Christian Spirituality: Ways of Experiencing God (Part 1)

Reflection: Ephesians 5:1 – 2; Colossians 2: 6 – 7; James 4: 8.

The human quest for experiencing God and finding meaning to life was not deterred by the Fall (Gen 1:26-31). Deep within our soul is a historical consciousness that we are incomplete apart from a radical relationship with someone transcendent to self (Eccl 3:11). Inevitably, Christian spirituality embraces a precious Jewish religious heritage and spirituality, when Yahweh went to great lengths to call out a people for Himself (Gen 17:1-8). Therefore, we speak of Christian spirituality as the total human experience of God and our response to Him, within the context of faith and community. Of course, the prerequisite must be the indwelling Holy Spirit, which facilitates our ongoing unfathomable relationship with God (John 14:26). The human experience involves a single, seamless personality (the inextricable integration of our feelings, thoughts, bodies, sexuality, unconscious, passions, and anxieties) that encompasses the spiritual, mental/psychological, and the somatic. The reductionist thinking that only a dichotomous spiritual self experiences God, apart from our whole being, is rationally unacceptable, as the self is more than just the spirit. There are numerous aspects and models of Christian spirituality, but I shall only cover a broad sweep of its characteristics with no particular order in mind.

Augustine’s observation that “our soul is restless until it finds rest in thee, O Lord; for thou hast made us for thyself” echoes unconsciously in hearts through countless generations, but it needs to be emphasized that the initiative for this search lies with God’s Holy Spirit, who first calls to us (Rom 3:11-12), and prompts us to respond to His friendship. The essence of Christian spirituality in that bonding is a submission to someone larger than self (Matt 10:39), despite our obstinate egocentric need to yield nothing to anyone. And it is this distinctiveness of surrender that contributes to our sense of being fully human as created beings made in His image, where our subsequent progression towards spiritual growth is one from willfulness to willingness in terms of yielding to His will. That is the Christian norm in experiencing God.

Isn’t it also true that initially our successive faltering steps toward Him are taken in an environment of stillness (Ps 46:10), where we begin to appreciate who He really is? For it is in this solitude that His Spirit encounters us. Thus, our ability and priority to remain in this inward stillness, day by day in His presence, will augment our spiritual depth, and not drive us into compulsive busyness and other arenas of stimulation. I am not referring to physical solitude exclusively, although it is a necessary component to our spiritual development, but an inward heart solitude that enables us to listen to the depths of our own soul (1 Cor 2:10-11). Listen we must, as these inward ‘voices’ chart our subsequent steps in our journey with our Creator. Therefore, prioritizing our daily choices is crucial as we determine who or what is important to us, for this world and its trappings are likely to ensnare us if we are unaware of our salvation’s priorities (Matt 5:14-20).