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Keep On Practicing

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)

15 Now, brothers, I must remind you of the Good News which I proclaimed to you, and which you received, and on which you have taken your stand, and by which you are being saved — provided you keep holding fast to the message I proclaimed to you. For if you don’t, your trust will have been in vain.

My version, based on Mounce Reverse Interlinear:

15Also, you know perfectly well, brothers, the happy history which I declared to you; which you acknowledged, and in which you stand fast; through which you are also being set free— as long as you keep holding on to the message I told to you—unless your trust was without purpose.

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 The Message (MSG) Resurrection

15 1-2 Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time— this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved. (I’m assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you’re in this for good and holding fast.)

I’ve been trying to discern the difference between the understanding that comes from the implications of this Happy History as they apply to me, as contrasted to those same implications as applied to someone else.

It looks a little bit like this: I hear Paul saying to me: “You have understood how to follow the Way; you’ve acknowledged the truth of it; you’ve discovered that it’s solid ground for you to stand on, and you’ve confirmed that it’s freed you from all kinds of uncertainties, anxieties, and confusions, isn’t that right? If that’s the case, then just keep holding on and doing your best. If you can’t do that, it only means that you never really understood in the first place, you only thought you did.” The danger comes when I start extrapolating. When I do that, I get this: “If that’s what Paul is saying to me, then that’s what he must be saying to the other person who is mixed up with me in the same situation, and the other person must be hearing the same message that I’m hearing.”

I can see just how bogus those assumptions are, especially when I read them typed in black and white. I can see how silly it is for me to imagine that someone else sees and hears the same things that I see and hear, or is even looking in the same direction as I am. I just can’t afford to assume anything, especially about someone else’s values, priorities and standards.

Then it comes crashing home on top of me: I can’t understand a single thing on someone else’s behalf. What Paul is saying makes perfect sense to me, and I can see just how I might go wrong, but I can also see exactly how to go right. The problem is that all of my understanding can’t fix the situation or make it go away, no matter how clear and certain my comprehension might be.

Over the past week (which was Holy Week, with all its cares and duties and frenzied busyness) I kept finding myself coming back to number 10 in the Waystead Intentions—

“To practice waiting on God, to learn to stop where understanding stops, and remain there.”

Boy Howdy, sometimes practice gets really hard!

I’ve been hearing Mugaku Sensei in my mind’s ear lately, as I remember his answer to a frustrated student’s question about why he just can’t stop doing something that he desperately wants to stop doing. Mugaku just said, “Keep on practicing.” I remember how the student flopped back in his chair at that answer, rolling his eyes in an existential surrender which combined equal measures of discontent and acceptance. It made us all laugh, including the student who had asked the question.

I recently rewrote the Waystead Intentions, changing them from a mutual declaration to a singular one. I did this because the person who had originally made a commitment to them with me told me that she did not want to owe allegiance to them. I have been very confused and troubled about this for two and a half weeks and have come to no useful conclusion other than to follow Mugaku Sensei’s advice and ‘keep on practicing.’

If you want to become whole,

let yourself be partial.

If you want to become straight,

let yourself be crooked.

If you want to become full,

let yourself be empty.

If you want to be reborn,

let yourself die.

If you want to be given everything,

give everything up.

(From the Tao te Ching, Verse 22; translated by Stephen Mitchell)

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