Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Imperishable Seeds

You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God.  For, 'all flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass.  The grass withers and the flower falls, but the word of the Lord endures forever.'  That word is the good news that was announced to you.     -- 1 Peter 1:23-25

A famous mathematician once said that he was only able to make such profound discoveries because he had stood on the shoulders of giants.  I can't make that same claim.  On this spiritual journey, I can't say that I am discovering anything new.  It is new to me, but I am finding that many other people have discovered the same truth before me.

I have felt a strong kinship with Peter in his weakness and his strength.  I have struggled right along with Paul as he fought to unify his churches into one body of Christ.  When I began to appreciate the complete mystery of God, I found my thoughts echoed in the writings of Thomas Moore.  There have been times when I thought I must be channeling Thomas Merton.  I have even found plenty to nod my head about while reading St. Augustine's Confessions.  Not everything between me and these giants of religion is exactly the same.   But I take great comfort in the similarities, and am fruitfully challenged by the differences.

On Saturday, listening to an interfaith book discussion on the television, I heard an Islamic leader quote Rumi, a medieval Sufi mystic.  I can't remember the entire quote, but it was something like this:  "I went to Jerusalem looking for God, but I did not find him there.  Then I went to the Ka'bah looking for God, but I did not find him there....When I returned home, I discovered that God was in my heart."  This is an imperishable seed.  This is a truth I have also discovered on my own journey.

Occasionally, I wonder if the path is similar for everyone, no matter what their faith.  But then I come across someone whose journey is so very different from mine.   There are some people I am more in awe of, than akin to:  Mother Teresa and St. Francis, just to name two.  These saints inspire me, but their lives are so different than my own.

Maybe the imperishable truths of God are ones that have to be discovered for ourselves.  We can share the journey with other people, other mentors, but we have to walk the walk ourselves.  Spiritual truths are unlike mathematical truths in that way.  I can use the Pythagorean Theorem without having to discover it on my own.  But I cannot become compassionate by watching someone else be compassionate.  I have to learn how to be compassionate the hard way.

Truth is fortunately not dependent on one's religion.  A Christian mystic, a Sufi Muslim, and a Kabbalist Jew may share many of the same imperishable seeds, even though they found these seeds along different paths.  But one's religion must be dependent on truth.  If religion did not contain truth, it would not survive.  Experiencing the truth of our own faith, is what keeps it alive.

Faith is a journey, for us all.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint), I am not writing these reflections from the vantage point of hindsight, as St. Augustine did in "The Confessions."  So I cannot pretend to have a grand overall view, or a catalog of imperishable truths with which to guide other people.  I write at each step along the way, at each new vantage point I come to.  I am sure, as a result, that I will not always see things correctly, or notice the most important things.  That is why it helps to have spiritual companions along the way.  And that is why I share my own reflections.  I hope that someone else will nod their head in kinship, or even be challenged by the differences, and share their understanding, too. 

I know also that no matter how long I journey along this path, or how far I travel, I will never see everything there is to see.  However, I am confident that I will see glimmers of truth here and there.  And this is enough to feed my soul for a lifetime.

Dear and Glorious God, thank you for all the companions that you have given me along the way.  I pray that you continue feeding me with your imperishable word as long as I live.  Love always, Pam

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