On Finding the Sacred in the Secular

I have come to believe that one does not have to go to a church, synagogue, or mosque to encounter the Sacred. This picture is one I took of one of the most beautiful cathedrals I have ever experienced — Yosemite Valley. The awareness of God’s presence there was much more real and profound than anything I’ve ever experienced in a Church. Such grandeur knows no religion yet is a wondrous celebration of God’s creation.

As I contemplate this cathedral, however, the words of Abraham Joshua Heschel echo in the background: “The road to the sacred leads through the secular.” Heschel’s works suggest that not only is God’s grandeur manifested in Yosemite Valley but also in the people, places, and things I encounter every day in El Paso, my hometown.

In theory I believe all this. After all, Jesus said “The Kingdom of God is within you”, a reminder that the Sacred can be found in each of us. A beautiful thought but one with which I struggle. Why? In part because I am an introvert drawn to the inner path to the Sacred. But I struggle more because I have come to see within myself that I don’t like people very much. I believe we are a troublesome species that has made a mess of things. We people are responsible for everything from wars to poverty to plastic clogging the ocean.

Like my business partner you might be thinking “Isn’t working as a psychologist kind of strange for someone who says he doesn’t like people?” Perhaps. I concluded several years ago, however, that I didn’t have to like someone to be of help to them. This conclusion was very liberating. Rather than be distracted by not liking someone and trying to make myself like them, I could relax and listen without judgment. In some ways, I have come to see that my task is to help each person uncover and listen to the Sacred within him or herself.

I am not naively optimistic about people. We — all of us __ are capable of horrendous evil. We all have a dark side. Thus to believe that everyone I meet has some Sacredness within can be a great challenge. Yet that is what we are called to attempt when we are challenged to love our enemies.

I took all these thoughts with me today on my Good Friday prayer walk. My thoughts got pretty noisy and confused until a favorite Psalms passage came to me: “Be still and know that I am God.” And so I continued quietly on, simply enjoying a warm beautiful El Paso afternoon.

I know there is Sacredness in the people I love and the people I admire. I know there is Sacredness in many of the people who come to me for help. But then I had a thought that jolted me: “But what is Sacred within you?” I struggled with that thought for the rest of my walk. I have written and talked about the importance of loving oneself. It is humbling to be reminded of how difficult that can be. I ended up with a paraphrase of Jesus’ words: “See the Sacred in your neighbor as well as in yourself.” Amen to that!

Reflection: 1. Where do you experience the Sacred in your life?

2. What is Sacred within you?


About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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5 Responses to On Finding the Sacred in the Secular

  1. Susan says:

    I agree that, with a few notable exceptions, we humans are a sorry species. I adopted a Bul Bul bird and my colleagues were horrified because the birds are considered an invasive species. We never consider ourselves to be an invasive species.

    I also agree that people who need therapy (as well as others) are not always likeable. If we were, we would not need therapy. But we are interesting. I can stay in my job despite everything because, when all is said and done, people are interesting puzzles.

    At first I thought it was false modesty when you wrote that you didn’t immediately identify the sacred within yourself. But it is also difficult for me to identify within myself. The sacred, as well as its opposite, seems to find ME.

  2. Sonia Guzman says:

    Where do you experience the Sacred in your life?
    When I wake up in the morning & look at the sky, when at night such as tonight 4/19/19 the moon is full and very bright…when I look towards El Paso’s mountains and see the sun set & the glowing red & yellow looking horizon or some might call the skyline this apparent line that separate’s earth from sky…visiting the Grand Canyon…watching my little dogs play, watching a new born baby…volunteering at the Veterans home and watching these older men/women and not seeing them ageing but kind of like stuck in their early to late 30’s although they are in their late 80 plus…I see beauty in lots of things…but I fall short of finding my own beauty…my own peace of mind…my own self-worth…
    2. What is Sacred within you?
    That I can pray or have had others ask me to pray for them and when I do they either text me or call me and thank me for their prayers were answer & I feel as if my prayers through the intersection of our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ somehow heard my prayers for those who have asked me to pray for them. This has happened to me several times…its feels weird when they (those who asked me to intervene with prayers) that they feel as if I had something to do with them getting their prayers answers…I always make sure that it’s not me but all glory to God through Jesus Christ…

  3. Susan says:

    What is sacred within me manifests itself most clearly when I am with “my” veterans in pain. I know that darkness is also within me because I once literally raised hell. Perhaps I have overcome the dark side. The forces of good seem to have initiated a reconasaince mission to protect me.

  4. Mike Gaglio says:

    Ha, Best one ever! Hmmm – – -makes me think there may be a glimmer of hope for me yet! (You too! eh?) You are a great man, Doc!

  5. Robert says:

    Greatest man I know. Thank you for being the blessing in my life, guidance and hope. I would be in a box in Arlington if I never met you. God bless you brother <3

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