Ask, Seek, Knock 7"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
9"Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! 12So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
The Narrow and Wide Gates 13"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7: New International Version
TC 8 There is an inflow from God into us. ...This inflow comes into our souls because the soul is the inmost and highest part of us. The inflow from God reaches that part first and then comes down into the things below and enlivens them, depending on our openness to what flows in.
What is meant by spiritual influx cannot be better seen than by means of the natural influxes which take place and appear in this world-as by the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth. H.S. 6190
Becoming Entirely Ready
I want to tell you a story about a modern-day woman named “Eve.” She represents any one of us; all of us. It could just as easily be a story about “Adam,” and you can change the name if you wish.
One night, as Eve is falling asleep in her upscale New York City condo, an angel appears at the side of her bed and says, “I am here with a message from God -- -- .“ Eve half opens one eye and sees this shining figure by the bed. She mutters to herself, “I’ve got to stop watching the reruns of Touched by An Angel before bed …… at least I’ve got to stop drinking so much while I’m watching the reruns!”
But the angel -- or whatever – seems persistent. “God is pure love, you know! And God is sending you this love every moment of your time on earth! We call it influx. God is sending you this influx to transform your life! But you keep latching the shutters of your heart.” Eve is sure the angel has a Scottish accent like Monica on the TV show. So she decides to call her “Monica.”
Eve has a busy day tomorrow, and just wants to get some sleep. “Uh, Monica, is that the message? I’m pretty tired…”
“Oh, no. The message is a gift! I have the power to open the shutters of your heart that you have locked to keep God out of your life … by morning; God will be transforming your life in accord with the Divine Plan. I just need your permission.”
“Sure, fine. Go to it, Angel.” She makes a mental note to remind herself to write this dream down in the morning to share with her drinking buddies at the local bar.
The next morning, Eve awakens early to bright sunlight streaming in the window. “What!” she shouts, jumping out of bed. “I spent a lot of money on window darkening shades and curtains …”
Eve sees that her dream is still going on. Monica is still there – and beaming in an utterly infuriating way for so early in the morning.
“Oh, yes; isn’t it wonderful! God is shining the light into your life now! Time to get up and greet the new day!”
Eve staggers into the kitchen, hoping that this angel can make good coffee. She sniffs something rather disgusting; definitely not coffee.
Monica says: “Oh, that’s my Early Morning Energy Herbal Brew.”
“How nice. But I need coffee to get myself to work …”
“Oh; not to worry! God signed you up for a vacation day!”
“Oh, no! I only have a few of those, and I’m saving them to go to the beach with friends!”
“Nope. That’s cancelled. God says you always drink too much with that crowd.”
“They are my friends!”
“They were. Now, God has a new list of people for you to make friends with …”
Eve is shocked beyond words.
Monica continues. “Here’s your new schedule for the day: You are spending the morning at a Wholistic Center where you will get a long-overdue physical check up, a class on meditation, an hour of yoga …”
Eve is getting panicked. “I never agreed to this … never.”
“Oh, but you did. You said I could take away all your barriers to God transforming your life! You gave God free reign to transform your life. And now God is helping you achieve those New Year’s resolutions you had for better health and happiness.”
“That will make me exhausted and miserable – not healthy and happy.”
“Ah, but you need to trust God’s wisdom on the best path for you!”
Eve doesn’t believe in prayer. But she finds herself praying: “Dear God – if there is a God – please make this angel-hallucination-dream thing go away. NOW.”
However, as things turn out, God doesn’t answer that prayer. Eve’s consent for unmitigated influx takes priority over everything else in the Heavenly Realm. The angels eagerly await anyone’s willingness to become open to influx, and they will grab any loop hole to make it happen!
You probably know the end of the story. Eve was utterly miserable for days. For weeks. Actually, for months. She was frightened. She yelled and screamed at God’s tyranny in the free will of her life. But God’s transformation had begun, and was not to be halted.
