The meaning of true commitment

Lisa and I were married in 1999, when I was 21 years old. I pledged to stay with her for the rest of my life: “till death do us part.”

Today, I am not the same man I was then. Of course, I’ve always been changing by degrees, but never had I so dramatically and rapidly changed than in 2012. How does one stay true to a commitment when one is a completely different person than when the commitment was originally made? I am learning the answer to that question now, and I will be learning it for the rest of my life.

For a long time, I’ve struggled with the concept of commitment in general. It seems so final, even arbitrary. What if things radically change? How can you foretell the future? Especially when it comes to smaller commitments, like “I’m starting this business, come hell or high water,” or “I’m committing to becoming a doctor, no matter what”—how can you know that you won’t need to adjust your plan? Or even abandon it? Usually, people will say they’re committed to something with the understanding that they may need to “renegotiate” that commitment later on. It’s about being flexible, honest with oneself, staying present and humble. But then these aren’t true commitments. They’re provisional at best. They’re relative, not absolute.

I like to keep my options open. How could I possibly know what is best for the future? I will always have a limited vantage point. If my perspective is always relative, if I can never be entirely objective, if I can never have access to a “God’s-eye view,” what business do I have making absolute commitments? And yet, I hear about the “power of commitment” all the time.

One way I’m learning to use commitments is to make them absolute, but within a narrow, time-bound context. For example, right now I’m committed to writing six days per week for at least 20 minutes at a time over the course of this month. Previously, I had not qualified my “commitment” beyond saying “six days per week.” But that was absurd. It revealed the lack of my understanding about commitment. What did it even mean? I will write six days per week for the rest of my life? No, it needs a time limit. So this time, I am limiting it to one month, because I know that I will be traveling next month, which could otherwise get in the way of my commitment.

This is all pretty much conventional wisdom about goal-setting. Some people seem obsessed about making “SMART goals.” This always turned me off, because it seems so rigid and anal. What about going with the flow? What about a little humility? What about living in the present moment and responding organically? Even so, my resistance to goal-setting was never itself absolute. I can clearly see that people accomplish big changes in the world, all because they had a plan and they stuck to it, not letting anything stop them. When my “go with the flow” mentality prevents me from ever setting goals, I tend to get stuck in what seems like an eddy in the river of life. Then, something in me gets really angry. Eventually, I make myself swim back toward the current. More often than not, this would involve cutting out addictive behaviors, and taking charge of myself. Eventually, I’d be thriving again. And then, eventually, I’d ease up on all the “goal-setting,” relax more, and find myself in another eddy. Thus the cycle continues.

Call it the “masculine” vs. the “feminine,” I don’t really care. I’ve already done enough analysis to tire myself out, trying to understand the nature of goal-setting, planning, and making commitments—”structure,” if you will—versus receptivity, openness, going with the flow, etc. My strong suspicion all along has been that this is ultimately a false dichotomy, and Life knows how to balance, or mix, or unite the two aspects in perfect health. Even so, this theoretical ideal of the perfect blend of directionality and receptivity has usually remained just that: theoretical. In the end, commitment still seems too final and arbitrary, too ostentatious, even preposterous. Why preposterous? Because when you commit to something, it seems that you’re placing yourself in the position of God. What if God wants you to do something different? What will you say then? “Sorry, God, I have a commitment to keep.”

So too even with marriage. Now, it is easy to simply appeal to the Bible and make an absolute statement: “Therefore what God has joined together, let no man separate.” (Matthew 19:6) But we all must admit that there are times when divorce is totally called for. (Even the Bible admits that.) Besides, if you no longer buy into absolute, once-for-all, written-in-stone morality (as I no longer do), then what? You’ve no longer got that absolute, though external, basis to appeal to. The commitment was, in a sense, not truly yours. It had to appeal to a higher authority.

