Monday, May 15, 2006

My Spiritual Situation Part II (plus a link to old papers)

A number of you have written asking where to find papers I have written (usually my paper examing four different views of the afterlife or my paper exploring the relationship between magic and technology using Tolkien's trilogy) --they can both be found on an old webpage here. Thanks for your interest, and let me know what you think!

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Some recent thoughts on my current spiritual (from my journal):
I had a fairly sobering realization this morning that has left me puzzling what exactly to do about it: While I believe that love is the way, it is clearly not my priority way –what I want more than love is adventure, excitement, stimulation, knowledge, fame, consumption, and so many other things.

Now, I realize that I’m not the only one who has this struggle, that this internal battle is one that everybody has and is one of the most talked about things in my Christ-following tradition –however, I think I’m confessing something different. I’m not saying “I really want to follow the way of love, but these other things keep tempting me and I walk off the path oh so often.” No, I’m saying “I spend the majority of my time thinking about and pursuing these other things and only by luck, grace, and perhaps a little bit of character/virtue (primarily because of commitments I’ve made to love my family) do I choose the way of love over various forms of self-gratification.” And for some reason I don’t really feel that bad about –you know, guilty or ashamed or like I want to change this fact. I can see/feel/sense two motives in me that want to want love more: 1)Because I have a hunch that I will actually be happier, more fulfilled and experience more ‘adventure’ or ‘real life’ if I truly start walking in love. 2)Because somewhere in me I just think it is good and right, and I would like to make God, Anna, Zinnia and others happier. Even as I right those two motives, they become a little more alive in me and I think to myself, “Yes, I do want to walk in love” –but then as soon as I start imagining actual actions, those desires start to whither (Perhaps its like the parable of the seed on shallow soil?)

So then I ask myself, what do I do about this somewhat unsettling realization? When I thought about it while lying on my couch this morning, I did pray something like “God, some part of me really does want these priorities to shift –what do I do? Please help me out here.” But then I wondered, is it just something that I have to decide I really want and then will to change? Is it something that grows and changes with a spiritual community, of which I am currently lacking? Is it due to the fact that I’ve got some sort of exaggerated/twisted picture of what love looks like –overly self-sacrificial and self-abnegating and therefore some part of me that also wants to be loved and experience life is rightly rejecting that exaggerated picture? Do I need to have some major tragedy happen in my life, something that breaks my ego or that reminds me of the priority of love and the transitory nature of much of what I desire? Do I need some kind of divine revelation or experience that shakes me to my roots or creates a longing in me for the real? I don’t know what needs to happen next. I guess I just need to trust that Love will find a way to reform my priorities, my heart, my will, or something.

I’m noticing that my spiritual dilemmas lately are more about how to actually live rather than the more abstract spiritual questions. Those questions and struggles are still there –but they don’t have as much weight…I think I’m starting to let go of the belief that I will ever have the kind of certain knowledge about some of those more abstract questions. Perhaps they are just becoming a little less important to me as well. I think it also has to do with realizing that these ultimate questions (i.e. what is the ontological nature of ultimate reality) will always be more complex, wonderful, rich, and mind-boggling that the answers I can come up with. I don’t know.

Speaking of abstract questions –I recently talked with a friend of mine about “what does it really mean to follow Jesus, how do you follow a guy you can’t see it” The conclusion for me was that I’ve not been relating to that kind of language lately –something doesn’t feel true about it. Partly, it doesn’t ring true because, as I’ve just confessed about, I don’t think I am following that same path of love that Jesus followed. The other part is that –because I can’t see him or talk to him, language like “Following the spirit, following God, maybe even following the spirit of Christ” rings more true to me. I could say I am wrestling with and trying to following his teachings and learn from his life and stories –but following ‘him’, just doesn’t ring true to me. I imagine if I had some more dramatic encounter with Jesus –and I mean specifically Jesus –like I had a vision of him, or he appeared to me bodily (I’ve talked with a fairly well known author who has had this happen), or like I heard a voice that I really associated with Jesus –I would probably feel more close to him, more commited to him, like he was a bigger part of my relationship with God (or that he even was God) and that I was thus ‘following him’ –but I don’t think I have. And yet I’m sorry Jesus if that is not true, and that I am forgetting (typical of me) some wonderful gift that you’ve given in the past. I’m not saying that I haven’t had spiritual experiences, some fairly dramatic ones, but I don’t remember any that were particularly tired to Jesus the person. Does this make sense? So, until something changes in this realm –I’m thinking I might start changing my language in more honest ways.




1 comment:

Kharisma said...

Leif,

I wanted to share something that was helpful to me. I'm a liberal Charismatic (some people say Progressive Evangelical) dating a Reform Jew who formerly identified as a Christian. The problem for him is that he was severely abused by a particular Christian group home, so the songs about finding safety in Jesus were constantly undermined.

When I was thinking about the conversation, I believe that I had an insight that seemed like part of a conversation with Jesus: "It is more important if I consider him my friend."

I still sometimes have trouble with the theology of that, but that's ok. It's one of the reasons, when I'm responsible for the prayers of the people in my Anglican parish, that I pray (regarding the Church), "We pray for all who call themselves Christians, and all those whom You accept through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Inclusivism, yeah?)

Love you brother, hope that helps a bit. My gut says that Jesus considers you his friend, whatever your questions may be.

Love and peace in Christ,
Rob