Sometimes I wonder as I wander, or am I really only perceiving this journey as wandering, because I’m no longer in the driver’s seat? This journey we are called to walk with Jesus can be a puzzling thing. Along the way there is a tendency to label views, experiences, and sadly people who do not fit in with the religious mainstream, yet love the Lord and know they have a place at His table.
Traditional, Evangelical, Charismatic, Contemplative, Christian Mystic… There must be a definition, a spiritual cubbyhole where I can be at home, where I fit in, a place where it is “safe”, where there isn’t some theologian or other robed and sheep skinned “expert”, not only defining who I am in Christ, but every serious spiritual seeker they cannot squeeze into some little convenient box. Especially the ones who are “unchurched”. I tend to see myself as all of these, yet paradoxically not any one in particular.
Yet are the labels and definitions something I think I still must have, or is that also someone else’s idea? Probably the most difficult part of the unknown country we walk is that one gets very, very tired at certain places in the journey, because just like our Lord, we have no place to lay our heads (Luke 9:58) – as in being part of the shady rest in that little church in the wildwood just outside Mayberry USA.
This line of thought has been with me all day. It is haunting and persistent. Yet none of the definitions seem to fit after awhile, and the spiritual journey may take us places where we may not understand why we are “here”. Or is it “there”? Or is it now here or nowhere? What is this all about? Where are You taking me, Lord?
As Jesus told Nicodemus, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit. Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?” (John 3:8-10)
So, I went online looking for current “status reports” concerning some of the oases along the way providing spiritual water, food, and shelter where I grew closer to the Lord. I discovered that there is very little left of the Charismatic Renewal, as it was known in the 1970s. The Roman Catholics seem to have vestiges of what remains of this movement.
I found electronic versions of “official” pronouncements from at least one other denomination, however, filled with statements (from the 1970s) full of caution, warning and condemnation of the whole Charismatic Renewal. These of course were from sheepskins having no personal knowledge of such things, but who clearly felt threatened by contemplatives, charismatics, and Christian mystics in general.
So I’m asking, “Where to from here, Lord Jesus?”
What keeps coming to me is to not worry about labels, and to keep my eyes on Him, the Author and Finisher of our faith. As far as the journey goes, it is one of trust. We must have BOTH the map – Holy Scripture – AND the “GPS” (gospel positioning system?), the Still Small Voice of the Comforter, the Counselor, Who is both beside us and within us. These two – the map and the GPS – do not conflict!
Some have claimed that they only need the “Word” as it stands in the Bible we know today. They renounce any need for a personal experience of the Holy Spirit, where Jesus lets you know His Presence in very real ways. There is a tendency to lean toward what a friend of mine calls “Bible-olatry”. Scripture is not considered in the light of what Jesus has said about it, that the Book testifies of and reveals Him (John 5:39). These are the “map people” who are largely of the opinion that the Holy Spirit does not personally speak to anyone anymore, so there is no need for GPS.
On the other hand, there are some with whom I’ve sojourned who insist that the “inner voice” is all that is needed. They pay little if any heed to the map, insisting that for mystics or contemplatives there is no need for either the Bible or other supportive scholarship. We can listen to our “higher” self. Good luck with that!
My experience has taught me that the spiritual trek is such a challenging journey that one needs both the Map – Holy Scripture, and the GPS – the Still Small Voice of the Holy Spirit. They work together. They never contradict one another. Hearing the Still Small Voice, however, requires the kind of prayer where listening rather than talking, is the rule. He invites us to “Be still, and know that I am God…” (Psalm 46:10).