Spirituality is about God’s longing to be present to us.
We become aware of who we are in the context of our relationship with a loving God.
Have you ever had an experience that you might have described as a “spiritual experience”? What was it about this experience that caused you to believe it was spiritual in nature? What impact did the experience have on you? How did this experience shape your sense of God and God’s presence in your life?
These are questions that focus on an element of our practice as Christians that seems locked in the realm of otherworldliness. You may not see yourself as a very spiritual person and a spiritual experience may have left you feeling puzzled, or perhaps unnerved. It’s also possible that these experiences might leave you with a feeling of deep peace and a sense of connectedness to God.
The term “spirituality” seems to be something we are hearing more about these days. In the past 10 or 20 years, there has been an explosion of interest in the topic, from guests on the Oprah Show to new books on the topic to a surge of interest in Eastern practices such as Yoga and forms of meditation.
The notion of spirituality is often not well understood in our Western culture. We tend to see spirituality as something that might interest only a few, and certainly not something that is in any way connected to our understanding of our practice as Anglicans.
We may see spirituality as something paranormal, other worldly, mystical, New Age-y and on the fringes.
This is a tragic misunderstanding.
We may see spirituality as something paranormal, other worldly, mystical, New Age-y and on the fringes. Yet, Ronald Rolheiser, in his book The Holy Longing says that this is a tragic misunderstanding.
Rolheiser asserts that everyone has to have a spirituality – either a life-giving one or a destructive one. Spirituality, Rolheiser says, concerns what we do with desire. It takes root within us and is all about how we shape and discipline the fire or passion that dwells within us. Spirituality is about what we do with our soul or spirit – the life pulse within us that makes us alive.
A healthy soul, Rolheiser suggests, must do two things for us. First, it must put fire in our veins to keep us energized, vibrant, living with zest, and full of hope as we sense that life is beautiful and worth living. And secondly, a healthy soul must keep us fixed together, to continually give us a sense of who we are, where we came from, where we are going and what sense there is in all of this.
Rolheiser explains that there is a discontent (another word for soul and spirit) in all things and what those things, or persons, do with that discontent is their spirituality.
True spirituality is not a search for perfection or control or the door to the next world;
it is a search for divine union now.
In his most recent book The Naked Now, Richard Rohr explains that much of religion has become a search for social order, group cohesion, and personal worthiness, or a way of escaping into the next world, which unfortunately destroys most of its transformative power. True spirituality, Rohr says, is not a search for perfection or control or the door to the next world; it is a search for divine union now. The great discovery, Rohr tells us, is that what we are searching for has already been given. Spirituality is about God’s longing to be present to us. We become aware of who we are in the context of our relationship with a loving God. Christian spirituality is about our own inner transformation as we become more and more present in our relationship to God. Rohr refers to it as falling into and undergoing God. Spirituality is a new level of awareness within ourselves of God’s presence and action in the innermost parts of our being.
As we grow into adulthood, our minds become more complex and preoccupied with day to day details. Cynthia Bourgeault in her book, Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening, explains that we spend so much of our adult energies thinking, planning, worrying, trying to get ahead or stay afloat, that we lose touch with a natural intimacy with God deep within us. Tools such as Centering Prayer or Christian meditation help us to withdraw from the demands of daily life and listen again to the presence of God deep within us. We need to move beyond ordinary awareness to a deeper sense of connection with the Source of our being. This allows us to become more and more transformed into the person God knows us to be – our True Selves. Bourgeault refers to this as a case of mistaken identity: the person we normally take ourselves to be – the busy, anxious “I” so preoccupied with goals, fears, desires and issues – is never even remotely the whole of who we are.
Do you have a longing to explore this deeper connection with God? As part of the Growing towards God series, Introduction to Spirituality will run for five sessions, beginning in October and finishing up just before Lent. This will be an opportunity to explore and develop some tools for listening to God and deepening our awareness of God at work within us and the ways in which God may be calling us to respond to the world around us. Please join us for what promises to be a lively growing experience!