Let’s look in on Eve a few years later. She stopped drinking and went to A.A. meetings. She got a new group of friends, with whom she shares a zest for spiritual growth. Her work no longer dominates her days. She has time for yoga, and cooking healthy meals. The Divine is part of her every-day existence, and she can’t imagine how she ever lived without that sacred intimacy. She hardly remembers how it was that it all started …she just has a vague sense of some dream that started her life on a different track.
Eve’s initial reaction to God in her life is how many of us feel when we read the sixth step of A.A., which is closely related to the fifth. We focused on the fifth step last month, and will consider the sixth step this month.
#5 Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs
#6 Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character
A.A. refers to our character defects. Swedenborg prefers to talk about the barriers that keep Divine influx away from our hearts.
Wilson Van Dusen says:
Influx is the very act by which the Divine flows in and creates.
He says that an intense experience of God -- like in a mystical encounter, is simply more influx.
Grant Schnarr discusses this in his book: Spiritual Recovery: A Twelve Step Guide.
Focusing on our character defects, admitting them, and then asking God to remove them from us may appear to be a negative process. But these steps are really not negative. Quite the contrary, they are truly positive, as anyone who has practiced them can testify. [Page 59]
Schnarr encourages us to think of a gardener in a rose garden filled with weeds. Is it a negative or positive process to pull the weeds? It may be tedious, hot work. But only by pulling the weeds can the roses flourish.
He also asks us to consider a company that finds a defect on their production line. Is it a negative process to fix the defect? What about diagnosing and removing a cancer?
Schnarr writes: We often experience God as an obscure, elusive being. But God really is love, and when love enters our hearts, we allow God to enter. God is peace, love, and serenity.
Schnarr goes on to say:
Swedenborg describes the process of removing our shortcomings as taking away the barriers that impede the inflow of the Divine within us. The light shines because the darkness has been removed. When we become entirely ready to have God remove these defects of character – and then allow God to do so – the Divine flows in and opens us up to influence from heaven. …After all, we are quite attached to many of those character defects. Of course we are ready to shed those that cause us immediate pain, but we are less inclined to let go of those we are comfortable with.
Our movie of the month for June reflects the theme of character defects – in a Father’s Day context! I’m going to reveal just a bit about the plot today; enough to give you an example of someone in this struggle. The movie is Resurrecting the Champ. It is based on a true story. Here is the movie trailer:
Day after day, sports reporter Erik Kernan turns in solid and accurate copy. However, his editor complains that it lacks heart; lacks creativity. It is bland and dull. The editor offers him some tips to improve his writing.
Is this of interest to Kernan? Absolutely not. Why? Because Kernan does not believe that the editor has any wisdom to share. Kernan sees his writing at just about perfect. The problem is the editor’s inability to see the perfection in his work. Kernan does see any need to become a better writer.
As the story unfolds, we see how clinging to this belief impacts his work and his family life. He is divorced, sharing custody with his son. He strives to make certain that the boy sees only his strengths; even if a few of them are lies.
If Erik Kernan were to meet this angel at his bedside, and if he were to say “yes” to the offer, then what would disappear? I don’t think his writing would become perfect; mediocre writing is not a barrier to influx – thank goodness for most of us! But what might disappear are the blinders that he wears about his own ability. He would receive Love and Truth, and realize that his writing does not meet the standards that he strives for. He would have to grief his long-held belief that his writing is great. He would have to see -- through naked eyes free of rose-colored glasses – that he has many limitations in his talents and his character. He is human. But in receiving God’s influx, he needs to accept his human limitations. Once he does that, he will become open to God’s transformational influx. In the movie, he has to go through some very difficult experiences before he is ready for transformation.
Swedenborg’s regeneration is based on the concept of a long process of preparation. His final stage of “regeneration” comes only after many years of learning how to allow more and more of the Divine influx into our being.
Tonight, as you are falling asleep, perhaps you will see an angel standing by your bed, and saying: I have the power to open the shutters of your heart that you have locked to keep God out of your life … by morning; God will be transforming your life in accord with the Divine Plan. I just need your permission.
Ask yourself the question: what barriers do I have to God’s inflow? What would I have to give up in order to be completely open to God’s transformation in my life?
And close the Bible.
Go forth; knowing that God's inflow is transforming you every moment.