Monday, September 1, 2008

My Spiritual Journey (Sarah)

Well, I've thought, journaled, discussed, and thought some more, but I cannot find the point at which my spiritual journey began. It well might have begun before I was born as my parents were missionaries with an outreach organization in Portugal at the time of my birth. I only know that as far back as I can remember, I had a deep longing for God. The churches I attended as a child hardly fed that longing--they were mostly non-denominationals of the Baptist-ish persuasion, and their path to God was rooted in following rules. It broke my heart that I could not find strength in myself to follow those many rules, and in my eight-year-old mind, I figured this destined me for Hell, but what could I do? I remember saying a "sinner's prayer" multiple times per month as if that might fix whatever was wrong with me.

Somehow, though, even in that environment, God had His hand on me because my soul still sought him despite my despair over my "lack of spirituality." In my teens, several spiritual mentors led me deeper into God, but I ran into a wall of spiritual darkness. I was wracked by doubts about everything--myself, God, His existence, the church--I was becoming a regular cynic at the age of 15.

It was at this point that my family relocated to Florida from Pennsylvania (where we had lived since I was six years old). We attended a new church, with many of the same old rules, but I was less attached to the authority of the church at this point and continued to seek fullfilment for that longing for God in my deepest self.

Upon graduation from high school and subsequently from community college (where, ironically enough, I first discovered the beauty of being involved in a true community of believers), God led me to Southeastern. Now that in itself is a story because churches of the type I had attended my whole life were decidedly suspicious of anything "pentecostal/charismatic." But there was a time when I stood on the sidewalk of the under-construction area of the school and felt the call of the Spirit to be there.

Talk about culture shock! For a while, I was overwhelmed by the "differentness" of of Southeastern but soon became somewhat disillusioned when I found many of the rule-bound ways of Christian growth were the same there as they were where I grew up. I was very detached from the student life around me and struggled spiritually as it seemed so many of the beliefs I had always clung to were suddenly transformed from solid foundation-stones to misty mirages that may or may not be there when you need them.

It was at that point that I met Dr. Cotton in Advanced Expository Writing, which I innocently took, not realizing that it was a class on spirituality disguised as a class on writing! I don't know how it happened, but I found myself reading Thomas Merton, Fr. Carl Arico, Thomas Keating, Kathleen Norris, and Joan Chittister. I well remember the day Dr. Cotton and I had lunch in the cafeteria when he explained to me the philosophical/spiritual underpinnings of centering prayer and mystic spirituality. I thought what I knew was already dissolving, changing form beneath my eyes--alas for my independent-fundamentalist upbringing. This conversation threw me into more confusion, doubt...I felt if I believed it, I would be abandoning my relationship with Christ for I knew not what.

So I struggled, argued with myself, became anxious, depressed, prayed and didn't pray, cried and didn't cry--read my Bible and ignored it, centered and abstained from centering. After so long, I found little bits of mysticism creeping into my spiritual life, in fact, feeding it, not destroying it.

I don't consider myself a full-fledged mystic, yet I'm thankful for the strength this spirituality has taught me as I inch along its path. The changes have been gradual: sweet drops of rain smoothing my sharp edges, shaping my spirit; I am changing, though. And this community, the people in it, the spirituality intertwining it, is part of that change.

--Sarah Price


living stones said...

Sarah, Thank you so much for your honesty. This was a very helpful post.

living stones said...

Sarah, Thanks for this wonderful story. It is thoughtful, enjoyable and quite well written. It encouraged me to read your words, "I'm thankful for the strength this spirituality has taught me as I inch along its path." I'm glad we are on this journey together. Blessings, Anna

living stones said...

Sarah, thanks for sharing your story. I've been mulling over mine too. Weren't we in that same writing class? --Paul

Sarah said...

Yes, we sure were in that class together, Paul. Was it as dramatic for you as it was for me?

Daniel said...

I particularly like this: "changes have been gradual: sweet drops of rain smoothing my sharp edges." This, as best I can tell, seems to be characteristic of most authentic shifts. It seems almost inseparable from our word, "journey." Very articulate-thanks!

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