In Spirit & In Truth
When I was in college I was in a “Praise & Worship” band named “Truth”. There were 3 bands that rotated chapel services, all named after Jesus’ statement to the “Woman at the Well” that a day will come when people will worship God “in Spirit and in Truth”. The band names were “Worship”, “Spirit”, and “Truth”. Even then I found the names of the bands a bit strange. Especially because this was one of the many sayings attributed to Jesus that made absolutely no sense to me. What did it mean to worship (or live life for that matter) in Spirit and in Truth?
I wouldn’t claim to have an “accurate” grasp of what that text means today, but I can say that it has become meaningful to me personally. The word Spirit causes me to think of that deeper dimension of my (and everyone’s) existence--what lies beneath the masks we wear for the rest of the world. And the word Truth makes me think of honesty and integrity. So, the idea of living in Spirit and in Truth has become a sort of call in my life to live honestly, willingly seeking the integration of my inner and outer self. In short, I want to be honest about what is going on inside of me, and I don’t want to disguise that reality for the outside world.
This might sound simple. And I suppose it is simple. But not all simple things are easy. In my case, losing my job, working the most difficult job I’ve ever had, and now finally having room to breathe again, represents a year of life experience that has contributed to the realization that I haven’t been living in this kind of honesty and integrity. It took a massive disorientation--a seismic shift in my world--to wake me up from the trance that “everything is ok as it is”. The numbness of this trance touched many pieces of my life, but for the purposes of this blog I will focus on just one of those pieces--my need to identify myself as a Christian.
I’m not saying that the title doesn’t fit. Actually I’ve done a fair amount of reading over the years that has convinced me of the vast diversity of belief that falls under the name “Christian”. Nothing I currently believe falls decidedly outside of the parameters created by that reading. But still, there is something about the title itself that pacifies me--it keeps me from feeling the fullness of emotion and internal struggle that has forced its way into my life during this year. It’s almost as if saying “Of course I’m a Christian!” protects me from having to deal with the fact that I have most certainly been thrown out of the ship of certainty into the ocean of disorientation and doubt. I guess the name “Christian” acts as a life raft in this way. Sometimes this feels helpful and I am grateful for the life raft. Other times it feels like the waves are offering something truer and more transformative than the relative safety I’m clinging to.
So what now? I’m still figuring that out. I will continue to journey into contemplative practice, because I have noticed how much healthier I am when I do. I will continue to seek the counsel of good friends, many of whom are faith leaders. I will listen. I will do my best to cultivate a posture of openness to whatever this season of my life has in store. And yes, I called this a season. I suspect that the day will come--though I have no idea when it will come--when I will land on something that resembles a “conclusion”--however temporary it might be.
So why bother sharing this with my friends at Celtic Way?
No matter how uncomfortable sharing this makes me, I am hopeful that it might serve as a lighthouse for others out there struggling in the space between wanting to “belong” and being honest with what’s happening within themselves. I say this not because I am hoping others will do exactly what I’ve decided to do. Instead, I am hoping that others might find permission in this--permission to acknowledge what’s really there. If that means acknowledging a faith defined by deep and resounding certainty, fantastic! But if that means acknowledging more questions than answers and an inability to truly mean it when we say, “I believe”, then that feels important too.
I feel as if I am embarking on a journey similar to that of the Peregrini, faithful pilgrims who sailed away from their beloved home following something deep within--something asking them to risk it all for the sake of this journey. They are uncertain of where they will end up, what they will find, or who they will impact along the way. Often they go, never to return to the land which has always represented comfort for them. The identity of “Christian” has given me great comfort over the years, and even now the thought of willingly releasing it gives me a sense of anxiety and sorrow. But for this season I feel like Spirit & Truth means being willing to let go of what has given me comfort, embarking on a journey with no defined destination, and standing receptive to whatever that journey will show me along the way.
Ben is a Celtic Way contributor. Read more from him here.