“Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. . . . Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” — Romans 13:11, 14
The notion of making no provision for the flesh used to really bother me until I read Paul’s letter to the Galatians in its entirety. There Paul is hopping mad because the church he had started was in the process of deciding that they would embrace the practice of circumcision. Paul is against using circumcision as an entry requirement in the church because to do so gives the false impression that in our journey of faith adhering to the Law gets us where we need to go. When he talks about “the flesh” in that letter, he is talking about the rule-bound orientation that tallies up our actions, leaving no room for relationship with God except as an expression of duty.
Richard Rohr expresses this notion another way, using the language of small self and big Self. He posits that when Paul talks about “the flesh” he means the perspective of the ego. On the other hand, when we are in close relationship with God we literally see differently. We see with the eyes of the Self. We “put on the Lord Jesus Christ.” We wake up.
Being awake does not mean putting on a smiling demeanor and accepting everybody. Instead it is seeing what is there to be seen out of eyes more closely linked with Christ’s. Groaning with our Lord over images of caged children, starving, homeless families, incarcerated young men who did not commit the crime with which they were charged — this is being awake. Noticing how much stuff we have that we do not need and how little most other people on earth have by comparison — this is being awake. Being furious about the scapegoating that seems to be consuming Americans these days, about immigrants being characterized as drug lords, about Muslims being characterized as terrorists — this is being awake.
Being awake can seem overwhelming. The list of those suffering and those in danger is very long. We are quite tempted to shut down. I can’t tell you how many times lately I’ve heard, “I don’t read the news anymore.”
Of course we each have to choose the ways to work to end suffering and oppression that are possible and right for us. We can’t do everything.
But we can pray.
Being awake has to include being in prayer. Putting on our Lord Jesus Christ, we take on the necessity of prayer, for without prayer we fall asleep again. We forget that we are hardwired to be in relationship with God, and we begin acting like we can do things all on our own. That’s the ego perspective, the way of the flesh. That’s being asleep.
“You know what time it is,” says Paul. We have heard Christ calling us. We recognize that voice of loving acceptance. It’s time for us to put on that love. It’s time to put away the things of the flesh. It’s time to wake from the dream our egos create for us. We are called into relationship with God God’s self. It’s time to open the eyes of our hearts to that deeper reality.
Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer, spiritual director, and writer living in Fort Collins, CO. For more about her and her work, go to everydaymysteries.com