When people ask you about your beliefs, many people would find it pretty easy.
“I’m a Christian”
“I’m a Muslim”
“I’m a Hindu”
or maybe, as someone who follows Jesus, it’s simply where you are on the scale of belief
My own spiritual journey has taken in many of these. And now I find myself in a place where I’ve moved beyond them all, and somehow am beginning to see the best in them all, see how they all belong – a transcendent spirituality.
It might help to start at the beginning – the Methodist church, where I attended from birth to university. Very traditional, lots of old hymns, a God very distant, but also with s sense of wonder and awe for who God was, and how big He was. Ironically, the God I met back then I felt close to when going through times of crisis, I began to pray, and felt an intimacy with.
This is the God who first got my attention.
As I went to university, I found an even bigger God. It was the time of the Toronto blessing and the Holy Spirit was moving powerfully. I was at a church where people were being healed, people falling over, very charismatic modern worship. In terms of theology, I’d say it was liberal evangelical. Progressive, in touch with reality, but also still very evangelical. And I guess that’s where I was.
But then my mum died. Suddenly the God had believed in wasn’t big enough anymore. I had doubts. Questions. There was a growing mysterious and unknown element to my faith.
And I began to find my personal values weren’t matching with the theology around me. Especially traditional theology around the LGBT community, equal marriage, and even, with some, the role of women. They didn’t fit with what I believed personally. Everything was changing. I was changing.
I found a church where we had the charismatic worship, we had prayer and healing, but I could also ask questions. Who believed women were equal in every way, and were LGBT affirming. And where there was room for mystery, and yet who combined this with liturgical practices and the church calendar.
I was home.
Back then, I’d become what’s traditionally known as a liberal/progressive Christian. And on some level, I thought I’d made it.
But of course, I hadn’t.
I tend to get worried when things become too certain in my spiritual journey. So at this point I quietly said to God that I never wanted to stop growing, never wanted to get to where I knew all the answers. I asked Him to always keep me learning, going deeper into the divine mystery. Holding my beliefs with open hands, not closed fists.
And, in time, I found more questions arising.
So as time went on I began to ask questions about hell, about atonement theory, and science, and it’s place in the spiritual journey. I explored practices like yoga, learned about how our brains work, how the universe works. I did atheism for lent, and started to read critiques of Christianity.
And I also began delving into the mystics, into the idea that everything is spiritual, and everything belongs and letting go of the old in/out restrictions.
I still thought of myself as a progressive. But then something happened. When Trump was elected President, I saw the behaviour of a few of ‘my tribe’, and realised that they were sounding just as narrow minded as the conservatives I’d left behind. They were dismissing all those who disagreed with them, making blanket statements, and not hearing their stories, assuming they were right and had the moral high ground.
Which, of course, is exactly what conservative Christians get accused of, often quite rightly, all the time.
Meanwhile I was finding myself wanting to hear everyone’s stories. I wanted to hear the stories of those who disagreed with me, as well as the ones who agreed with me. It was at this point I realised I’d moved beyond both conservative and progressive groups.
And my reading of the Bible changed. The more I learned, the more I realised the Bible is a library, a collection of books in different literary forms, written by different people at different times in different cultures with different agendas. I began to see beyond the surface of the scriptures, and it began to expand and explode in my mind. I learned about the gospel journey of identity, the four paths of Quadratos, and began to understand my own story in the context of the gospel story of Jesus.
The Bible became this big mysterious library, with lots of room to explore.
And so, I found I could see the benefits of liturgy, of the church calendar, but also embrace charismatic worship, prayer, ministry in the spirit – all of which I still found in my own church – but also hold the best of the progressive movement. And beyond that, I could explore doubt, mystery, non-dual thinking, critique my faith, and had an understanding of science which made God continually bigger. I began to see the spirit in the science, and a scripture which was bigger, but only the beginning of the conversation – and which made God bigger too.
So now, I have now to a concept of the divine which is ever expanding, ever growing, always mysterious, always full of doubt and unknowing, but which has a place for holding on to truths. A spirituality where everything belongs, everything is spiritual, but has massive space for expansion. I finally have my hands open to learn, to grow, to move forward, to go deeper.
My spirituality is now now which transcends and includes all the paths I’ve been on, all the places I’ve been, and holds them in tension, and sees the good and bad in them all. But one which is open to move forward even from where I am now.
And it’s allowed me to have grace with those in a different place on the journey. People not where I am. I can hear and understand their story and instead of fighting with them, having grace with them.
The thing is, I feel I’m only scratching the surface. There is so much more I have to learn, and the more I learn, the less I realise I know.
The divine is bigger than He or She has ever been. And just keeps on getting bigger.And I’m more full of wonder than ever.
My message today would be, wherever you are on your particular spiritual journey, that’s where you are. And you belong. Whether you’re where I am or not, it doesn’t matter. There’s not one better than the others – everything belongs. Every place has something to contribute to the conversation.
We’re all on our own spiritual journeys, and all of them belong, and all of them have value.