"In faith, there is no possibility of an uninterrupted success story. The only way you’re going to face your wild beasts and your shadows is by failure and rejection, by people not loving you, by having to learn how to love your wife and your children and those who hurt you—the enemies—those who make you aware of your own incapacity to love." This quote is from today and was contained in the daily meditations of the Center for Action and Contemplation of Fr. Richard Rohr. It struck me between the eyes as I was also working with the most recent Weavings magazine and an article on the 23rd Psalm. In Weavings, a reflection piece by Jan Johnson entitled, "Confidence: I Have Everything I Need" talked about finding confidence with difficult people. She was reflecting on the "...You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies..." I admit that I've always struggled with this portion of the Psalm (as have many others) and Ms. Johnson brought it into clarity for me by linking the anointing and overflowing cup with my ability to sit comfortably in the presence of my enemies and offer radical hospitality. Wow!!
I then began reflecting on how radical hospitality, or the lack thereof, affects our everyday ability to care for those who are least and lost. Hospitality is really love in action - and the radical nature of that love in action is when we provide hospitality to those whom we find difficult to be in relationship with (aka enemies). Hospitals were originally staffed by women religious as an outflow of this radical hospitality and love and catered to the least and the lost. For most of their history, hospitals were places were people went when they had no where else to go. It's only been in the last 50 to 60 years that hospitals have become places of medical healing (rather than spiritual healing) as technologies and medications have allowed for the possibility of cure. However, as we see clearly in the debate of costs of care, where hospitals used to be in relationship with death, now they keep death at bay and don't invite it to the table. We don't see that death is in fact a part of life - that it too is anointed and given by G-d. We have identified our "own incapacity to love" as healthcare professionals and as human beings.
Our incapacity to love each other radically and fully keeps us searching for "cures" and keeps us in an adversarial position with a life reality...death. Therefore we submit our fellow humans to ever more tests and procedures and medicines convincing ourselves that we are doing everything possible (and running up an enormous tab that ultimately always ends in death). We are out of balance and are driven by our fear of failure and of report cards (and yes of the out-of-control legal system). We have capitated the provider-patient relationship out of existence to the point that both sides see the other as enemy rather than fellow travelers on the path. We need to admit our incapacity to love fully and well, this is the only path to healing and wholeness; the only way out of the mess we've created. No set of laws and practice guidelines will ever fix what is fundamentally a spiritual issue (aka a sin).
This week, look into your own life to view where you are on the road to sitting down with your enemies. Remember that you are chosen and provided for by a loving and faithful G-d; you are not at the table alone. Remember also that so is your "enemy". Rediscover the road to radical hospitality and bring that back into your daily life. As a sage once said to me, everyday be nicer to everyone than they are to you!
Peace for the journey,