(blog post title shamelessly borrowed from a newsletter article and subtitle of a quoted book! and we move on to tonight’s stream of consciousness! <smile>)
I just got my copy of our church’s newsletter today. The front page carries a reflection by our rector. (the priest/pastor in an Episcopal church.) She titled it, “Lent: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation.”
I was struck by the coincidental similarities in theme to my post from yesterday. She (my rector) leads out the article thusly:
Many of us attend church because we have a longing for God, and for love. But spirituality doesn’t just happen. Even deeply desiring God doesn’t mean that I will experience God’s presence.
A quote she shared from Ruth Haley Barton’s book, Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation” on p. 24:
Your desire for more of God than you have right now, your longing for love, your need for deeper levels of spiritual transformation than you have experienced so far is the truest thing about you.”
I had this knee jerk reaction upon reading that to ask if she had the book, and to borrow it. (what is truest about me? what does that look like and act like?) I remember when I was in the throes of my first recognized and acted upon period of desire for God, I would ravenously consume spiritual books, and books on prayer, especially prayer of the contemplative type. I wanted what those authors had found. Of course, I spent so much time reading about prayer, that I didn’t always actually get into the business of prayer itself, ironically enough. That came in time. But then there came another time that I immersed myself in books like this where it wasn’t so much about the infatuation and zeal to be had in learning new things, it became a way to avoid prayer…a means of “learning” how to “do it right.” The truth is, I avoided prayer, and instead would devour books on the subject. Hmm. And so, while I will share this blog post with her, I won’t request the book just now. Just yet.
Then I kept reading our rector’s article. And now here are her words again:
Some of us want to be loved by God, but when it comes down to getting close to God in prayer, it’s frightening. We resist.
Familiar? (as this amateur blogger nods her head resignedly.)
She asks so many of the questions I’ve asked before and now in this compact little article in this month’s newsletter: “What will I do when there is nothing to do?” (I think her intent in asking that was how will we deal with silence instead of busy-ness that we fill our lives with, but I’ve frequently wondered what will I do when I can’t be useful, or competent as I age? The head knows God loves, the head can even assert that with conviction to others in encouragement. The head has a tougher time convincing the heart that beats just a few inches below itself that this is a known truth sometimes.) And she closes with the suggestion to do some self-examination and ask oneself how to make space for spiritual transformation, in contrast to the smaller, more constrained question many will be asking themselves right now, in certain Christian disciplines, “what will be my Lenten discipline.”
That question, how am I making space for spiritual transformation, touches right at the nerve and heart center of what prayer is, in my opinion…how will I allow God to transform me and my community? The next steps are in God’s hands about how any personal transformation in me will affect those around me and the space I inhabit, but we start within, I think.
Have you engaged in self-examination? With Lent approaching, there may be more opportunities to dive in and dabble.
Now there’s a word I haven’t used in a long time! <puts smile of reminiscence on face> During that time of ravenous book consumption I recall “worrying” that I had no discipline, and that I was dabbling in so many different Christian practices and ways of praying, trying to find the way that best suited me and my relationship with God. A wise friend assured me not to worry, that discipline would come later.
And it did, I suppose, but spiritual discipline doesn’t just happen, and it certainly doesn’t just endure on its own. I stopped showing up. There’s surely a connection.
No, I won’t dabble again. It wouldn’t be the same or as holy as it was at that season of my life…it would be another nice (outwardly) appearing means of avoidance of the holy work I must really engage in. Maybe someday I’ll go pick up that book, when it’s with intentionality and peace; right now it would only serve to distract from the real business I need for me, based on my own self-examination: a need to pray and then get out there and live out whatever transformations God deigns to work out in me in my particular circumstances and surroundings.