Falling Upward, Chapter 7

I’m blogging through Father Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward: A Spirituality Through The Two Halves Of Life. Even if you haven’t read the book, please stick around and join the conversation here if you’re facing a mid-life transition. Father Rohr offers us all some meaty food for thought.

Here are links to my previous posts in the series:  IntroChapter 1Chapter 2Chapter 3Chapter 4Chapter 5 Chapter 6

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This chapter is entitled “Home and Homesickness”, and talks about the destination for that second journey on which we find ourselves at midlife. Father Rohr says that the notion of “home” both transcends and includes our initial experience of home. This inner compass points in two directions: toward the home of our childhood, because even a bad home “plants the foundational seed of a possible and ideal paradise”, and forward toward a future union. “Most of us can not let go of this implanted promise,” he writes. Our souls live in this deep time.

“Wouldn’t it make sense that God would plant in us a desire for what God already wants to give us?”

He explains that homesickness is “a Force” that both sends us and draws us, and links this notion to language most Christians have used about God – as Alpha and Omega. Rohr believes God’s creation of us at our start and his receiving of us at the end of our earthly lives as one and the same. He goes on to attribute the metaphors we use to speak of the work of the Holy Spirit (wind, fire, water, doves) woven of a piece into this metaphysical fabric. Evolution and creation become one and the same.

Yes. It’s trippy, and if you come from a faith tradition that either emphasizes rational assent to propositional truth or ethical behavior, the language in this chapter may be especially offputting to you. Words are a two-dimensional vehicle by which we can attempt to describe eternity of infinite dimensions. Though I had a sense of caution as I read some of the words he used in this chapter, most of them were a string of yellow lights, not red ones. Yes, proceed with caution. Think. Pray, asking the Holy Spirit what he would have you learn from Father Rohr’s thoughts. But as you do, please keep in mind that there is a deeper truth than black-and-white propositions, and the mystical union he describes in this chapter does convey the a wisp of the eternal realities in the relationship between Bridegroom and bride.

“We dare not try to fill our souls and minds with numbing addictions, diversionary tactics, or mindless distractions. The shape of evil is much more superficiality and blindness than the usually listed ‘hot sins’. God hides, and is found, precisely in the depths of everything, even and maybe especially in the deep fathoming of our failings and failures. Sin is to stay on the surface of even holy things, like Bible, sacrament or church.”

He notes, “Heaven/union/love now emerge from within us, much more than from a mere belief system or any belonging system, which largely remains on the outside of the self.” This state leads us home, “…fully home, because all is included, and nothing wasted or hated; even the dark parts are used in our favor. All is forgiven. What else could homecoming be?”

This expansive universalism is emotionally appealing, but this was a stop light for me. I can’t reconcile this thought with Bible passages like this one or this one, to name just two. Scripture is not merely a metaphor for human growth and development, which is what it becomes in in this chapter. Scripture is not our human story as much as it is God’s story. Each one of us play a part, but he is the one who took it upon himself to redeem us. The story is far bigger than any one of us. We are incapable of saving ourselves, or ever becoming good enough people on our own willpower. Not all of us want those “dark parts” of ourselves used in our favor: Adolph Hitler comes to mind as a low-hanging fruit example here. Salvation and justice are in God’s hands alone.

I did not agree with the way Father Rohr expressed some of his ideas about homesickness. However, I value civil disagreement because it refines my own thinking. There is value in this chapter offered value in simply opening up a discussion about homesickness. Some of us hear songs like this or this, but we often don’t go much deeper than in our conversations or sermons. It is to our lack NOT to talk more about it, and to help one another recognize it in one another’s lives.

Not doing so keeps us living as refugees instead of pilgrims.

What do you think about this? How can we help one another recognize our homesickness?

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6 thoughts on “Falling Upward, Chapter 7”

  1. Over the last several weeks I have taken various overnight and day trips and have lost two books in the midst of the travels, one being FU. I read it through back when I first got it and was keeping it w/ me as I was going back through chapter by chapter w/ you on each post and again as I started my own blogging. It has not turned up in the last week, so I don’t have it today to refresh my mind or refer to my own notes or markings in the margins.

    I wonder if listening and recognizing the language of homesickness in others and adopting their language would help others recognize their homesickness. Close mentoring relationships provide opportunities to observe homesickness.

    Also, recognizing our desire for love, peace, justice, and all things noble and good as a reflection of our desire for heaven/union/love. I think we have a responsibility to be the answer to Jesus’ prayer that his kingdom (his will–love, peace, justice, all things noble and good) be done on earth as it already is done in the heaven. i.e. practice heaven. (I think I’ve heard that phrase somewhere else.) If we practice heaven, using Rohr’s quote you included, as it emerges from within us, not only should we recognize homesickness but be better able to cope as we are about the Father’s business. It’s like getting a note or a package of cookies from home while at camp.

  2. The idea that homesickness not only points back but also forward is intriguing, especially as it may be a shadow of God’s nature, the Alpha and Omega. It reminds me too of C.S. Lewis’s The Inner Ring (a short memorial lecture at King’s College – http://www.lewissociety.org/innerring.php): we all desire to find our place on the inside, and this is because God has a place for us with him.

    I also like what you said about Scripture being God’s story, not the story of humanity or even vreation as a whole. I also really like that God has given us a story that we can not only read in order to know him better, but that he actually invites us to take part in that story.


  3. Recognizing the language of homesickness in others is a very powerful notion, Angie. Doing so can change the nature of the kinds of conversations we have with others. I love this idea, as well as the idea that this is like getting a note from home while at camp!

    Have you done this recognizing of homesickness in any of your conversations recently? What happened as a result?

  4. Amen, Tim! I am grateful that the Bible is not my story, but that I am a part of a larger story.

    Thanks, too, for the link to the wonderful lecture. I’ve never read this particular speech – Lewis deconstructs not only social dynamics, but the lure within our own soul to be on the inside – to matter, to be deeply connected. He notes so beautifully that we may find this, but only when we stop looking for it, and choose to stop trying so hard to belong.

  5. I’m glad you liked the Lewis link, Michelle. This essay comes across fresh every time I re-read it.

  6. I can’t recall if I’ve heard the language right off in my own conversations. You posing the question has made me think of it, and I hope I will be more alert in the future. I’m glad you posed the question.

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