WE NEED CONNECTION MORE THAN WE NEED ANSWERS
“Why is this happening to me?” is the great human question. And yet we’ve found it doesn’t actually feed us to pursue it. Instead, with thinkers like the author of Job, we’ve found that we’re more looking for connection— with ourselves, with our world, and with our God. Like Job, when that connection exists, all sorts of great things happen. And, when it doesn’t, no amount of answers or insights seems
to help us.
EVERYONE IS US
It’s tempting for those of us in the religion world to divide up the world into people like us (who share our culture and values and preferences) and people unaccountably not like us, who are either— at worst— enemies of the things we hold dear or are— at best— unenlightened people whom perhaps we can guide into our truth. But what if there, in the end, is only one real “us”— fellow human beings? And what if that take on the world, rather than somehow “watering down” whatever we might offer, actually opens up powerful opportunities for the kind of potent connection and growth we’re so excited about?
THERE REALLY IS SOMETHING GOING ON OUT THERE
We have a mystical side. On the whole, we’ve found that the modern urge to sum up things into abstract truth claims has its upsides, but doesn’t reflect the whole of what’s actually happening. We’ve found that the universe is richly relational. That makes a big difference in how we connect with other people, but it also points us to a God who wants to talk to us and guide us and encourage us and motivate us. That seems like an important part of the story.
BY AND LARGE, WE FLOW EASILY WITHIN SECULAR CULTURE
Secular culture, like religious culture, is just a culture, with good and bad qualities. In the past when those of us with religious backgrounds have shaken our fist at it, we’ve come to realize to our embarrassment that, rather than defending God, we’ve often been defending things like “the way I grew up” or “a forcefully-presented perspective from a combative preacher I heard once.” And we often find, to our surprise, that some secular person really helps us at a deep level— they make a movie which blows us away, they write a wise and helpful op-ed. We find ourselves hoping that we can offer our best insights within our culture even as we receive the best things it has to offer.
THERE’S NO BAD NEWS IN CONNECTING WITH GOD
We wonder if God’s most-central mission statement towards us is “to do us good with all God’s heart and soul.” As we redirect God’s way, we’ve found that there is only good news for us. Our lives seem to turn bad as we veer off this course. This means that reality is the friend of religious and nonreligious people alike— it will always tell us how we need to course-correct. None of us are super-geniuses at this ongoing redirection, but together we can cheer each other on.
WE GROW BY TAKING OUR OWN UNIQUE, HIGH-RISK JOURNEY
We’ve found that spiritual (and personal, and intellectual) growth doesn’t happen as we might expect by learning interesting new things each day until we die. Instead, we’re each invited into the kind of adventure that Abraham was invited into. Abraham left his comfortable world to take a trip to someplace he couldn’t exactly place on the maps he had, a trip that would require close attention to a supernatural guide. Feeling vulnerable and taking new risks and wondering if we’re on the right track and suspecting we’re misunderstood and needing to pray at a gut level rather than as an arid “spiritual discipline…” That’s what we hope for.
MY DRIVE TO JUDGE OTHER PEOPLE IS A BIG PROBLEM
Many of us come from backgrounds in which good people are expected to “draw clear lines” against evil people. But we’ve found that our quick urge to judge people has in fact been the bigger problem for us. The opposite of this has come through words like “love” or “humility” which get very good raps in the Bible, while Jesus and Paul are particularly hard on judgment. We find ourselves motivated less on “being a witness for the Truth” (Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the weeds and his strong warning that he doesn’t trust us to rip out the damned from the saved has given us food for thought) than on joyfully offering what we know of Jesus even as we learn from those around us.
EVERYTHING IS SHOT THROUGH WITH MEANING
Where we once, perhaps, were tempted to believe that if we just studied enough, we’d learn the whole truth about everything, we’re discovering that God’s reality is quite large. This offers us an encouraging sense of wonder about each moment and each person. We are never too old to learn or relearn. The possibilities for growth and insight really do prove to be immense.