I am grateful to Richard Rohr for his counsel to men to “Keep the edges hot.” Those words are present in many of his writings. They are now an important shared reminder when we meet in our community of Brothers.
I offer this reflection on “keeping the edges hot” to my brothers that have been initiated by completing Men’s Rite of Passage (MROP), to brothers who have not yet done so, and to brothers who are simply wanting to discern what Illuman and Indiana/Michigan M.A.L.E.s is all about.
What “It” Is
“Keep the edges hot” reminds me that I have a continuous and gentle calling from God to stretch, grow, and risk—at the very moments I’d prefer to retreat, stay safe, keep my multiple anxieties in check, and stay within my known comfort zone. When I “keep the edges hot,” I am, hopefully, being quite intentional about directing my energy, keeping the focus, and letting go of distractions and of my illusion of having security.
It challenges me to trust—deeply—that I really am loved just as I am—with all my public and carefully hidden (or so I think) wounds, brokenness, and shortcomings. “Keep the edges hot” means for me that I am to live each day (one day at a time) unconditionally loving myself just as God unconditionally loves me. Living this love is a far greater challenge than the safety of my intellectual understandings, theological “goodness,” or “looking good” to gain the approval of others. And the implications are huge for taking risks and offering my brothers and all creation that same unconditional love. The “safety” of staying on the cold embers of withholding love turns out to be no safety at all…it just deadens my mind, body, and spirit.
Unlearning and Not Knowing
I’ve always loved learning and have, up until fairly recently, placed an inordinately high value on my intellectual capacity and related writing and verbal skills. All of that required a life time of continued accumulation of information and knowledge…staying a step ahead of unnamed “others.” After all, I had an “image” to maintain (my “False Self”). I am awed that now I am being called to unlearn, to welcome “not knowing”, and empty myself so that I may be filled with Sacred Wisdom. Now that is “keeping the edges hot” big time!
Much to my surprise I am becoming much more welcoming of mystery, contradictions, and paradox. And speaking of paradox, I am actually experiencing plenty of joy these days—contrary to being a depressive for most of my life. Certainty, facts, data, and evidence are now less important (though not always) and in fact will often keep me in the “safety” of cold embers—away from the hot edges. What some spiritual leaders might call “wisdom” is, it seems, found in “keeping the edges hot” of unknowing.
The Gift of Brothers Up until my first retreat with Indiana/Michigan MALEs I never expected to find such a welcoming, thoughtful, and sensitive group of men—men who are committed to their own emotional and spiritual growth and being a light along the way for other men who seek. Together, we do what we can to “keep the edges hot” for ourselves and for the world.
Richard Gibson, firstname.lastname@example.org