Now I must qualify myself here. There is one commitment that I have always gotten behind: giving my life to God, to the Whole, to Ultimate Reality, to whatever is the highest possible context for my life. In particular, I’m committing to that dimension of God which desires the best for His creation. In other words, I’m committing to Love. This is what began when I gave my life to Christ, and began again the countless times I re-committed my life to Christ. There is nothing that could ever turn me away from this commitment. There are no revelations that could sway me. At least not after 2012. My faith had been partially contingent, dependent on particular world views, particular cosmological claims. It is no longer contingent on any of these. I may not know who or what God is, but “God,” as I’m using the term, cannot not exist. In other words, it’s not a question of existence. It is truly absolute. This doesn’t mean I will perfectly live in alignment with that commitment. It just means that the commitment will never go away. Though I may stray and become nasty and unloving, selfish, confused, etc., etc., the commitment will remain. I’d rather die than give my life to something smaller. The only way to stay in alignment with this commitment is to be ever-vigilant, keeping my eyes and ears open to all that I don’t know and haven’t the foggiest clue about. Paradoxically, it is itself a commitment to humility, even though it may sound ever-so-strident and proud.

What I am finally beginning to discover is what that “power” of commitment actually is. Previously, whenever I heard about the “power of commitment,” I thought about what power is unleashed in your favor when you finally make a real commitment. The oft-cited quote from Scottish mountaineer W.H. Murray captures this nicely:

Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

This is a wonderful thought, and I’m not about to deny that it’s true. But what I’ve finally discovered deep inside myself is the power of commitment itself. In other words, I’ve discovered my own power to commit. It doesn’t depend on “Providence” or any material assistance. It doesn’t require a belief that such things will ever come my way. After all, perhaps the exact opposite will happen, and the world will violently oppose me as soon as I commit. It doesn’t matter. True commitment doesn’t waver in the face of obstacles.

So far, this still sounds just like what I’ve heard before about what a commitment really is. “I’ve burned my bridges.” “There’s no turning back.” Blah, blah, blah. Again, it all sounds nice in theory. But what about the problem I keep raising? In a nutshell, it is this: what if God wants me to do something different later on? And in the context of my marriage, this may sound absurd, but I had to take it seriously when faced with the idea of an absolute commitment: What if one day God wants me to leave my wife? If I can no longer appeal to the Bible in an absolute fashion, and I am absolutely committed to giving my life to God, how can I possibly commit my life unconditionally to my wife also?

Jesus is not going to help me on this matter: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26) The kind of commitment to God that he called for puts God absolutely first. No allegiances to anything less can ever get in the way of that absolute commitment, not even to “wife and children.”

Even so, like I said, I have discovered the power of commitment deep inside myself. I’ve discovered that the question “What if God changes my mind?” is an abdication of the divine power that I actually have to commit. To take responsibility for your own power of commitment is to take responsibility for (at least one aspect) of your own divine power. Whether used for good or ill, we do have this power. It is the power of our will. True commitment can only be made by God, and guess what? Humans have this power. With true commitment, you tap into your own sovereign will. The only way to make a true commitment is to put yourself in the position of God, at least in the context of that decision.

Now, by the power of my sovereign will, I declare that my love for my wife is invincible and will never be shaken.

Although it is only 15 years into my marriage, it has taken my whole life to realize what true commitment actually means. My fear has been that God would want me to leave. But true commitment appeals to absolutely nothing outside itself. As far as this decision goes, I AM GOD. When I say my love won’t be shaken, I don’t mean that my feelings won’t be shaken. No, by “love,” in this particular context, I mean a decision. Call it brutal, call it violent, call it an experiment for this lifetime. But I have discovered the power of free will, and I defy all voices in myself or anyone else that would dissent. In the past, my commitment was assumed, based on the belief in an absolute moral standard. But that has been shaken. I have been shaken. Substantially. Upside-down. Inside-out. I’m not the person I used to be. But from now on, all transformations will carry with it this ongoing commitment. I may become a different person a thousand more times, but in each case I will need to come to terms with this same commitment. It is MY commitment, MY commitment to make and MY commitment to keep. Feelings can be shaken. True commitments can’t.

Commitments may sound arbitrary—as “arbitrary” as the existence of the Universe, perhaps? But God is still creating, and true commitment is a creative act. When we truly commit, we declare something, speaking something new into existence. When we truly commit, we are carrying forward the creation of God. God wants us to take responsibility for our God-given creative powers. God wants us to take a stand and show some resistance. God wants a stiffer medium to work with than just watercolors, which swish around on the canvas and drip onto the floor. By making true commitments, we turn our life into an arrow which nothing can stop.

