It’s been the kind of week where I encounter a teaching or an idea that forces me into deep philosophical reflection. That’s a good thing! To be drawn into a place where I’m focused on articulating why I’m on the Christian path and not some other means of spiritual growth. That’s been a major source of conflict in my inner life since Seminary. When I can see so many of the churches that are representative of my religious belief to be so far removed from living out its intention… It’s tempting to say to hell with all of it!
Here’s the thing– Christian spirituality is different than the others. Christian spirituality is unique in that its central message strives to restore dignity to all human beings in their struggle with the human condition. Its central message, the good news of the Gospels, is essentially that God cares for us as human beings. Enough to become a human being and live among us. Enough to pursue us, and encourage our reconciliation with the Divine. Enough to submit to the humiliation and sufferings of being human in a fallen world.
If nothing else the story of Jesus Christ in the Gospels reveals that if we experience human suffering, it is not necessarily due to a mistake we’ve made or a personal sin. Certainly, we create some of the situations we find ourselves suffering within… but if God as a perfect, sinless human being suffered and encountered human violence, through no fault of His own, what does that tell us about our own suffering?
God in Christ has redeemed human suffering. Through His own experience of it. God in Christ revealed the nature of spiritual growth to be one of much resistance. To encounter such resistance in one’s own life is not necessarily evidence of some secret sin, some wrong turn on one’s spiritual path, or an affront to the Universe. It’s part and parcel of the process of integrating our spiritual identity into a growing wholeness as human beings in a fallen world.
All of this to say that I think the New Age/New Thought understanding of our true indentity as being restricted to the spiritual realm, is as dangerous as the materialist idea that our only true substance is a physical one. We are not either/or– we are both/and. Unlike other understandings of the nature of God, Christianity asserts that the physical, bodily existence cannot and should not be divorced from our spiritual one. For all the exquisite spiritual experiences human beings can have, these are not the apex of Christian spirituality. The goal on this path is to bring our spirituality into every part of our physical existence, where it can serve God in the service of other human beings. Because God loves human beings.
Whatever we may be in the next life, we are still human beings in this life. The task of Christian spirituality then, is not merely an ascent on a spiritual plane, but the pursuit of a wholeness that can exist in both the physical/material and the spiritual. Sound difficult? Because it is! We are not called to accomplish this aim on our own. What God wills for us, God finds a way to accomplish. And He can use human suffering, pain, illness to do so. Not that God wills us into hardship, or that we even will it for ourselves… But that God redeems the hardship we encounter so that ALL things work together for the ultimate good of those that love Him, and have been called to this purpose.
So, yeah. This has been my thought life the past few days. As tempted as I have been to reject 2000 years of religious study and tradition, there is no alternative for me. Christianity as a religion can be so distorted as to become abusive. But the heart of Christianity, the relationship between the Divine and humanity, prevails. God has redeemed my religion for me. Figures. He’s got a soft spot for all things struggling to be revealed as they truly are;)