A Way Back to Soul – Part 5

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The risky task with your wounds is to open them so soul can come through. Allow yourself to be worked over until you awake to your greater potential. Avoid making sense of your pain too soon, finding relief too quickly, blaming someone for your anguish, or seeking revenge. Don’t cave in and seek refuge in self-blame, self-pity, or playing the role of the victim or martyr; nor thorough denial, cynicism, abandoning your own dreams and values, or paranoid confidence in a never-ending series of further woundings. Allow the wound to do its work on you even should you descend into those personal patterns and attachments that must die so you may be reborn into a greater life. You will learn to forgive and to love again. (Bill Plotkin, Soulcraft, p. 99.)
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How do we decide if religion, or if a particular approach to religious practice is “effective,” or “mature?” I assert that mature religion energizes something akin to what Plotkin is describing above. Mature religion deepens love for self and others. Mature religion leads one to participate in the redemption of a very broken creation.

Prior to the above quote, Plotkin writes,

An adolescent or first adulthood identity is primarily focused upon social standing, psychological security, interpersonal and physical comfort, wealth, fame, and/or the sort of personal power that is power over rather than power with. A soul-rooted identity, in contrast, is primarily focused on the discovery of and joyous offering of the gift of soul to the world. (Plotkin, Soulcraft, p. 86)

I suspect that most people who have lost faith in faith, or who have perhaps rejected spirituality altogether, have come to believe that adolescent religion is all there is. In fact, given the state of religious education in most congregations, they may well have not heard of anything deeper. It is my observation that many come to believe what they have been offered as the real deal is actually a very adolescent version, with goals no larger than small self comfort.

So, drawing from the imagery of a popular game show:

Door Number 1: Faith in a God who takes care of me and mine.
Door Number 2: No Faith
Door Number 3: What? There’s a door number 3?

I’m thinking about a friend who has been trying to cope with the tragic death of a loved one. She often returns to how her church taught her that if she lived a righteous life, then God would protect her and those she loved. Here’s something she wrote to me (shared with her permission):

Wes, So God’s love does not include any sort of protection? It is just a crap shoot. It is the luck of the draw. It is who is lucky and who not. That makes no sense to me. How can a God, the God who created everything, not provide protection for those who ask for it? I just don’t get it. Even though we, and others, prayed for God’s protection he is not obligated to grant it. That sucks!!!!!! So some get it and some do not. That really makes me angry. Some are luckier than others. Some families never lose anyone and some do. That is crap.

How could anyone blame her for her anger and her stuck-ness? Well-meaning Sunday School teachers and pastors raised her to believe in a god of protection and comfort. Rather than being offered resources for dealing with the inevitable pain of life in a broken world, she was sent into battle with a pop-gun and told to keep smiling.

Perhaps your struggles with faith are not connected to life’s wreckage, but if they are, I’d appreciate your response to this question:

Who, if anyone, has ever told you about “door number 3?”

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About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
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6 Responses to A Way Back to Soul – Part 5

  1. Nancy says:

    The problem is that we have been taught in a humanist society that it is all about us, the people, whether people of faith or people who have faith only in the material. It’s not. If we have a glimpse of who God is, so much more than our humanist perspective allows, then we also get a glimpse of the fact that is all about Him. It’s all about us bringing Him glory in the world in the way we respond to success, joy, heartache, loss, death itself. Jesus told us we would be hated, reviled, persecuted–experience heartache. It’s the way we respond in faith that makes the difference. If we cling to childish beliefs that God is there for us, we will be crushed. If we understand that we are here for His glory, we start to see truth.
    I’ve been blessed with wonderful pastors and godly teachers who have shown me these things. They may not make sense to everyone, but that’s okay. His ways are higher than our ways, and that is not just a platitude to deceive ourselves. That is a deep mystery of truth.

  2. WOW! What a wonderful blog article, Wes!

    I have so many thoughts on all of this, but I will just answer your question posed: Who, if anyone, has ever told you about “door number 3”?

    While at East Texas Baptist University, I had a professor who took me under his wing simply because he felt called to, I suppose. The relationship that developed has been one that has impacted and continues to influence my life.

    He was the one who posed the question to me concerning whether or not there was another option in viewing God than the two you presented above, of which were presented to me in church, as well.

    I can definitely say that Door Number 3 does not lead to a road marked with definite road signs and lots of warm sunshine. I have experienced lots of fog, clouds, rain, and storms along this road. But I’ve never felt without God’s presence and after every storm, the rainbow of God’s promise always beacons me forward.

