Growing in Christ: Week 2
To grow toward love, union, salvation, or enlightenment (I use the words almost interchangeably), we must be moved from Order to Disorder and finally to Reorder. (Sunday)
It seems we all begin in naïveté and eventually return to a “second naïveté” or simplicity, whether willingly or on our deathbed. This blessed simplicity is calm, knowing, patient, inclusive, and self-forgetful. (Monday)
In the second half of life you are strong enough to hold together contradictions in yourself and others with compassion, forgiveness, and patience. You realize that your chosenness is for the sake of letting others know they are also chosen. (Tuesday)
As we grow in wisdom, we realize that everything belongs and everything can be received. We see that life and death are not opposites. They do not cancel one another out; neither do goodness and badness. (Wednesday)
Mystics love the Divine so much that they no longer see any boundaries between God and mortals. . . . They point to a single center of their deepest knowing—that they are one with the Beloved, and that the further they go in this journey of love into the Beloved, the less clear any boundaries between God and self become. —David Benner (Thursday)
Slowly we begin to see that both the one and the many are held together in the One—the Eternal Godhead. And as we come to know our self within this One, we also come to know our oneness with all that is held by the One. —David Benner (Friday)
Practice: Growing a Little Each Day
This week’s invitation to contemplative practice comes from Jim Marion’s lovely book Putting on the Mind of Christ:
In the spiritual path we cannot jump steps. We must start exactly where we are now. Where we are now is perfect. It is perfect for the lessons the Holy Spirit wants us to learn. It is perfect in providing us with mirrors, that is, other people who reflect back to us our level of consciousness, our fears, and our strengths. . . .
Second, we must listen to the “small still voice” of the Spirit within (see 1 Kings 19:11-13). Most of us are very good at talking . . . to God in prayer and asking God questions. But most of us are not good at listening, at quieting the mind through meditation so the Holy Spirit can direct us and answer our questions. . . .
Third, we must work hard on ourselves. . . . Only those of us who place God first with all our hearts and souls and minds (Matthew 22:37), and who are willing to sacrifice anything or any relationship that gets in the way, are likely to realize the Kingdom [i.e., awareness of union with God]. . . .
Fourth, we must be patient. The spiritual path takes years. . . . [We can’t] completely change ourselves overnight. Only the ego works violently, always wanting to push and shove, to hurry, to force. . . . The Spirit works very gently, never by force. Its movement within us is subtle and delicate. . . . The best spiritual practice is to do a little each day. . . .
Fifth, we should find a community of people who think as we do, who are as serious about the spiritual path as we are, and who can pray with us and support us. As Jesus said, two or three gathered in his name are far more effective than going it alone (Matthew 18:20).
The best practice is probably what [Ken] Wilber calls an “integral practice.” In integral spiritual practice we exercise, on a daily basis, all the parts of ourselves with an eye to spiritual growth. We do something for the body (e.g., yoga, running, weightlifting), something for the emotions (e.g., psychotherapy, dreamwork, emotional release), something for the mind (e.g., spiritual reading), and something for the soul (e.g., meditation). . . .
Finally, we should remind ourselves daily who we are. We are already perfect in God’s eyes. We are already God’s beloved sons and daughters (Romans 8:16). . . . Our essence is Love (1 John 4:7-8). . . . The spiritual path is not designed to “get” any of these things for us; in truth, we do not now lack any of them. It is merely to help us gradually become conscious of who we already are, and to make ourselves more perfect vehicles for the manifestation of the Love of God on Earth.
Jim Marion, Putting on the Mind of Christ: The Inner Work of Christian Spirituality (Hampton Roads: 2000, 2002, 2011), 299-301.
Image credit: Krishna and Radna Looking into A Mirror (detail), artist unknown, 1800, National Museum, New Delhi, India.
For Further Study:
David G. Benner, Spirituality and the Awakening Self: The Sacred Journey of Transformation (Brazos Press: 2012)
Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ: How a Forgotten Reality Can Change Everything We See, Hope For, and Believe (Convergent: 2019)
Richard Rohr, Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life (Jossey-Bass: 2011)