A spiritual [r]evolution...

As I've grown spiritually, I've found myself at times with a sort of conflicted religious identity.  It occurs to me that when people pursue what the Spirit of God is doing inside of them, it often takes them to places outside of what can be stamped, measured and approved.

When I was little, my mom taught me about Jesus. He wasn't just words in a hymnal or a figure on a flannel board.  He was very real to me.

I knew Him. 

As a teenager, I immersed myself in church—because I was taught He could be found there. And in many ways He was. I met some exceptional people who helped me grow in my faith, but I also picked up a lot of legalistic baggage.  The types of things that define a clear us vs. them.

And somehow I saw gaps.  Gaps in the Jesus I knew and the one I was taught about. The Jesus I was taught about had political affiliation and saw many groups outside our own as dangerous and deceived. He had a pretty tight list of do's and dont's.

And so, I tried very hard to fit in the box as it was outlined for me.  So much so that I remember giving a "party line" answer to a question from a non-Christian friend one day and as I said it I knew...KNEW...in my heart it was wrong. That I didn't believe it. And thus became my approach for the first part of my spiritual life:

Ignore personal experience.  Embrace the box.  

The problem with that?

Dissonance.

At a soul level.

When I got pregnant without being married at the small Baptist university I attended, I was ejected from the box.  Not excommunication in a formal sense.  But there was rejection and reformation of how those who had once embraced me began to treat me.  Only a few (who are still close friends today) didn't treat me as if I was "bad" and deserving of punishment.

That issued in a second approach to my spiritual life:

Reject the box. Embrace the experience. 

The problem with that?

Loneliness. 

Until a fairly recent discovery of voices like Richard Rohr, Brian McLaren and Rob Bell, I felt totally alone in my experience of the Holy Spirit and my beliefs. A friend asked me once about my belief that Jesus' death changed the fate of every single person on the planet to one of resurrection and reconciliation, "But how can you believe that? It goes against the teaching of every major seminary in the US?" Because when you know something in your heart to be true through a relationship with the Spirit, it is hard to act as if it isn't—even if there are credentialed people who disagree with you.

Over the past few years as I've engaged in conversation with other 'spiritual entrepreneurs', I find I have a new approach to spiritual life.  For the first time I feel truly at home in my beliefs and practices. This third approach? 

Embrace the Spirit. There is no box. 

The result of that? 

Mindfulness. 

While God has always been very real to me, now I find His spirit is EVERYWHERE. There is no veil between the secular and the sacred. It is all sacred. I am suddenly aware of how the Holy Spirit is vibrant and active—in places I never would have suspected—with people who are completely unaware of "the box." 

I had an experience in Mexico where I was praying in meditation.  I asked the Holy Spirit to help me see the new "rules." (Because when you grow up in a box it can feel very disconcerting to live without it.)  The Holy Spirit spoke to me—and when I say this I mean that thoughts that weren't my own came into my head somewhat loudly.  There is only one rule.  Love. 

Now I wish I had suddenly felt like..."That's it! Love." But instead I second-guessed.  Surely there must be more to it than that. 

When I opened my eyes, the Spirit underlined the point.  There were hearts everywhere.  On the mobile over my head. In the pillows. In the artwork. On the archways. Everywhere I looked, hearts. (I was staying at Hacienda Corazon.) And suddenly my spirit was filled with joy.  The point was underlined. Visually. In a way I would notice and understand.  Love is it.  All of it. The first and the last. The very character and heart of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

We all respond to it. Long for it. Work so hard to find it. And we are so wrapped in fear that we settle for the box to make us feel safe instead of risking love. 

Jesus walked around on earth for 33 years so that we could 'see' the heart of God. Not one of domination, revenge or exclusivity, but one of service, forgiveness and including those in the margins. The story is simple and amazingly clear with a single commandment that sums up the rest.

Love makes the box irrelevant. Love is not constrained by four walls and a lid. Love transforms and heals everything. We just have to be mindful so that we can be part.
© Random Cathy
Maira Gall