Sunday, August 17, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (RC)

Sarah Price’s request (in her 7-17-08 blog post on our site) that we share our spiritual stories isn’t an easy or short assignment, especially not when you’re an older adult, as I am. But I want to try. I will focus a few decisive elements of my story. I am a third generation Assemblies of God Christian. As a teenager and young adult in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I rebelled against the Lord. My re-conversion to Christianity in my early 20’s came about primarily through my reading of the Christian mystics, especially Thomas Merton, and through the impressive spirituality (i.e., powerful “witness”) of my then to-be wife Anna and her father.

After I returned to the Lord, Anna and I both became involved in the pentecostal-charismatic movement of the 1970’s. It seemed to us to fulfill many of the longings of the Christian mystics: a strong sense of the Lord’s presence, fervent love for him, and passionate desire to be conformed to and united with him in a deep way. The movement was young, and so were we. We didn’t know then how easily the movement could become shallow, routinized, and manipulated or how painful and difficult the challenges of life could be. We laid aside the mystics and contemplative spirituality and gave ourselves fully to the pentecostal-charismatic movement, with Anna joining me in my return to the Assemblies of God of my youth.

I now think that ongoing growth in the Lord requires 5-6 spiritual-emotional “deaths” and “born again” experiences at least. The conclusive “death” and “rebirth” experiences that forced Anna and me into the “contemplative depths” of God were first the severe autism of our adopted daughter Catherine and second a group of bright students at Southeastern in the mid-1990s that we loved “too much” (without mature and wise detachment) and who broke our hearts with their spiritual and moral failures.

I now believe that a “full gospel” spirituality must include silence and solitude as well as vibrant community worship. Although it’s been a long and often painful spiritual journey thus far, I rejoice to have been brought to this place in God and in our community. I believe we are experiencing true spiritual community with this kind of sharing and mutual support. I am excited and grateful for my sense of the Lord’s unfolding presence in our midst and for the quality of our spiritual friendship and spiritual dialogue.



Susan Price said...

Thank you, Ricky, for sharing your heart with us in that way. I was encouraged, and uplifted by your journey.

Sarah said...

Dr. Cotton--wow. I'm blessed by your openness. Thank you for sharing with us.

Susan Price said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John Orzechowski said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us. I am encouraged by your willingness to share your own "death" and "rebirth" experiences. It is a strange truth of spirituality that these dark nights really define us in such profound ways, in spite of our aversion for them. (I'm sure I'll have some more such experiences myself--perhaps we all will.)

Sarah said...

John, that is a true statement about the dark nights. I had not realized how profoundly they affected my spirituality until I started working on writing my spiritual journey for this blog. Then I discovered that my own journey has the same road markers as Mark's and Dr. Cotton's--each path through darkness found me emerging at a deeper point.

Mark Wills said...

Thanks Rickey for the post. I can still remember you sharing much of this over pizza and Bob Dylan over 15 years ago! It had a profound affect on me then as it does again today.

Thanks Sarah and John for your dialog about this. I am with John on the desire to avert these deepening experiences. I'm glad to hear that RC thinks its only 5 or 6! I may be half way to peace!

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