The thing is, this creative power of commitment is morally neutral. We’ve seen wonderful creations and we’ve seen horrible creations. When you commit, you’d better know what you’re doing. When you make a true commitment, you’d better make sure it’s a good one. Commitment is risky. The world we now see is the result of all previous commitments. What kind of a world do you want to create? Are you ready to marry your devotion to God—your receptivity to hearing God’s voice, to obeying and following the guidance you receive—are you ready to marry that devotion with the power you have to lead, direct, and declare as God? Are you ready to embrace the power you have to create? Then please use it wisely. With fear and trembling at the power of your own will.

So how do I square my commitment to God with my commitment as God? That will be a question I have to continually ask and answer for the rest of my life. But here’s one quick stab at it. By “God,” we sometimes mean different things. If God means the Power of All Creation, then it doesn’t make much sense to say I am aligning my behavior with God in that sense. As I’ve said, creation is morally neutral in the sense that, in the world, we see every form of what we judge to be good and evil. This impersonal God, this Blind Force, which keeps chugging along, indifferent to anything that happens in the world, might give me raw power, but it doesn’t give me True North. It doesn’t give me a compass by which I can direct each step. But when we speak of God as Love, God as Lover, and we speak of the glory of God and the kingdom of God, we’re talking about something very special. We’re talking about a Divine Agenda, a Preference for the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. We’re talking here not just about God’s raw power of will, we’re talking about a specific will that creation would proceed in a way which manifests Love in the world.

These two ways of talking about God are what cause so much confusion around the concept of “God’s will.” Sometimes you hear people say, “if it happened, that means it was God’s will.” Well, yes, at least in the sense that there is no power apart from God. You might say it was God’s will power at work. But it makes the idea of aligning ourselves with God’s will meaningless. For those who would seek to align themselves with Something Higher—with the will of God, “God’s will” doesn’t just mean God’s will power. It means God’s specific will to manifest the highest and best possibilities. This is what Jesus was onto when he spoke of the kingdom of heaven.

When it comes down to it, God has given you free will as well. You share in God’s power. You have the power to commit, and thereby to create. But if you have awakened also to the Love of God, then you now have a higher standard by which to live your life and a higher purpose for which to use that creative power. Like I said, please use it wisely. What the world needs is more people not just to realize their raw power, becoming that Blind Force. What the world needs is for more people to become that Blind Force for the sake of Love.

I have decided that in this lifetime, I am using my God-given power of will to commit this man’s life to this man’s wife. I have taken a stand to be there for her until the end. Not because it’s the “right thing to do.” Sure, I’m still interested in doing the right thing, but now there’s a context. Within that context, I’ll have to use discernment and moral reasoning. But the context itself no longer requires any of that. It’s a fixed point. I have adopted these words as my own, appealing to nothing higher than my words themselves: what God has joined together, let no man separate.

Addendum (2021-11-04): From now on, I will only make congruent commitments, aligned with my heart, soul, mind, and strength. When I am not clear, I will humbly accept and be with my uncertainty. For the times I have allowed my mental will to go too far, rationalizing headstrong but heart-weak decisions based on fear, causing damage to myself and others, I humbly ask for, and open myself to receive, forgiveness.

Did Jesus pray to Jesus?

“Did Jesus pray to Jesus?” This is one of those questions that, when asked, makes us immediately suspicious. What’s this writer up to? Is he making a joke? Is he trying to be provocative? How could asking such an absurd question do us any good? And if you have a personal relationship with Jesus, then you have all the more reason to be concerned. The prospect of dishonoring your Savior, your Lord, your Master, or however else you conceive of Jesus, is not to be taken lightly. The safest thing to do would be to not read past the title. Right? Again, what good could come from asking such a question?

But I want to assure you of this: I am not interested in being provocative or silly for the sake of being provocative or silly. And I most certainly am not interested in dishonoring my own or anyone else’s faith. The only reason I am posing such a question is that it may, even if only temporarily, shake up our habitual ways of thinking about Jesus (and God). And the only reason I care about doing that is that such shake-ups have the potential of improving, deepening, and enriching our lives and our relationships with God. Looking through a different frame could produce new fruit, and I’m only interested in fruitful frames. Could asking such a question and looking at Jesus in a new way yield such fruit? Want to find out? Then join me in this contemplation.

One of Christianity’s most important contributions is the idea of a personal relationship with God. In Jesus, we see this relationship modeled. He called God his Father, and not only that, he used the word Abba, an Aramaic word that would be used in the same way we use the word, “Daddy” or “Dad.” He prayed directly to God as his Father and taught his disciples to do the same. He related to his Father as Other, as beyond himself. Intimate, but still distinct.