    What I have learned thus far is: Through great suffering comes the capacity for greater happiness, love, joy and grace.

    We have been called as Christians to live an adventurous life not a sheltered one. As Henri Nouwen states, “We are called to live in a house of faith and not of fear.”

    Being sheltered to me states that we are afraid of something. Faith walking is not about having faith that God will protect us from suffering, but instead it is about having faith that God will be with us when we do.

    Thank you for the post, Wes.
    Always a pleasure.

  3. Mark Brady says:

    My daughter taught me about Door # 3 when I stood at the foot of the gurney her mother was on with tears in my eyes and heart wide open as I welcomed her into the world.

  4. Patrick says:

    N.T. Wright, Jurgen Moltmann, the OT prophets, and the professors at Truett Seminary helped me immensely to discover a God that doesn’t just sit above the world dishing out good or bad, depending on performance, or some unknown will of his that he’s not sharing, but who is present in the world, especially in the suffering of the world.

  5. Chaplain Tom says:

    I do not hold my religious trainers, pastors, parents, or friends responsible for teaching or failing to teach something about God. That our lives are met with struggle compelled me to seek a Door #3. It has been obvious to me the glowing promises of protection and most of the claims for that blessing are wishful thinking rather than honest responses. Experience kept butting heads with the rosey claims, and instead of turning away from faith, I kept looking. To face difficulty with courage and dignity is not a common response, but when I’ve witnessed it, it was as though I was seing the very imprint of the image of God. These folks, most of them, had no idea I saw them that way….in fact, they were busy teaching me about door number 1 as I recall….

  6. John says:

    Been thinking about your article for a while.

    A “3rd door” is a euphemism for the “Third Way.” In Hegelian economics and governmental systems (capitalism and socialism), it theorized dialectics which pertain to the categorization of how concepts evolve:

    start with a thesis, which has within itself an antithesis; the two opposing ideas conflict, bringing about a synthesis – or the next level. The cycle then repeats.

    In theological terms, the 3rd door, or “Third Way,” is an alternative to original sin or atheism. 3rd door/Third Way, presents a duality in the “evolution of spirituality.” Likely Richard Rohr or Ken Wilbur may say, the 3rd door/Third Way challenges you with the lens of non-dual thinking, a new politics and a new theology.

    It’s not one; it’s not the other. It’s either/or. Everyone belongs, everything has its place, until everyone and everything doesn’t.

    “Non-dual” meaning, the divinity of Christ is a moot point. Atheism is also a moot point. 3rd door/Third Way says it can be: either – or. Take your pick; as in terms of the dialectic process, all theology, belief systems, and faith traditions, will eventually synthesize into one pantheistic mono-religion by way of “evolutionary spiritualism.” Pantheistic being, all beliefs, all accepted: for example, a pagan can be a Christian.

    Say what you mean fellow. No need for subtle language turned in on itself with double-meanings.

    Here’s how it breaks down in 3rd door/ Third Way terminology:

    1st Door Believers: You’re out of luck. No divine Christ to save you.

    2nd Door Atheists: You’re out of luck too. Religion’s gonna get you!

    3rd Door “followers:” You’re in luck! There’s no original sin. You can be born again by reaching a state of “enlightenment,” just like the “mindful” Buddha. It’s all about you! Your true self and false self – ’cause that’s what get’s you to heaven (if there is a heaven; but that’s another dialectic topic altogether).

    Your final statement sounds cynical. Dare I say, your cynicism sounds a bit like possible personal spiritual woundings? In which case, you are working out Plotkin’s quote.

    You wrote, “Sunday School teachers and pastors raised her to believe in a god of protection and comfort, rather than being offered resources for dealing with the inevitable pain of life in a broken world, she was sent into battle with a pop-gun and told to keep smiling.”

    If what you say is true about those teachers and pastors – they are (intentional or not) most likely followers of the 3rd door/Third Way. Therefore, she was not supposed to be equipped. She was suppose to suffer, look at herself (true and false), meditate, reach enlightenment, and then be assimilated into the pantheistic, make that poly-theistic faithless/hopeless world in which she found herself. Yes – I agree with you. They set her up for failure… just not in the terms you implied.

    In the eyes of the world, even a pop-gun and smile might have gotten Jesus a reprieve. At the cross, his only defense from the same “inevitable pain of life in a broken world,” were words: Love. Forgive.

    We all suffer. Who hasn’t?
    Who told me about the 3rd door?
    What does it matter?
    What I do with the knowledge is what counts.

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