Steps on the Journey

I think there are many ways to look at and to experience the spiritual journey. Here is one that I think is quite true to the essence of the journey. In this scenario there are four steps along the way.

  1. The first step has to do with acknowledging the yearning within us for more, for connectedness, for God, for truth, love, integrity. God calls us, and our soul calls us, throughout our lives to a deeper, truer life–a life with integrity, connectedness to God and to all creation, to a life with purpose and fulfillment. So often these calls fall on deaf ears or are brushed aside in our race to get what the culture has promised us—success, money, status, belonging, etc. But the calls to a life based on our own unique creation persist throughout our lives.

Being raised in our culture distracts us from what God had in mind for us at our creation. He made each of us with unique gifts and talents for the express purpose of bringing in the kingdom here on earth, as long as these gifts are expressed with love. When we begin to listen to these murmurings, little invitations to our own true self, we come right up against our own small self or ego. And so begins the battle within ourselves for a more integrated, congruent life. These are the choices as I see them:

Surface or Depth?

Like in the ocean, all the activity takes place on the surface of our lives(in the ocean the top 15’), and beneath the surface are the long, slow currents that are endless. And like the ocean which ranges from an average of 2 ½ miles in depth to over 6 miles deep in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific we have depths and more depths if we are willing to explore them. Beneath the surface of our lives is a great well of wisdom, inspiration, direction, purpose and more, if we are willing to explore.

Culture or Kingdom?

The second set of choices is between the culture–which we’ve been steeped in since our birth to the extent that we don’t even know where the culture ends and we begin—and the kingdom of God. God calls us to separate ourselves out from the culture so that we can see the truth, the reality of ourselves, of life itself and of other people. The kingdom is a place where everyone is welcome, all gifts are honored and valued, everyone is equal and at home.

Control or Surrender?

The 3rd set of choices arises out of our knowledge of the culture and the kingdom. The culture asserts control, after all we are independent people who have gotten where we are on our own, through our own power, our own control. And the kingdom is about surrendering control, about going with the flow of God’s love, about connecting to all of creation and belonging, finding our own true home, our own true self, our own purpose.

Fear or Trust?

The fourth set of choices is between fear and trust. If we’ve lived in fear and anxiety, we need to count how they drain off our most creative energies. The opposite of fear is trust–trust that God offers us his presence in everything that happens to us so that we are never alone. We have all our energies to bring to our lives if we trust that no matter what happens we will be fine with God beside us.

       Small self or God?

And the fifth set of choices has to do satisfying the small self, the ego, or following God’s lead. God would fill all our needs, but not all our wants—read ego–so that we would be free of any blocks to his divine plan for us.

The first of each of the above set of choices is about the small self—me and mine; the second set is about serving the larger need of creation and doing what we were designed to do in the kingdom.

  1. The second big step is Surrender. This step takes us beyond belief. Surrender is the first big step into the life of the Spirit, a life lived in, with and for God. Beliefs can take you to the threshold of the life of the Spirit, but only surrendering gets you through the door, the “narrow gate.”[Matthew 7:13-4] From this threshold you learn to listen for the “still, small voice”[1] of God which will be self-affirming for you every step of the way. To be able to hear God’s voice within takes a stilled mind in which we become an observer of all our thoughts, but not engaged with them. Meditation and prayer, especially contemplative prayer, that is, sitting in the presence of God, are the key ways to disconnecting from the power our thoughts have over us. As long as our thoughts rule us we will stay with the small self’s agenda and resist God’s suggestions.

As we continue on the path past the initial surrender, we will find there are 10,000 surrenders to be made of our assumptions, our preconceptions, our way in favor of what God is showing us. And because he created us, he knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows exactly what the next step is that we need to take in order to bring us to wholeness and to fulfilling our purpose in life. So we let God lead and we surrender every step of the way.

  1. As we continue on this journey we reach a point at which we seek to develop deep trust in God. We trust that he will meet all our needs as they arise. We seek to love God with all of ourselves, to bring our heart, soul, mind and body, our gifts and talents as well as all the areas of guilt and shame within us to him. We bring the whole of ourselves to the journey and at God’s invitation we develop a co-creative partnership with God. And as we are gifted with the fruit of the Spirit[2] in full measure this step in the journey flows naturally into the kingdom.
  1. Living in the Kingdom is the culmination of the spiritual journey. And what does that mean? It means resting in the arms of God, being a co-creator with God in all that you do, of great connectedness with all people and all of nature. The kingdom is a true community in which everyone is equal, everyone’s gifts are honored and valued, in which everyone’s challenges and suffering are held compassionately. It is our true home. As long as we live here on Earth we are called to grow and deepen our lives in God. We are called to discover and to live out our purpose. We are called to help usher in the kingdom on Earth. The learning never ends, the joy never fades. Thanks be to God!

To take these steps on the spiritual journey we need two skills: the practice of intention and a stilled mind. “Be still,” God says, “and know that I am God.”[3] A stilled mind means that we are no longer under the power of the repetitive tapes that are mostly negative reminders of what we have to be careful about– leftovers from our childhoods. As long as we let them drive our behavior, as long as we give them power over us, we will be at their mercy. As I wrote above, meditation and contemplation are keys to developing a stilled mind, a receptive mind that knows God. Eventually as we practice these skills that stilled mind is available throughout the day and night and we are able to rest our minds in God’s mind no matter what is going on around us. This ability spills over into our lives from the dedicated practice time– the great benefit of the practice.

The other skill is setting intentions. Setting intentions—which have nothing to do with getting rich or getting our way—begins with the deep listening of a stilled mind. There we hear what God is calling us to now. And we meet that invitation with our whole selves, essentially saying that what God wants for us is what we want, too. And we can add to these calls any behavior or words coming from us that we know are off the mark. Intentions are set in the most positive way. Later on in

some days or months we will experience the intention beginning to live in us until it is complete. Our part of the intention is to set it with our whole selves—body, mind, soul and heart. The Holy Spirit does the work, because we have opened the door within us to his presence.

Taking these four steps leads us into the arms of God, into our true selves and into the purpose for our lives. The two tools, a stilled mind and the practice of intention, keep us attuned to God and what he wants for us. We can start at any time, manage the pace of change for a while until the Spirit really takes over our lives and leads us in the most natural way for us to our own true selves in service to the Lord. Then we are partnering, co-creating with God.

Questions to ponder this week: Where do I see myself in the four steps of the journey? Am I fighting each step of the way or am I willing to go with God? What is before me now that I need to do or embrace?

______

Blessing for the week: May we embrace ourselves as we are and where we are on the journey, remembering that God is in charge of our progress as long as we are willing to follow his plan for us. May we become so good at surrendering our will to his that we no longer resist what comes to us. May we be faithful. In faith and love, Pat

[1] 1 Kings 19

[2] Galatians 5:23-3 love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, self-control and faithfulness.

[3] Psalm 46:10

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