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Confessions of a Mad Journalist (Part 3): Four Things I Have Learned About Spiritual Life

May 14, 2009

Continued from previous post

There has been one overriding, familiar theme woven throughout all of my journal writings during the past twenty years: I was constantly searching for some greater purpose and meaning for my life. But I never really got it, not in the way I thought it should be at the time when I was writing it down. I kept waiting for some huge Master Plan from God to overlay my life, like it would click into place and I would be set. But does anyone ever really get that?

I guess that’s how life is – you just have to try and make good decisions every day, give of yourself to others, take care of the ones you love, and work hard at whatever it is your dreams are. And then surrender it all to God. There’s no magic or secret formula. Even though that’s what we long for sometimes.

There is a tenet of the Presbyterian denomination that I really like, which kind of explains this for me. It says, “We are reformed and always reforming.” That means that we’re never done. We’ll never figure it all out. Spiritually speaking, there’s never an end point for our understanding, our experience of God, or our ability to define what God’s purpose is in and for our life. Just like time unfolds before us in the seconds, minutes, hours and days, so does God’s presence and purpose. It’s always before me. He’s always before me.

Looking back on the two decades of life captured in my journal writings – through all the ups and downs, the dreams and fears, the frustrations and victories – there are a few things I have learned:

  1. God is present, one hundred percent of the time
  2. Joy is always an option
  3. Grace is available everywhere
  4. I must participate

You know, I do have a choice in these matters. If I make an attempt to pay attention to these few, small details, then the gap between my real life and my idealized spiritual life gets smaller. I just need to be aware. I have to look around with more of a discerning eye. “And don’t forget to write it all down,” I can hear God saying to me. “Tell Me all about it, and you’ll be fine. You’ll see.”

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2009 6:36 am

    It took me a while — about 27 years — to figure out that my life actually wasn’t about me. It was supposed to be about God. (“What do you mean I’m not the center of the universe? Who do you think You are, God?”)

    I know this now, but I still struggle. But I’ve learned that when God is at the center of things, it’s all different. You look at people differently — more understanding, more patience. You look at yourself differently — less pride, less self-centeredness. You see work differently — helping people create and innovate and grow their skills. You see your children differently — I’m still amazed that God trusted me with raising my two sons (and maybe He knew it was OK because He’d be there anyway).

    But it’s still a struggle. Anmd God knows that.

  2. May 14, 2009 8:49 pm

    hi brad,

    thanks for sharing some of your personal thoughts that have come through your journal writing.

    i guess that IS how life is.
    the need to live out what i have come to believe.
    maybe it is because that would eliminate faith if i new the plan.

  3. May 15, 2009 6:08 am

    It’s about time you finished this blog post. Sheesh!

    “If I make an attempt to pay attention to these few, small details, then the gap between my real life and my idealized spiritual life gets smaller.”

    LOVED that!

  4. May 15, 2009 12:36 pm

    hum.
    idealized spiritual life.
    interesting thought.
    idealized…

  5. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    May 15, 2009 4:40 pm

    Glynn – it’s so refreshing to hear your honesty… and that you still struggle. Me too. Maybe it just comes easier to some than others.

    Nancy, you are always spot-on. The need to live out our faith by not knowing the plan? It sounds right. Now I need to do that writing about physics and probability…And bring it all together! Right?
    I didn’t think so.

    Katdish – as always, love to have you stop by and add a little something!

  6. May 15, 2009 8:17 pm

    Brad, you already know how much I enjoy your writing. . . the manner in which you present your thoughts, the quality of thoughtful comments you receive from your friends,etc. I also appreciate your encouagement in my efforts. At the risk of sounding like a nit picker, in the present post (about the third paragraph down) you mention a “tenant” of the Presbyterian faith. Didn’t you mean to say tenet? One is someone or something which occupies space (as in a tenant renting a house) the other has to do….well, you get the point.

    Also, I wonder about calling it the “Presbyterian faith.” All denominational expressions are different points of view about the same Christian faith.

    Your work will be published. I’ll just keep my eyes open for obvious things. Keep us what you’re doing. don

  7. shrinkingthecamel permalink*
    May 15, 2009 8:35 pm

    Doh!
    Good catch, Don. Just fixed it. Maybe you can be my part-time editor, because obviously the team in my head didn’t see that one. I’m going to fire them.

    I also added something to the ending that I had forgotten about in an earlier version (I actually lost the flash drive I had written this on, and had to recreate it by memory!). I think it brings the spiritual-journaling side of the story full circle.

    Thanks for looking out for me, Bro!

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