I’m a keeper of journals. For as long as I can recall I have written my way through life. In copious notebooks I’ve documented and reflected on what’s been a mostly unremarkable story. Regardless, the earliest of these are drenched with angst. As I scan them now, I cringe. They read like an endless and urgent ‘quest’ for improvement or for reality different to the one I knew.
My religious upbringing did not help. The journey to Christian devotion — a quest of the most noble kind — was fueled by a dim view of the human heart and of the world in which we’re ‘entrapped’. The narrow road out and toward God was paved with words of obligation: repent, give up, let go, deny, quench, resist. It was an urgent business. Honestly, I felt more failure than progress as I trudged along, but the drive to ‘press on’ remained.
With the benefit of age, I wish now I could go back to that ernest young man and others like him. While he sits hunched over his journal I would stand behind him, my hands on his shoulders, and speak words of peace. “Go easy,” I would say, “this world is good and precious, and so are you.”
It is the psalmist who affirms all creation as filled with the beauty and majesty of God and St Paul who marvels at that all-encompassing love that leaves no peak or crevice of this life untouched. The Franciscan Richard Rohr describes true religion as “always a deep intuition that we are already participating in something very good, in spite of our best efforts to deny it or avoid it.” Indeed, this world declared ‘good’ and ‘very good’ in the creation story continues to be so. The great privilege of the Christian faith is not that we are on a journey toward God, but that we are in God and the life of God is in us.
Yes, I am still journaling and still questing. I still seek meaning in what I do. I still aspire to goodness in who I am and justice for those around me. But the urgency of it and the self-criticism, they are less. Rather than being driven by a rejection of the world’s darkness and a desire for improvement in myself, I find myself inspired by the beauty of all that’s around and even within me. Today there is less drive for personal progress and more longing for the grandeur, kindness and grace that fills this world of ours.
5 thoughts on “A Spiritual Quest”
Love this Simon.
The Godfrey Birtill musical version of this is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3HsdHsy4_g
That’s beautiful Lal. Thank you.
Yes Simon I was a young zealous Christian living in an Open Brethren environment of piety more than grace. Baptist life was doing doing doing rather than being. PNG reminded me that culture is more than western while as an Industrial Chaplain spirituality was more than church. Whitley College was a light into new thought , doubt and challenge.
I now live that “easy” life in solitude using my iPad to wander as I choose. Yesterday Jim Barr at Box Hill Baptist, today Sarah Miles St Gregory of Nyssia in San Francisco. Tomorrow I coffee with 10 non Christians whose sense of community is Christian but they just don’t know it.
I will walk home along Spring Creek encountering platypus koala a wallaby.
My prayer is that we will grow community through IT.
My guiding prayer is that of Thomas Merton
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going/
I do not see the road ahead of me./
I cannot know for certain where it will end./
Nor do I really know myself,/ and the fact that
I think I am following Your will/ does not mean that I am actually doing so./
But I believe that the desire to please You/
does in fact please you./
And I hope I have that desire/ in all that I am doing./
I hope that I will never do anything/ apart from that desire./
And I know that/, if I do this,/You will lead me by the right road,/though I may know nothing about it./
Therefore I will trust You always/ though I may seem to be lost/
and in the shadow of death/
I will not fear,/for You are ever with me /.
and You will never leave me to face my perils alone./
A beautiful prayer, Mark. So glad you live in a place the sustains your spirit.