienced it, is the ego-driven mind (which can be grasping, needy, petty and dualistic, at worst) – to the larger mind (unitive, or non-dualistic; the Self, as the Jungians might say; the mind of God). This is the mind that is caricatured in the following joke:
Q: “What did the Buddhist say to the sidewalk hotdog vendor?”
A: “Make me one with everything.”
But, don’t I love my small mind? The self-righteousness it affords? The attachments I deem so necessary to my well-being?
Then, by extension, I must also love the pain, isolation and defeat these bring. Or, at least, I find them safe and well-worn. Comfortable, like shoes too battered to ever leave the house; perfect for slouching about, but completely unserviceable for movement in the larger world.
At some point, I will need to move beyond my small mind if I am ever to progress. So, into the water I go…the water of surrender. Acknowledging that my small mind is with me, and shall always be, and expressing a desire to move beyond it.
Whatever we may believe, doctrinally, about Jesus, it is clear that he was a healer, a prophet, a wisdom teacher (see Marcus Borg on these points), and a master of unitive thinking. He saw, and proclaimed, the One-ness of things. And, as a result, I believe, he was able to understand that he was, and that we all are, Beloved.
Easy for Him, we say! But, if I am not yet a master of non-dual thinking, how do I go about this? Cynthia Bourgeault maintains that Centering Prayer helps us move beyond our dualitsic operating system into unitive experience. (see Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening) So, practice, practice, practice!
And, in the meantime, to borrow sage advice from the recovery community, I can “act as if”, or “fake it ‘til I make it.”
What would it mean to act as if I am beloved?
To act as if all other people are, as well?
- Those in my immediate circle?
- Those with whom I come into casual contact each day?
- Those across the country and the globe, even if they are barely in my consciousness?
To assume that all of creation – our Mother earth, and all she nurtures – is beloved?
For me, this week, here’s a simple action I can take: a different approach when I, again, call my cell provider about an ongoing problem. I would hope to be less adversarial. More respectful.