If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your own pleasures, your own ways of coping, and follow the way of the cross.
Walk close with me…
If you insist on saving your life- you will just end up losing it.
You will just end up WASTING it.
Only those who are prepared to lose it all for my sake, and for the sake of my Kingdom, will ever know what it really means to LIVE…
From Mark 8:34-35.
Heres a question: Is it possible that the things we do to enable us to survive, or to socialise-even to succeed- easily become the seeds of our downfall? Perhaps the stuff that insulates us from one another, and from God?
I have thought about this a lot. It is one of those many areas where my understanding of God has been enhanced by my work with people who have mental health problems.
You see, perhaps the most influential therapeutic approach today is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). CBT encourages us to look at the way our thoughts, emotions, actions and physical sensations interact to form repetitive feedback loops that can be enslaving and extremely difficult to escape.
That is not to say that these loops are always dysfunctional. The truth is, much of how we engage with the world about us seems to be built on these things. We find ways, sometimes at a very early age, of managing the interface with the stresses and strains of life, and these tend to just continue into adulthood. For most of the time, this is just how it is- we do not need to examine this in any detail.
One of the things that CBT therapists will look for as we try to help people are ‘safety behaviours’. These are the things we do to enable us to get through. Of particular significance, and introducing the most complication, are those things we get into to cope with SOCIAL risks- that most subtle of human response to the risk of exposure, ridicule an embarrassment.
For some people, the safety behaviours may be highly damaging- drugs, alcohol, dependency on sex, or imprisonment in abusive relationships. For some, violence and anger become their defining emotion- enabling them always to be right.
For many of us, they may include more manageable, but still potentially unhelpful ways of keeping the world at bay- food, stuff that makes us feel good for a while, possessions, the pursuit of recognition and significance…
Then there are even more of us who appear to be doing OK. We have our things, our successes, and our projects. We know where we are going, more or less, and who we are going there with. We can cope with most of what life throws at us, because we are moving on our own tram lines- we have bought a ticket, and the only way is forward…
For those of us in the latter group, it is often only CRISIS that makes us take stock.
That makes us look at the safety behaviours we wrap ourselves in, and ask whether they are worth holding on to.
When I look at the passage above from Mark’s gospel, I wonder if Jesus knew all about this. I wonder if he understood that life lived for nothing is no life at all. That life insulated from people and from God is a lesser existence. That life where safety-comes-first will only ever be half life.
So I wondered about the need for us all to STOP coping.
To stop being in control.
To step outside the treadmill of the expected, the predictable, the manageable.
Into the great glorious unknown.
Where God is.