Dear Men, Don’t Quit Being a Christian, Read Richard Rohr Instead
How one of my favorite authors changed my faith forever
In 2016, I left the U.S. Army to go on an adventure. The program, called the World Race, was a volunteer-based journey to 11 countries in 11 months.
After watching the two-year decline of my career, I needed to get away, rediscover what mattered, and find out if I still had faith in God.
Then our volunteer team’s coach introduced me to an author that would forever change my life. His name was Richard Rohr, a Franciscan priest from Albuquerque.
On The Threshold of Transformation
The first book I read by Richard Rohr was titled, “On The Threshold of Transformation.”
At first, I thought it would be another simple-minded Christian devotional.
Then, I read the intro:
“After twenty years of working with men on retreats and rites of passage, in spiritual direction, and even in prison, it has sadly become clear to me how trapped the typical Western male feels. He is trapped inside, with almost no inner universe of deep meaning to heal him or guide him.
. . . males have been encouraged and rewarded for living an “outer” life of performances, which are usually framed in terms of win or lose . . . In such a worldview there are only winners or losers, no in-between, and little chance for growth or redemption once you are deemed — or deem yourself — a loser . . .
If our churches do not find ways to validate, encourage, age, structure, and teach men an inner life-as opposed to mere belief systems, belonging systems, and moral systems . . .
I’m not sure what the church’s reason for continued existence might be. . . we have substituted an intellectual life for a symbolic life, a largely mental life for a life of inner meaning, and a nice Christian club for the call to a journey that males could actually respect.
We can live without success, but the soul cannot live without meaning.”
As I read Richard’s words, I saw myself. I saw that I was a man who felt like his soul had been taken away.
He described my understanding of life and society. His language penetrated the layers of frustration that had formed around my heart the past few years.
He gave me hope that the constant belittlement or suppression of my emotional life was not the answer.
He validated my questions, such as:
- Where was the meaning?
- Where was the beauty?
- What happened to the time where men had conversations that were meaningful rather than superficial, acquisitional, and egocentric?
Most significantly, it invited me into what Richard called, “Liminal Space.”
My Crisis Became an Invitation
What is liminal space?
Liminal space occurs only when our comfort zone has collapsed. This includes any hiatus between stages in life: separation or divorce, job change, illness, loss, death, failure of any kind. It is a graced time during which we are not certain of our next move, when we’re not in control, when something genuinely new can happen. If God wants to get to you, which God always does, the chances are best during any liminal time.
In a time where science and certainty are highly prized, Rohr suggested that I allow the opposite to happen.
In Mike McHargue’s book, Finding God in the Waves, Rob Bell says something similar and quite profound.
“Your mind, which is obviously seriously dialed in, is probably used to mastering things. But it sounds like, in your experience, there is this thing you cannot master. It’s happening to you. You aren’t standing over it in a white lab coat, holding a clipboard. This thing somehow does something to you that’s different from anything else. It’s almost as if there is inductive reasoning, deductive reasoning, and abductive reasoning — which is the stuff that kidnaps you. You know what I mean?”
It was just like Rob said, I had been kidnapped.
Life had happened and all I could do was go along for the ride.
In Christian culture today, we do not speak much about not knowing — which is probably one of the best definitions of faith.
Richard Rohr, however, suggests that this is exactly where we encounter deep-truth. This truth that cannot be described, as Mike McHargue suggests, because it resides more in the experience and emotional centers of our brains than our language center.
And, maybe, this is what we mean by the transcendent. It is precisely that which we lose language for that truly opens us to the slow, deep truth that undergirds our reality.
“The opposite of faith is not doubt.
The opposite of faith is certainty.”
The Invitation to Journey
I could fill this whole page with fantastic Richard Rohr quotes. But, I would probably be fined!
Nevertheless, the most profound part of Richard’s work, which continues to speak to me today, is his work on the masculine journey.
In part one, he writes:
If we don’t move beyond the self-referential trap of our own stories and lives, and connect with the larger story of what it means to be a man, we’ll live lives of quiet desperation.
At some point on the journey, we must see that life is much bigger than our city, our town, our job, our relationships, and our accomplishments. Otherwise, we will remain small, frustrated, and constantly frustrated as we attempt to manage our anger, which is, in reality, a deep sadness.
Being an Enneagram 4, I am guilty of plunging into this existential despair more than most as I attempt to integrate my head and my heart.
It is only I trust and see God is leading me “forward through family, failure, violence, visitors, betrayal, sexuality, nature, shadow, and vision. God comes to [me] ‘disguised as [my] life’” and begin the process of letting go, allowing myself to not know, that I have the possibility of encountering real peace.
If I embrace this process, if I allow myself the kindness, patience, and openness to experience rather than analyze life, I give myself the ability to take things more seriously while paradoxically not taking them seriously at all.
I can wake up each day, like the Great Plains Warriors and say, “It is a good day to do great things.”
Don’t lose your faith. Lose your certainty.