What is Christian spirituality?

Dr. Helen Barnes

Dr. Helen Barnes

It is about breathing.  Dr. Helen Barnes, a woman of color, a pioneer in obstetrics in Mississippi,  when asked what she was going to do in response to a catastrophic event replied, “I’m going to breathe in and I’m going to breathe out.”

If the goal of the Christian journey is union/oneness with God and sin is that which separates humanity from God then one of the foundational issues for Christian spirituality is how to face reality – the totality of existence and what is real.  Human beings use denial, avoidance, rationalization and other mechanisms to format reality to fit what we long for or demand.

Edwin_FreidmanWhat is the will of God for humanity?  I think that God wants his creatures, particularly human beings to mature.  Maturity comes from facing challenge.  Whatever moves human away from reality and toward unreality is not Christian spirituality.  I think often of the following statement of the late Edwin Friedman on Idolatry.  He wrote,

“The problem with the worship of idols is not the actual worship but what that adoration denies.  Idolatry in any age and in any form is always the false promise of immediate security, the pretense of certainty at the expense of the more painful experience of the growth that can only come through facing challenge. Taken out of its primitive context, idolatry today has many forms, from substance abuse, to bending others to one’s own will, to the panicky search for the right answer.  Always, however, it denigrates the power of a human being to cope with reality, always it goes in the direction of reducing one’s threshold to endure pain, always it dilutes the resolve to develop the emotional stamina necessary for managing crisis, and therefore always it denies the spark of the divine.”

We are called to move into the future in faith, to learn wisdom from our experiences, developing stamina along the way that leads to the maturity of our souls.  That is the work of the Spirit and a gift of God.  It’s good news. Remember the words of Jesus, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

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