And yet he also related to himself as part of, or even identical to, God. This is where intimacy of relationship crosses a threshold and prayer is no longer the way of relating. Instead, ultimate intimacy has been realized, and Jesus says things like, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30) and “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9) This is where things get really mystical. Jesus is messing with our categories. How can we pin him down if in one moment he’s praying to the Father and in another he’s speaking as the Father? Was he confused? Could he not decide who he was? Was he God’s son, or was he the Father? Was he distinct from God or identical to God? It suddenly appears that we aren’t going to get an easy answer.

This is where orthodoxy, or “right belief,” can be helpful. It gives us a set of claims about God and about Jesus that we can affirm, even if we can’t explain how they relate to each other. Even when they appear contradictory (“Jesus is the son of God” vs. “Jesus is God”), we can still use these ideas as seeds for contemplation, and they can support our spiritual growth. In practice, however, the human tendency is to try to sort everything out in a way that our minds find comfortable. If that means contradicting ourselves, no problem. We’ll just hide one thought from another and pretend there’s no contradiction. In other words, we’ll deceive ourselves into believing that our belief system is nice, tidy, and internally consistent—indeed, that it’s a system. Each belief fits into place. And we’d better not mess with them, or the whole thing will come crashing down.

So orthodoxy, as represented in statements such as the Nicene Creedcan be helpful, providing us seeds for contemplation. For example, when recited in liturgy, it can become something like a communal koan. Precisely because it contains paradoxical statements, if we are honest, we are forced to engage it contemplatively, in a way that our either/or thinking cannot fully comprehend. But in practice, we are often not honest. Instead, we tell ourselves that we fully understand. Rather than allowing ourselves to be subjected to the contemplative tension, we resolve the contradictions and arrive at a comfortable, self-assured, dogmatic stance which can do and has done lots of harm, inciting everything from discord and bigotry to murder and holy war.

In the end, we don’t get an easy answer to the question of who Jesus was, neither from the creeds nor from Jesus himself. In fact, he appeared to not want to give us an easy or even clear answer, at least not that’s clear to our normal level of consciousness. Could that be why he so often answered one question with another question? And taught in stories and parables? It appears that Jesus is less concerned with giving us answers and more concerned with awakening us to deeper truths that can’t be contained by simple statements or formulas.

Now, what about this idea of “praying to Jesus”? What is this about? Well, over the centuries, Jesus has been Christianity’s icon for God, the “image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,” (Colossians 1:15) as the Apostle Paul put it. Jesus put a human face on the cosmic Christ—that Reality “in [whom] all things were created.” (v. 16) “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (v. 17) We’re talking about a transcendent, primordial reality that lies at the heart of the Cosmos, and Jesus embodied that. He represents and points to the very Presence in whom “we live and move and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) We can pray to God, because “he is not far from any one of us.” (Acts 17:27) And regardless of how biblically faithful “praying to Jesus” is (some theologians would emphasize that we are to pray to the “Father”, not to Jesus), it is still praying.

Among Christians today, particularly evangelicals, you will hear about the importance of having a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” This is sometimes bandied about so cavalierly as to lose all meaning or even to gain new, negative connotations of superiority and arrogance. But in its authentic forms, a relationship with Jesus represents such a pure, lovely, amazing and truly beautiful thing, that, when witnessed, is something people are naturally drawn to. It is an inner relationship in which all your needs are already met. It is an intimate, loving relationship with God, an intimate, loving relationship with Reality, an intimate, loving relationship with yourself. You have surrendered your life to Something Greater, and you now know that you are taken care of. From this place of perfect sufficiency, your life can be “poured out like a drink offering” (Philippians 2:17). In committing your life to Christ, you have committed to a life of love. And, far from needing to be convinced to love people, when you are experiencing the fullness of this relationship, that is what you automatically do.

Doesn’t that sound wonderful? But how well does it line up with reality today among the Christians you know? And, if you are a Christian, how well does it line up with how you experience your life? I’ll leave those questions open for now. But I will affirm that, however rare it is, this phenomenon is most certainly real. It does happen. There are people who have surrendered their lives. There are people who love. And even if those same people don’t always embody it, there is no denying the reality of the love we have seen overtake them. And, of course, if we are honest with ourselves, such people are not always Christians. Sadly, it is quite possibly true that they are more often not Christians. I say “sadly,” not because Christians are “my people,” but because they’re Jesus’ people—not because he selectively picked them out, but because they chose him. They chose to take on the same “Christ” anointing, at least in name. And Jesus is one person who possessed this transcendent yet personal relationship in full measure.

