I am delighted to share another beautiful submission to the Monk in the World guest post series from the community. Read on for Brenda Buckwell's reflection "No Greater Love!"
I remember from high school one particular girl. At the time no one called her mean. She was kind on the outside and everyone admired her. All wanted to be her friend. And yet, there was within her a streak of jealousy that was deeply device and manipulative. This mean girl told her friend at the time that she was plain and boring; no one, especially the boy the other girl had a crush on would ever like her. The friend, the mean girl said was not good enough, not pretty enough, just plain old not enough for anyone to like her.
The mean girl’s jealousy ran so deep, that she vowed to herself that if that the boy didn’t like her, then she would do all in her power to make sure her best friend didn’t get the boy either. The mean girl went so far even to tell the boy untrue things about the nice girl. She destroyed the love of two people, simply by her jealousy. And all the while the mean girl professed love of God, offered prayers and appeared to live the life of one who believed in Jesus’ love.
This story remains in my mind through these many years, because it typifies human jealousy, pride, arrogance, competition and the drive that so many folks chase after; that being to place our self as number one. With self being number one, our feelings, attitudes, and our perspective on situations of life become the driving force and motivation for all words and actions at all cost. It doesn’t matter, like with the mean girl’s line of thought how behavior born out of selfishness impact the lives of others. This narcissistic style of life infects folks in all walks of life, from the smallest of personal relationships to the grandest of leaders.
So, what is a believer to do about this infliction of ego and jealous selfishness? How are we able to burst forth in love of others placing the other’s best interest ahead of our own self-interest without feeling less than? These questions are scary to the ones that struggle with self-worth, those that live from a me-first perspective in relationships. To the defender of self at all cost, even entertaining these ideas beyond the surface level of mental consent may feel devastating and so the narcissistic life style deepens, hoping beyond hope no one will notice. If lived long and hard enough this line of thought leads to deep racism, nationalism, clannism and device plotting to remain in control of the other.
The words of Jesus which echo in my mind and heart this day come from John 15. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. (John 15: 12-14, NRSV) The complete scripture can be found here >>
One of the ways I live being a Monk in the world is by leading groups through the prayer practice Lectio Divina. That is Latin for Divine reading. It is an ancient way of praying the scripture that can revolutionize one’s interior attitudes, love and action within the world. Do you think I am exaggerating about the power of reformation that can be lived through praying scripture in this manner? One time I led a small congregation through this process for six months which resulted in the council unanimously, passionately affirming a direction of ministry which resulted in outreaching love to 10,000 neighbors’ in the first year.
(To check out this complete story see Dwight Judy’s book A Quiet Pentecost .For our purposes this day, we seek to listen personally and discern to the best of our ability how to live as a force of God’s love within our circle of influence.)
There are five steps today for Lectio Divina*
- First read the full text John 15:12-17 to become familiar with the story.
- When reading the same text, the second time, ask yourself “What word or phrase sticks out to my heart?” This is a word or phrase directly from the text, not something it reminds you of.
- After a time of contemplative silence praying with the word you heard from God from scripture, read the text a third time. This time ask yourself, “How does this text intersect your current life situations?”
- Again, after extended time for contemplative silence praying with the intersection of your life and this scripture, read the story a fourth time. Since God is alive and speaking to your heart through this scripture, consider: “What is God inviting you to be or do through this text?”
- Once you have discerned the invitation from God for your daily living, then remain in silence with that invitation for at least ten minutes. Conclude your time of praying with a spoken prayer of thanksgiving as you express deep gratitude for God’s living Word shaping your prayer and heart’s desire. May you be empowered by God’s Holy Spirit to live as Jesus loves from this time of prayer.
If praying Lectio Divina can transform community, I wonder, what might have been possible if the mean girl from high school had prayed Lectio Divina? Would her jealousy have subsided? Could the foundation of her life have shifted so that she would have sought to speak honesty and love to others rather than living deviceively? What if everyone reading this blog post shared Lectio Divina in community? I wonder how that could possibly influence relationships, neighborhoods, and nations?
I look forward to hearing your wisdom as to how to live Jesus love in relationship with others. Talk to you in the blog comments.
*This process is modified by Living Streams Flowing Water which is originally found in the Companions in Christ book by Upper Room publishers.
The Rev. Dr. Brenda Buckwell is an author, (The Advent of God's Word and weekly blog posts), an United Methodist She is an endorsed spiritual director, life coach, and educator who opens interior space for the power and presence of Christ to shape individual and community life to fullest potential for authentic living. She is also a national retreat leader and founder of Living Streams Flowing Water spiritual formation ministry.
As a United Methodist ordained elder, who trained as spiritual director and supervisor of spiritual directors at Mercy Center in Burlingame, California, Brenda holds the United Methodist Certification in Spiritual Formation and lives a deep passion for spiritual formation within the church. With an online teaching certification, she is adjunct at Ashland Seminary and teaches for Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary and CenterQuest.
In addition to spiritual direction, two of Brenda’s favorite spiritual disciplines are swimming and ballroom dancing. The delight of life is her children and grandchildren for whom she strives to be Amma.