Road Map for the Spiritual Journey
There comes a special moment in our lives when we decide to live a closer relationship with God. Before our decision, we have been practicing religion. We held certain beliefs. We were a church member. We participated in rituals and pious practices.
After our decision, we will continue to practice religion. However, we feel that we are being invited to take a search journey that could bring us from acquaintance with God to friendship with God to intimacy with God.
This is the invitation to live the spiritual life, a personal relationship with God. In general, the spiritual life begins with searching. "Every moment of the search is an encounter with God," writes Paulo Coelho, author of The Alchemist. A searching mindset is essential for the spiritual journey.
More specifically, an Action Plan helps advance us on our journey. And a road map helps us to reach our destination. First, the Action Plan. Over the centuries, people seeking to grow their spiritual life have engaged their total personhood—their hearts, minds and wills:
- Growing their hearts which we call our search for holiness. That is the process of connecting with our Infinite Lover at the core of our being. Through our prayer, experiences and practices, we progressively open ourselves to the love beams radiating out from that center and see all through the eyes of love. Growth in love of God and others leads us to greater hope and stronger faith.
- Growing their minds which we call our search for spiritual formation. That is the process of discovering Jesus in Scripture. The process of learning how to pray and how to center down for spiritual encounters. The process of learning discernment of our hearts' movements, whether they are holy or unholy. The process of forming and reforming our attitudes toward God, self, others, life and creation that comprise our life vision. The process that examines our intention-ality for healthy awareness of our actions. Spiritual reading is a great aid.
- Growing their wills to action which we call our search for evangelization. This is the process of progressively consenting, deeper and deeper, to sharing our new spirituality and faith with others, and to taking a leadership position when the occasion requires. We become ourselves through our actions. Our actions ultimately determine who we are as persons and support our values. Our actions grow or weaken our commitment to the spiritual life.
From the three growth areas described above, we can create for ourselves our personal Action Plan. Now let us turn to the road map for our spiritual journey. There are at least three milestones on our spiritual journey: they are the milestones of Commitment Spirituality, Process Spirituality and Jesus-centered Spirituality. Most importantly, our Action Plan is an essential element of all three.
For Commitment Spirituality, our point of departure is commitment to pursue the three growth areas of our Action Plan. Further, there is one more commitment required to reach our first milestone. A commitment to the Holy Spirit. Let me explain.
We realize that in the spiritual life we are faced with an essential dialectic—two opposing ideas that are apparently irresolvable. A dilemma that never goes away whether we are a beginner on the spiritual journey or a saint in the making. The dilemma is this. We have committed ourselves to an Action Plan. At the same time, we realize that we are powerless to bring about our own holiness or anyone else's. We understand that God created our hearts for infinite love, but carrying on a love affair with the Infinite Lover is far beyond us. That's a dilemma that we cannot resolve on our own.
We need a Higher Power and that is the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit who brought order out of chaos in creation. The same Spirit who brought about Jesus' Incarnation. The same Spirit who anointed Jesus at his baptism in the River Jordan with the powers of radical faith, hope and love. The same Spirit who transforms ordinary bread and wine into Eucharist at Mass each day. The same Spirit who led Jesus out of his tomb at his Resurrection. The same Spirit who empowered the apostles to proclaim courageously the Good News at Pentecost. We too must commit ourselves to the Holy Spirit. That is our second commitment. But how?
We must put ourselves at the disposal of the Holy Spirit. Trusting that the Spirit will guide us in our search for holiness, spiritual formation and evangelization of others. Surrendering ourselves to the unknown. Not fully understanding. But having faith that the Spirit will work through our Action Plan. Commitment Spirituality commits us to both trusting and acting at the same time. When we have achieved this disposition of mind, heart and will, we will have reached our first milestone.
Process Spirituality. The wonder and the joy of Commitment Spirituality is that it converts our Action Plan into a dynamic spirituality of devotion to the Holy Spirit as our inner mentor and guide. The second milestone? We discover that our Action Plan works. We discover that our Action Plan is not just a spiritual shopping list.
We discover that the Spirit operates through it. We discover it is a dynamic process. Our search for holiness is the fire that drives the process. Our holiness drives our search for spiritual formation and our spiritual formation drives our holiness. Both our holiness and spiritual formation drive our efforts at evangelization. And our evangelization impacts our holiness and spiritual formation. A truly dynamic process!
However, the process doesn't work unless we activate our total Action Plan. The tendency is to pursue the growth areas of our Action Plan that we are comfortable with. Our personality type will drive us toward our comfort zone. If we are head people, we will enjoy spiritual formation. If we are heart people, we will be attracted to the search for holiness. If we are gut people, we will be prone to action. We must activate our total Action Plan and experience the interplay of all three growth areas.
The third milestone? Through living the dynamic process of our Action Plan, the Spirit leads us to discover Jesus in all his dimensions—the historical Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus and the Risen Jesus. Each dimension growing us into a deeper relationship with Jesus:
- We want to grow in our capacity to live according to the mind, heart and will of the historical Jesus.
- We want to grow in our dependency on Jesus' Spirit who was a constant presence in Jesus' life and guided his every action.
- We want to grow in the Risen Jesus' empowerment to carry on Jesus' ongoing
Incarnation— being compassion to others; being sacraments of peace, healing and forgiveness to others; and being channels of faith, hope and love to awaken these powers in our sisters and brothers.
The spiritual journey is both a solitary and a community journey. We can't escape the solitude that is required. At the same time, it is very valuable to have a Christian community, even if it is one other person, to support us on our spiritual journey. Living the spiritual life, we are always in process, always evolving. It is in our Christian community that we share the process, the evolving that we are living. Our witnessing supports others in living their process and evolving. Our mutual sharing gives witness that the Spirit is operating in our lives. The result? Strengthening each other's faith.
Living our Action Plan empowers us to discover and grow into rich depths of spirituality. It begins with our embracing Commitment Spirituality that continually converts our Action Plan into a dynamic spirituality. Its energy leads us to Process Spirituality, which blossoms into Jesus-centered Spirituality. A dramatic evolution of spirituality that energizes us for our spiritual journey.
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