The Spiritual Quest - Part 2
This column is the second in a series of lessons on life's most important journey.
Ours is an uncertain time in an unfocused culture that lurches from crisis to crisis. We can’t know the future except as the logical outgrowth – and dare I say repetition – of past events.
But I have a source of confidence that makes the angst of bad history and the trepidation of negative prognostications irrelevant. My confidence dwells in a God of hope, and that’s about the most important four-letter word around right now.
Religious faith has always abounded in hope and expectation and promise for life. Through the centuries, nothing has been more characteristic of Christian people than a hope that enabled them to cope with life – a power to challenge and overcome circumstances instead of being devastated and overcome by them.
Out of a vast sky arrayed with stars, a spiritual leader chooses one to follow. For a Christian, the guiding star is Jesus Christ. When that Star commands our hearts, it draws us out of the basements of fear and resets us on the rooftops of hope to brave the blitz and bombs that would undo us.
A spiritual leader must be focused on a star, and you cannot truly lead without a deep awareness and appreciation for the spiritual.
Growing up, I appropriated as much as I understood of a spiritual self at an early age. I continue to appropriate it, even as I mature and as I know God and God makes Himself known more to me.
I’ve learned that God speaks more in my silence than in my much pleading.
Be quiet. I must insulate myself from all the noises around me so I can hear a word from God.
Is it audible? Not so far.
But when I am attentive and truly seeking direction, a word or insight into a problem, I feel a nudge in my spirit. That nudge, when nurtured with prayer and contemplation, becomes the kernel that grows into a green stalk of truth from which I move and develop the truth that has been shown to me.
Truth with a capital T is always spiritual truth, by which you can live and move and have your being. It’s the point from which I start and end and the point from which I will not be moved. I must declare, as Martin Luther reportedly did before the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1521, “Here I stand, I can do no other.”
But, how do you get to this point?
For me it’s been a quest. It just never stops. I continue to learn and be open and am aware. I’ve learned to listen and remain open to whatever is around me: a child
giving a testimony, a group singing, hearing the trauma of a kid who has overcome and who in her own way proclaims that her victory is because of God’s presence in her life.
Children in care at Baptist Children’s Homes do not score high initially on the hope scale. They’ve all taken the train of trauma to get to us. Many have been sexually abused. To see them stand tall again – like Paulina, a precious young lady who was in our care – and related in a large public forum how a houseparent led her to the Lord never ceases to thrill me. For her it was a religious experience.
Religious experiences and practice in the culture are being continually redefined.
Things just change.
Think of businesses that used to be closed on Sundays. Centuries before our blue laws, Jewish rules prohibited walking more than a quarter mile on the Sabbath, or even cooking. Now we even have stores open on Christmas.
When I was a kid, we didn’t go to movies on Sunday. Kids’ athletic leagues wouldn’t dare schedule a game on Sunday. You’d better get all the groceries you needed for Sunday lunch by Saturday or you would do without.
When I worked at WGNC radio during my high school years in Gastonia, we ran no advertising on Sunday. The owner, Mr. Todd, bequeathed it that way. It was his personal commitment to honor the Sabbath-keeping commandment.
When Sunday is just another day, it makes it that much harder for individuals in our culture to reclaim their sense of spirituality. In the midst of media bombardment and calendar tyranny, it is hard to make a space to touch base with our spiritual selves and the Spirit of God.
Where do we find a tributary in the midst of this desert? Where do we find a spring to keep us going? Where do we find those moments?
We’ll seek those answers in next month’s concluding column in this series.