I hear the term becoming awake or woke used in a lot of contexts lately. I’ve heard it attributed to realizing the oppression inherent in our culture and political system. I’ve heard it with regard to spirituality and becoming aware of our own journey toward inner transformation. In googling the phrase, I found articles about mindfulness, realizing our acceptance of abuse, and Eastern religions.
In Ephesians 5, Paul uses the phrase, Wake Up, Sleeper.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord.
But everything exposed by the light becomes visible—and everything that is illuminated becomes a light. This is why it is said:
“Wake up, sleeper,
rise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you (Eph. 5:8-10,13-14, NIV).”
In this passage, I am taken by the gentleness of being woken up. The picture that comes to mind is a gentle rousing from sleep like I would jostle a sleeping grandchild. So what does it mean to be asleep using the context of this verse?
At the beginning of this passage, it states that we were once darkness. In the past, darkness defined us. It seems that being in darkness is to be asleep or unaware of all that goes on; in, through, and around us.
Now we are light, we are defined by light. Paul is encouraging us to wake up and realize, we are light. This light consists of goodness, righteousness, and truth. He continues to state that as we are exposed or illuminated by light, we become light.
Paul doesn’t say we are the source of light. It seems we reflect The Light; God. As we allow Christ to shine on us, we become more aware of who God is, who we are, and how to view all those around us.
From this place of being asleep, defined as darkness, we are invited to wake up. We are invited to live as belonging to the light. This light is defined as God and is an enveloping light of love. This is where we belong. We live here in this Light. As we are exposed to God's light, we become God’s light to all those around us. It is really amazing to think about the implications of this idea.
So how do we allow God’s light to shine on us - Paul only states wake up. Our true and continual shaping is a lifelong process as we are exposed to the Light. Allowing God’s light to shine on us is more about deep listening in relationship than acquiring more information about God.
Instead of striving or achieving it on our terms, this journey of transformation is passive on our part. Our invitation is to allow it and to be open to God. This, I believe, is waking up. It isn’t about striving toward God’s light but allowing the process.
In my previous post, I shared about listening to our heart and noticing our emotions without labeling them good or bad. We are invited to notice what goes on in our hearts and the invitation is not to judge what we discover but to allow it to teach us. This really isn’t very easy.
In fact, after I wrote my last post, I noticed another emotion I labeled “bad.” I had spent time on a personal prayer retreat and it didn’t meet my expectations. God did not miss the trip. It just wasn’t like other times. I could deny my frustration and push it aside but the first invitation is to notice.
I purposed not to judge this emotion as negative and to let it be, rather than pushing it away. I’ve been practicing “letting go” or suspending judgment. I struggled to “let it go” and discovered I was actually resisting it. Even though I purposed not to outright judge what I discovered in my heart as negative, my resistance to it was a form of judgment. Resisting my emotion actually kept it from teaching me. So, really, my resistance kept me asleep, blind to what I was feeling. The invitation was to receive it instead of resist it.
This struggle in my heart did not feel peaceful in any way. There is a difference between pushing away or resisting an emotion and letting it go or releasing it. Could this be a pathway of being awake in all things? Resisting is a place of struggle and as I discovered leads to frustration. Releasing is more welcoming and grace-filled and seems to lead to a place of peace, grace, and groundedness.
Imagine a pond of choppy water. It is hard to clearly see through the water because the waves keep it all churned up. As we struggle, this picture of chaos represents our own hearts.
In contrast, imagine the surface of the pond still and peaceful, like glass. When the water is clean and still, one can see clearly through to the bottom. As a picture of our hearts, we can welcome our emotions to see what is underneath to our feelings.
We often react to our emotions, those first things we notice. Yet if we are can hold them to see what they have to teach us, we become aware of our feelings. Our feelings can teach us what we really hold true about God, ourselves, and those around us. Holding these feelings out to God to see God’s view, allows God’s light to penetrate the lies, fears, and doubts we hold as truth. This is a vulnerable place, which is why it is so difficult.
If our starting place is our own belovedness and God being for us, always, then it becomes safer to listen and allow God’s Light to wake us up. If God doesn’t condemn what we discover together, then who are we to condemn what we discover in our hearts? If God is for us, who can be against us, really?
Hello, I'm Kathi Gatlin. Thanks for stopping by!