For the majority of us, what we call being renewed has nothing to do with what is real renewal. Mostly what we feel as renewal is when some idea or a hope that we have gets fulfilled, filling us in turn with a sense of excitement; and then, in that feeling of being full of ourselves, comes a certain kind of pleasure that we take as being the same as self-renewal in this life.
But there’s a problem with this sense of renewal, isn’t there? As all of us know too well, there is a point in our lives when we even stop looking for that kind of joy because we understand that as fast as it pours in, it pours out! In fact, no matter how much the world pours into us that way — with good financial fortune or whatever it is — no matter how much we seem to come into, there remains an emptiness. Here’s the reason behind this truth.
Our souls are not enlarged through circumstance. As a matter of fact, contrary to being enlarged by those circumstantial experiences that grant us a temporary sense of self-renewal, we’re more often than not unconsciously limited by them. The more you hold on to what are obviously conditional aspects of this life — for that sense of yourself of being “new” or “going forward” — the more afraid you are that you’re going to lose it. So in this there’s no real renewal at all. The little-understood secret of life is that everything we add to our cup to make ourselves greater becomes the very thing that makes us less.
We’re intended to have the understanding and to experience the kind of renewalthat only the Truth can pour into us. But our spiritual lives have been so starved of reality’s nourishing inflow that almost all of what we now think of as being “new” is little more than an unconscious continuation of our own best ideas and those well-preserved images from our past experiences. For us, “new” is how we look after dieting or plastic surgery; the next series in the line of cars we’d like to drive; the next revelation about some movie star’s unhappy life, or whatever it may be. Do try to see the truth of this – that when you think of finding something new, you don’t think about something that has never been before. What you’re looking for, unconsciously, is that familiar sense of self-renewal that comes with finding something similar to what you already knew, even though it didn’t fulfill you the last time you embraced it!
Before something genuinely new can appear in our lives, something old must pass. There must be a discontinuation of our familiar sense of self from which we look out into our world in order to find something we believe will renew us. Real prayer, the soul-transforming kind, is self-discontinuity. It is a conscious act of self-suspension arising from the wish for something new to occur, an act of higher understanding born from knowing that being wrapped up in the old can only produce more of the old.
The kind of prayer most commonly understood and practiced however is something quite different: asking for what you want and being temporarily filled with – and renewed by – both the self making that request and the anticipation of what is requested. You are in charge of what you think you must have to be happy. You are trying to light your own way, struggling daily to straighten out the darkened and crooked places in your life that lie both ahead of and behind you.
But there is another kind of prayer – the one critical for real self-renewal. With this secret prayer you ask God to be in charge of your life, to give you not what you think you want, but what He knows you need in order to enlarge your relationship with Him. In this prayer you’re not looking for anything for yourself outside of asking God to help you help yourself see the truth about your life, even while knowing it will probably reveal something about yourself that you don’t want to see.
The whole of your new wish for renewal, this change in how you want to consciously change the way you’ve been approaching your life, is your agreement to discontinue yourself. This new willingness on your part for God’s will to supplant you own invites His Life to pour into yours. In comes the water that renews your life, and you find yourself more alive than when you were struggling to give yourself the life you hoped for.
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