Falling Upward by Richard Rohr (2012)
Who would have thought that the footballers would have it right after all? It is a game of two halves. And to help us make the most of both, Richard Rohr’s comparatively slim volume (167 pages) – together with a companion journal for use by individuals or groups – outlines what he calls “a spirituality for the two halves of life.”
This is no linear progression but a positive change from one way of being to another, which – he fears – not every individual or institution is able to make. Not even the church, which is a tragedy when you think that it was based on the life and ministry of a second half of life teacher. The church, he says, has somehow moved away from spiritual transformation to mere management of sin. In fact, Rohr argues, we should not get rid of our sin until we have learned what it has to teach us. “Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided… salvation is sin turned on its head and used in our favour. That is how transformative divine love is.”
This is not to say that the first half of life is somehow inherently sinful: it is the necessary process of establishing our identity, our home, our security, our sense of self, so we can get to a point where we understand that, to grow spiritually, we must leave it all behind. Having reached the top, we may find a place where we ask “is that all there is?” and we need the confidence to fall and find out. Like the composer who spends time on the theme before creating the variations, we need a strong structure from which to move forward even (perhaps especially) if we are going to start taking it apart and, in the words of the Arabian proverb, throw our hearts ahead and run after them.
Rohr’s book is a wise and compassionate companion on that journey: helping us to exchange knowledge for wisdom, sound for silence (“the only language spacious enough to include everything”), the self for the divine, and the unforgiving light of certainty for the inner brightness of love as, like the paralysed man by the pool at Bethesda, we dare to go down to find up, healing and wholeness.
Reviewed by Revd. Norma Fergusson, Assistant Curate, Rowde & Bromham
Published by SPCK Publishing, ‘Falling Upward’ is normally priced at £10.99. Mention the Website to order a copy at the special price of £9.99 and POST FREE from Sarum College Bookshop until July 31st 2013
There is also a Companion Journal published this year priced at £9.99 or order both volumes for £19.98.
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