Wednesday, January 21, 2009
This is part of a journal assignment for a course, Christian Spirituality, I am taking this term at Concordia University.
For one who has been on a spiritual journey since a very young age, I thought that a course on Christian Spirituality would be a rather undemanding exercise. How quickly I forget that a commitment to lifelong learning and maturing means that every day I see again how far I still have to go. In the course of this week I have felt incredibly intelligent and mature as well as fragilely stupid and incompetent. Each day that I ask the question, "God, what are you doing?" I am surprised by the honest participation and submission the answer requires of me, and the presence of both an "aching pain" and a "delicious hope."
The key word that Rolheiser uses to describe spirituality in the first part of his book, The Holy Longing, strikes very close to home. Desire has not been an active part of my vocabulary for much of my life. Having been raised in a rather conservative and restrictive religious environment, I see my past illustrated in his explanation of the divorce between religion and eros. Desire is not a dirty word, yet for much of my life I have embraced fear instead, believing that it was the safer of the two choices. How wrong I have been. Fear stymies all attempts of love to break into my life, and its accompanying paralysis does a pretty darn good impersonation of death.
I am still learning what a wondrously passionate person I am, filled with desires so strong and fiery that I sometimes singe myself and my surroundings with immature thrusts of their power. And yet, I dare not retreat back into the world of fear.
We bought a new set of kitchen knives from a gift certificate we received for Christmas. The old set of blades were cheap and dull and required a lot of pressure to perform their task, so we figured it was time to get a good quality set. The new steel tools are nothing like the old blades and seem to play by a whole different set of rules. Suddenly, I am handling sharp and well-made instruments and I don't quite know how to manage them. I have already sliced my thumb once and feel like a child who is cutting with scissors for the first time: everything seems awkward and crooked and badly executed. I realise that I have to develop a new, more precise set of skills to work with these much more sophisticated and powerful tools. And so it is with passion or desire.
It has been easy to live with a certain dullness and safeness in my life, but that is not what this powerful gift of life is for. I am saying yes to passion every day of my life. I am willing to learn the skills needed to wield this God-given energy in a mature and skilful way. And I am not afraid of a few cuts along the way.
References are from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser (New York: Doubleday, 1999)
This is a photo of me handling an even more powerful tool at the shooting range last weekend.