Dear Fellow Pilgrims,
There was a time when I believed our Christian mission was to transform the world, whether the world wanted it or not. By doing so, I thought we could transform the hearts of people. If we make people live in a loving world, I quasi-reasoned, it will rub off and they will learn to love. I have since grown to recognize the backwards logic in this. After all, you can’t codify the law of love; you can only practice it. Only by transforming hearts, starting with our own, will we effectively work toward transforming the world.
For inspiration on how to transform my own heart, I look to the spiritual heroes who have influenced my own life, a few directly, but most through their writings and legacies. Each has a unique story, but I have identified five themes:
1. Deeply spiritual people find great comfort in their faith. This is perhaps the easiest and most accessible spiritual theme for many of us. We all like being comforted when we’re afflicted. Still, though, how often do we choose anxiety over inner peace? How often do we worry things won’t be ok, even though our faith tells us to place all our trust in God’s goodness? The most deeply spiritual people have a calming presence because the world, even as it spins around them, cannot knock them from their center.
2. The most spiritual people are endless seekers. So many religious people I’ve known have stopped seeking. With a false confidence, they believe they have found the Truth, as though any of us could possibly know the whole Truth in one lifetime. Many (we’ve all met them) even become aggressively defensive when their understanding of “truth” is challenged. In contrast, deeply spiritual people welcome and even embrace the challenges. This is how their understanding grows deeper and stronger. They recognize that their understanding of Divine Truth is partial at best, so they eagerly and continuously seek.
3. Those who are most spiritual are open and accepting, never judging others or giving up on anyone. It is as though the most profoundly spiritual operate on a different plane with a more comprehensive view of human nature. They respect the journey others are on, recognizing that today’s sin is the seed of tomorrow’s redemption. They know that the person struggling with alcoholism today may very well become the compassionate and understanding AODA counselor who touches lives tomorrow. The deeply spiritual have an intuitive perspective on the mysterious way God often calls the most unlikely people for the most amazing work.
4. The most profoundly spiritual are in constant dialog with God. They pray continuously, not episodically. Many struggle to describe when and how they pray because every step and every breath is prayerful. They walk in an awareness of God’s immediate presence. As a result, they see God in the rain and the sun, in the flowers and the snow, and in the smiles and tears of every single person. When they participate in structured prayer, they bring this holy presence with them and share it with the gathered community.
5. Deeply spiritual people live in a state of gratitude and joy. I’ve never met a deeply spiritual person who did not laugh often and love always. They have managed to transcend the ego that seeks to make the individual great. In doing so, they have transcended the notions, expectations and self-interest that trick us into believing petty things matter. They are free to live in the abundance of God’s creation, rather than to live burdened with the preoccupations of man’s creation.