Once again this year I commemorate Good Friday by walking home from my office, a distance of roughly 10 miles that takes my about 3 hours to complete. I realized this year that the Walk is a high point of my spiritual year, a sort of pilgrimage and quest, often bearing some spiritual clarity or insight.
As I walked along this year, inspired by Marcus Borg’s Convictions, I found myself reflecting on his themes of memory, conversion, and conviction. I reflected on not just significant spiritual events but themes that seemed to capture those events. I came up with The Five Ss — silence, song, sobriety, sex, and sunrise. (Having a writer’s penchant to neatly package ideas, I used “sunrise” to capture the many potent experiences I’ve had in Nature).
The value of silence comes straight out of the Book of Psalms: “Be still and know that I am God.” My own spiritual world has a lot of chatter and intellectualizing to it. I have learned that I sometimes need to shut up and listen. I may not always like what I hear. Silence, after all, requires that we enter in armed to the teeth. Yet in that silence, I have at times heard the Whisper in the Wind.
Song reflects the power music has had on my journey. Sometimes the words of a song call me to spiritual thinking as with Jackson Browne’s “The Rebel Jesus”. Often, though, it is the sheer power of the music that transports me. Here for your enjoyment is an example
Sobriety may not be a meaningful spiritual path for all but for me coming into sobriety was and is the clearest redemptive experience I have had on the journey. Beyond that, I came to see that for years alcohol was my god and that, had I not been delivered, I would have died on that altar. Further, the 12 Step concept of “the God of my understanding” has become a cornerstone.
I see too that sex is a powerful unitive spiritual experience. It is no accident that Scripture uses passionate union in The Song of Songs not only to celebrate sex but to highlight sexual union as a path to experiencing the love of God.
Nature has become in many ways my church. I just don’t go there often enough. I believe that God permeates all of His/Her creation. I find that God most clearly in the wonder of Nature.
My Walk wasn’t all blissful. I got home dehydrated with very sore feet, probably a residual nod to the asceticism of my childhood Catholicism. I also arrived home confused as ever about themes such as prayer and just Who or What is the God of my understanding. But then a productive spiritual experience is probably best marked by the question it raises rather than apparent answers.
REFLECTIONS: 1. What is on your list of profound spiritual experiences?
FURTHER READING: My latest article “Angry with God”is now available via the publisher St. Anthony Messenger at http://www.stanthonymessenger.org/article.aspx?ArticleID=14420