Tag Archives: control

Death by Suburb, David Goetz

I am reading a provocative and – so far – impressionable book.  Death by Suburb: How to keep the suburbs from killing your soul, by David Goetz.

It has more than a modicum of crossroads in my life.

In his second chapter, Goetz addresses the suburban “environmental toxin” (to my soul, that is) of CONTROL… the thought that I am in control of my life.  He proposes the simple spiritual practice of SILENCE/SOLITUDE as the challenger to self-sovereignty.  This is something I struggle with.  Constant activity which churns in tandem with my delusion of constant control.  According to Goetz, it is frivolous to fight our control-addiction by trying to control it! Try solitude.  Try nothing.  Stop.

You can’t live the deeper life and the busy life.  You get one but not the other. p.25

The deeper spiritual life is never a direct route.  If it were, religion in the suburbs would be the fast track to the Godhead.  In the toxic dump of efficiency and control, the first act must be countercultural – a decision not to act.  p.26

While outdoor solitude is a premium, it is not necessary for learning to uncover eternity in the ordinary… For spiritual development and entrance into the thicker, more reflective life, solitude is more inside space than outside space.  p.31

The life practice of solitude, then, is the opposite of my expectations of escape and rest or an immediate ushering into what I think is God’s presence.  It is more a discipline of struggle than it is of serenity.  It’s no formula for controlling my outer world or how I feel.  It’s the ongoing guerrilla war to loosen my choke hold on creating and gathering to myself the life I think I need.  I don’t pursue giving up control; I pursue the practice of solitude.  p.33

Goetz quotes Henri Nouwen:

It’s not easy to sit and trust that in solitude God will speak to you – not as a magical voice but that he will let you know something gradually over the years.

To which I echo Goetz: “It’s the ‘over the years’ part that bothers me.

Believe it or not, before I posted this blog, I worked to sit in silence for 5 minutes.  5 minutes.  To stop controlling my schedule.  My to-do list.  My day.  My time.  I tried.  God’s 5 minutes.  His voice.  His Word (if he prompted me to turn to it.)  And its not that I don’t read, or study or pray as a regular spiritual discipline.  I have hours of concentrated ‘devotion’ each week.  It’s just that even in doing said things… I am rarely stopping.  Rarely still.  Rarely under the control of quiet.  There is a difference, I am finding.

I’m not much good at this solitude thing.  I guess I have control issues.

Lord, help me to know you here.  In the suburbs… at a different pace that sees you, and changes me.  You the sovereign king of the suburbs.   You put me here.  You are here.  Help me sit and see and savor and so move into this place knowing you… under your control.

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Letting Go, by Fenelon

A church member and friend has coerced me into reading a book by Fenelon, “Letting Go: to get peace and real joy”.  I say coerced because I know he asked me to dig through it (short but stout) because of my desire to control aspects of life that, well… are in need of God’s continual control.  Say, like pastoring a church plant that is the living body of Christ.

It is a brief book of letters written by Francois de Salignac de La Mothe Fenelon, the Archbishop of Cambrai, France during the seventeenth century.  He was writing to a small group of people at the Court of Louis the Fourteenth.  Apparently they lived in a world of shameless immorality and struggle, kinda like us.  Try his words on for size and may they be a blessing to you.

The good that comes from any experience of personal weakness is the realization that God wants us to be lowly and obedient.  So may the Lord keep you!

I am amazed at the power that comes to us through suffering; we are worth nothing without the cross.  Of course, I tremble and agonize while it lasts, and all my words about the beneficial effects of suffering vanish under torture.  But when it is all over, I look back on the experience with deep appreciation, and am ashamed that I abore it with so much bitterness.  I am learning a great deal from my own foolishness!

The great Physician who sees in us what we cannot see, knows exactly where to place the knife.  He cuts away that which we are most reluctant to give up.  And how it hurts!  But we must remember that pain is only felt where there is life, and where there is life is just the place where death is needed.  Our Father wastes no time by cutting into parts which are already dead.  Do not misunderstand me: He wants you to live abundantly, but this can only be accomplished by allowing Him to cut into that fleshly part of you which is still stubbornly clinging to life.

Learn to cultivate peace.  And you can do this by learning to turn a deaf ear to your own ambitions and thoughts.  Or haven’t you yet learned that the strivings of the human mind not only impair the health of the body, but also bring dryness to the soul.

Love of self, which the world advocates, is a thousand times more dangerous than any poison.

Be careful about your motives in this eager chase for knowledge.  You are aware, aren’t you, that all we need is to be poor in spirit, and to know nothing but Christ and him crucified.  Although being a know-it-all makes us feel important, what is really needed to strengthen Christian character is love.  You certainly don’t think it possible that the love of God and the dethroning of self can only be reached through the acquisition of knowledge.  You already have more knowledge than you can use.  You would do better to put into practice what you already know.  Oh how we deceive ourselves when we suppose that we are growing in grace because our vain curiosity is being gratified by the enlightenment of our intellect!  We need to be humble, and to understand that we cannot receive God’s gifts from man.  The love of God comes to us only from Jesus.

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