This is what I want to emphasize. What we describe as a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ” is something that the first-century carpenter from Nazareth possessed in full measure. In fact, that is why we look up to him. That is why we follow him. We have been drawn in by the depth of his sacrificial love. In this way, he has led his followers to God. In leading us to God, he is already our Savior, even before we begin to contemplate what it means that he “died for our sins” (1 Corinthians 15:3). In this sense, Jesus most certainly “prayed to Jesus,” if by that we mean that he had an intimate relationship with God.

But there’s also an absurdity implicit in the concept of Jesus praying to Jesus. What’s that? He prayed to himself? Of course he didn’t! Right? He prayed to God. For example, when faced with the prospect of his own death, he prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42) Here he made a distinction between his will and the Father’s will. There was a separation, or at least the potential for separation. He had free will, and he saw his own tendencies toward survival at all costs. Yet he freely chose to disregard those tendencies toward independence and survival, instead aligning his will with a Larger Will beyond his own. He also affirmed his own lowliness to others: “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (John 5:30) And, as we said before, Jesus intimately and lovingly related to God as his “Dad.”

So, Jesus was God’s son. That settles the matter, right? And we too are children of God. And he taught us how to pray (Matthew 6:9-13). And we can look up to him. And we can aspire to be like him, relating to God as a Loving Parent, yielding our will to God’s will, surrendering to a life of love. And we can empty ourselves and make ourselves nothing, just as “he made himself nothing.” (Philippians 2:7) In a word, by identifying with Christ, we can become humble. Let us become like Jesus, the humble servant. Let us serve like Jesus served. Let us give our lives in love, like Jesus gave his life in love. Even if it is very difficult to accomplish, all of these things are things we can at least relate to. We’re aware of the resistance inside ourselves to do these things, so we can relate to the resistance that Jesus felt too. In other words, we can relate to Jesus’ humanity. He lived an appropriately human life: a life of humility. He accepted and embodied the reality of being human: “for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:19)

But that’s not the whole story of Jesus, not by his account or any of his followers’. He was much more than God’s son! In fact, he identified with God! (And the creeds agree: he is said to be “very God of very God.”) We find this much more difficult to relate to. Sure, we can relate to his humanity. But his divinity? Not so much. And yet, we have the audacity to hope that, as with Jesus, death is not the end of the story for us either. The story of his life, his death, and his resurrection brings his followers great hope. Hope that death is not the final story, that Life goes beyond death, that death is not the end of Life, that death has no sting, that death need not be dreaded, that we need not despair of death, that death is not our enemy. But how can we do this unless we relate to Jesus beyond his humanity?

How in the world can someone be both God and human? The Christian doctrine of Incarnation can help. Jesus is said to be “fully God and fully man.” Christians affirm this everywhere. Yet rarely do we realize its ramifications. In particular, if Jesus was fully human, that means he was one of us. He was one of our own. Conversely, we are of the same species as Jesus. If Jesus was human and we are human, then we have to conclude that he was no different than us, at least in terms of nature and potential. But in how he fulfilled that potential? That’s where we can affirm Jesus’ radical uniqueness. That’s why we honor and even worship him throughout the earth, 2,000 years later. So we can’t simply say, Jesus was the same as the rest of us. He was different too.

But how was he different? Our answer here has huge implications on our ability to follow him and be like him. Many will be quick to point out that He is God and we are not. In other words, he is different in nature than us. He had a different potential than we do, a potential that none of us will ever have. But wait a minute. All of a sudden, Jesus no longer sounds human. He sounds superhuman, or humanoid. The Incarnation was a nice thought (that Jesus was actually a human being like us), but the prevailing operative viewpoint among Christians holding to orthodox theology, though unconscious, is that Jesus was of an alien species. He was “human,” but he was not our kind of human. There is an essential dividing line between us and Jesus which we will never be able to cross. This too is unconscious (and ironic), because the very nature of the gospel message is that all such dividing lines between us and Jesus, and therefore us and God, have been removed!

