“Only a Suffering God Can Save” (Breathing Under Water, Rohr)

This was an epilogue on the problem of suffering. It is concise and, I believe, more effective than all the books written on the topic of “Why?”

If God is somehow in the suffering, participating as a suffering object too, in full solidarity with the world that He created, then I can make some possible and initial sense of God and this creation.Then I stop complaining long enough to sit stunned and awakened by the very possibility. At least if we are participating in something together, and human suffering has some kind of direction or cosmic meaning, I can forgive such a God for leaving us in what seems like such desperate straits, and maybe I can even find love and trust for such a God.

Only if we are not alone in this universe, can we tolerate our aloneness.

Only if human suffering is first of all and last of all divine suffering can we begin to connect any dots.

It is the truest level of love, as each and every thing offers itself for another.

only people who have suffered in some way can save one another

Deep communion and dear compassion is formed much more by shared pain than by shared pleasure

I do believe this (Luke 22:31-32, Peter being sifted like wheat) is the only ordination that matters and transforms the world.

Only survivors know the full terror of the passage, the arms that held them through it all, and the power of the obstacles that were overcome.

From the cross, he draws all suffering people to himself.


Breathing Under Water, Chapter 12

“Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.” Step 12 of AA

Until people’s basic egocentricity is radically exposed, revealed for what it is, and foundationally redirected, much religion becomes occupied with rearranging deck chairs on a titanic cruise ship, cruising with isolated passengers, each maintaining his or her personal program for  happiness.

…much of organized religion says, “Come join our group, and maybe we will get to some actual healing some day.”

most of church history has done loads of preaching and very little healing. Seminaries are set up to train preachers and teachers, not healers.

We must learn to distinguish what looks like loving and what is actually loving for such codependent members of our churches.

Passive membership creates not just passive dependency but also far too often passive-aggressive behavior–when such stalwart members do not get what they have become accustomed to.

God loves and respects freedom–to the final and full riskiest degree. God lets evil take its course, and does not even stop Hitler or people who torture children.

Good religion keeps God free for people and keeps people free for God.

Addiction is a spiritual disease, a disease of the soul, and illness resulting from longing, frustrated desire, and deep dissatisfaction–which ironically the necessary beginning of any spiritual path.

You need more and more of anything that does not work.  If something is really working for you, then less and less will satisfy you.

Breathing Under Water: Chapter 8

“Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” Step 8 of A.A

“amazing grace” is not a way to avoid honest human relationships, but to redo them–but now gracefully–for the liberation of both sides.

All healers are wounded healers. (Nouwen)

Knowing that we were not taught nonviolent communication at the personal level, is it any surprise that we did not have the skills at the national, cultural, or church levels?

A.A. is the only group I know that is willing and honest enough to just tell people up front, “You are damn selfish!” Or, “Until you get beyond your massive narcissism you are never going to grow up.”

It is a self-serving concern to alleviate just your own guilt; it is a loving question to say, “How can I free others from theirs?”

Until religion becomes flesh, it is merely Platonic idealism instead of Jesus radicalism.

To offer an apology in a way that can actually heal the other takes wisdom and respect for the other.

Breathing Under Water, Ch. 7 (Rohr)

“Humbly asked (God) to remove our shortcomings.” Step 7 of AA

We pray to form a living relationship, not to get things done.

Prayer is a symbiotic relationship with life and wife God, a synergy which creates a result larger than the exchange itself.

God gives us power more than answers.

Jesus told us all to stay in the position of a beggar, a petitioner, a radical dependent, which is always spiritually true, if we are honest.

How you do life is your real and final truth, not what ideas you believe.

Any attempts at self-conversion would be like an active alcoholic trying to determine his own rules for sobriety. God has to radically change the central reference point of our lives.

God’s totally positive and lasting way of removing our shortcomings is to fill up the hole with something much better, more luminous, and more satisfying. Then your old shortcomings are not driven away, or pushed underground, as much as they are exposed and starved for the false program for happiness that they are.

All spiritual rewards are inherent and not rewards that are given later.


Breathing Under Water, Chapter 6, by Richard Rohr

“Were entirely ready to have God remove all of these defects of character.”  Step 6 of the Twelve Steps

This chapter is a brief but helpful reminder about the tension between what God does and what we do:

But which should come first, grace or responsibility? The answer is both come first.

Almost all spirituality has a paradoxical character to it, which is why the totally rational or dualistic mind invariably misses the point, and just calls things it does not understand wrong, heresy, or stupid. G.K. Chesterton said that paradox is simply truth standing on its head to get our attention!

Christians must ever thank Martin Luther for his courage and persistence in recovering Paul and the Gospel for the Western “can-do” world.

Faith itself became a “good work” that I could perform, and the ego was back in charge.

It seems we must both surrender and take responsibility.

By personal temperament you will start on one side or the other, but finally you must build the bridge between the two–and let it built built for you–both at the same tiime

We must pray as if it all depends on us, and work as if it all depends on God. (reverse of what you usually hear)