If you haven’t had the blessing of reading Philip Yancey’s “Where is God When It Hurts?,” recent events have made it as good a time as any to grasp the opportunity to discover the open, honest and Bible-based insights Yancey offers about the reality of living in a world where evil exists even as it is being watched over by a loving God.
I am a Christian first, but I am also an academic, which has led me to study at least a little bit about a variety of religions. One of the first things you find in such study is that religions share a pretty solid core of similar beliefs. Sometimes, the ways those religions enact or express those core beliefs are so different from what we know, that we are quick to dismiss them as not only “other,” but often as evil.
But when we dismiss, we take the chance of losing out on what another perspective on life can actually teach us. Here’s my case in point.
My very limited understanding of Buddhism is that through spiritual practices, including meditation, the Buddhist is trying to re-connect with Nirvana, which is the state of Supreme Being from which all souls have sprung. Now, because Buddhist practice does not hold Christ as divine, I obviously am not going to be going to a Buddhist temple any time soon. However, there is a lesson about dedication to spiritual practice that I can learn and apply here.
In yoga workshops, when the instructors want to talk about enlightenment and deciding on your soul’s purpose, I have usually quickly dismissed this by knowing that my soul’s purpose has been reached because I have accepted Christ as my Savior. But in coming to this conclusion, I have actually missed part of the point. Even Christians, especially Christians, have a spiritual journey to take that can offer for us an enlightenment of being more and more Christ-like.
I just finished a book by Iyanla Vanzant in which she explains the process this way: Each of us is born with a soul syllabus, a series of assignments throughout our lifetime that is meant to help us learn the lessons we were born to learn. As we learn these lessons, we are drawn even closer to the peace of truly knowing God.
I believe there is a difference between having direct access to God through Christ’s grace, which we all have the opportunity to grasp, and doing the work that helps us to actually know God and become Christ-like. Anyone can strum the strings on a guitar and make a sound, but it takes practice and dedication to make music.
Spiritual practice includes daily prayer, daily Bible study, a spiritual mentor, a church accountability group and the ability to look inside, be still for long enough to hear God, and be willing to see truths about yourself that aren’t always comfortable. It is a life-long matter of becoming that none of us should do alone. It involves more than I can cover in a blog post or than, frankly, I understand at this point in my journey.
The good news is, I am excited about grasping this perspective on the metaphysical. Why did God put me here? For the same reason He put you here–to be as much like Him as we can be. This process involves growth, and growing involves high and low points, pleasure and pain. Mainly, I am glad to be beginning to understand that my soul syllabus is a day-to-day process, the same process that Christians have been following since Peter denied Christ three times and went on to establish His church, the process that all of us are facing again today in light of another unexplainable tragedy at the hands of man.
Begin your process of becoming today, or continue it, as the case may be. Pray not just with words, but with your whole being. Pray so that you know what your body is feeling at the same time that you are crying out to God. Remember, He understands our hearts even if what you are uttering aren’t exactly words.
Be still and know. May the “peace that transcends understanding” be with all of us in the coming days.