What if we conceived of his potential in a way that does not keep us forever separated from him? The Incarnation says he was fully human. If we are fully human, you might say we’re no different than Jesus, because he was fully human. But are there ways in which we might say we are not fully human? Yes. We say this all the time. Any time a person abuses an animal, we say that they are being inhumane. So too whenever we are cruel or lack compassion. In our very language, we imply that to be human is to be compassionate, gentle, and kind. So although we don’t consider cruel human beings to be of another species (even though we may call them “monsters”), we do consider them to be living out of alignment with their humanity. They are not being fully human. They are falling short of their human potential. To be fully human then doesn’t just mean you’ve got unambiguous DNA, it means you are fulfilling your human potential. From this perspective, Jesus can still be special to us, but the path is left open for us to actually become like him. He is not on another road which we’ll never reach. He is further along on the same road. Now wouldn’t that be good news! Shouldn’t that give us more hope than any other account? Isn’t that the point? That Jesus was really human, and so we can be like him?

Christians everywhere desire to be like Jesus. How audacious! I suspect that most of us don’t realize how audacious this is. Again, it’s because when we say we want to be like Jesus, we don’t really mean it. Sure, we’d like to exude some of his characteristics, follow his commands, look up to him. But to actually be like him? We won’t go there, not really. That would have huge implications. That would imply that we would take seriously what he said: “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these.” (John 14:12) No, we’ll have to explain around that one. After all, Jesus said, just a few verses up, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6, emphasis added) We are quick to point out that he didn’t say we are the way, and thus we conveniently take ourselves off the hook. It is the singlemost often cited verse for affirming that Jesus is God and we are not. What we less consciously affirm at the same time is its corollary: “I am human and Jesus was not.” The problem is this: there’s no getting away from the union of divinity and humanity that Jesus’ life and teaching represent. What if Christianity’s best-kept secret, hidden in plain sight, is that to be fully human is to be fully God?

So did Jesus pray to Jesus? In a sense, yes he did. If Jesus identified with the Father, then when he prayed, he prayed to Himself. Of course, that’s not how he was relating to Himself at the time. He was relating to the Father, or you might say, his “Higher Self,” as other. That’s what you do in prayer. But when he spoke “I AM that I AM,” he was not praying. He was not principally identifying as human. He was principally identifying with the Whole Shebang. Here was God speaking through a dust-made man, a dust-made man who had flesh and bone, heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, hair, teeth, skin, and sweat. In other words, Jesus incarnated God. In yielding his life fully to God, he allowed God to live as him. In identifying with the Father, the Creative Principle that continues to give rise to the Universe, he gave God the opportunity to experience God—to glory in God—like never before. And when he told us we would do the same, he wasn’t limiting this opportunity to himself. His desire was that we would be like him. His desire was that we too would give our lives to God, that we would be filled with the Spirit, that we would identify with Christ, that we would realize our “sonship,” that we would live as one, that we would trust God and be at home in the Universe. And that, as we move further along this road of manifesting the glory of God, the real truth of who we are and the truth of Who lives within us would be given the light of day so that what he called “the kingdom of God,” or “the kingdom of heaven,” would be realized at higher and deeper and richer and richer levels.

Now, what seemed like Jesus’ rambling, confused, imprecise prayer for us in John 17:20-26 makes a lot more sense. In this prayer, he is glorying in the absolute interconnectedness of all of us and all of Reality, including all of us “from the future” who weren’t even on the scene yet. He intimately knows this interconnectedness that spans all of space and time and he wants that experience for all of us. If it seems that he is blurring the distinctions between him and the Father, and him and us, and us and the Father, he is! Let them be blurred! For this is what enables Love to flow. When you see your neighbor as yourself, then the natural consequence is that you will “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:39) And when you see yourself as a creation of, an emanation of, an extension of the Father, you see that there are no absolute dividing lines between you and God. You see that forgiveness and reconciliation are eternal realities. You see that your sin has been your blindness, your choice to stay in the dark, your choice to keep believing the endemic lie that sums up the tragedy of the human condition: the belief that you are separate and disconnected from God. And once you see that, you are no longer blind. When Jesus prays for you in John 17, this is what he wants for you.

I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one—I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.
—John 17:22-23

Jesus’ prayer for you is that when you pray, the same distinctions that are so blurry with him might be just as blurry with you.