Ponderings: Broader Life

I have been nurtured within a tradition that emphasizes the “deeper life.”  Maturity is connected to ideas of increasing development—“going deeper” into things.  I have received many insights and blessings from this perspective of Christian growth.

But I have come to see that we also need a “broader life.”  We need not only to explore the depths of our preferred tradition, we also need to expand our exposure to the wideness of the larger Christian tradition.

I’ll illustrate with an experience I had in the 1980’s at the Abbey of Gethsemani—a Cistercian monastery which was about an hour from my home in Kentucky—the place where Thomas Merton spent more than 25 years of his life.

I was wrestling with a decision, so I asked if I could meet with one of the monks for some conversation.  Father Damien was sent to visit with me.  As I described my situation, he listened with focused attention.  And when he responded, I knew that God was using our time together to help me.  I left the conversation with insight into my situation.  I also remember leaving my time with Father Damien thinking, “Who would have ever guessed that a Cistercian monk would be the means God would use to provide me with the instruction and guidance I needed?”

It’s just one of the ways I have learned that the “wideness” of God’s Kingdom is as beneficial as the “narrowness” of it.  Whether it be theological insights, worship styles, devotional practices, or life decisions, there is a breadth of knowledge and wisdom as well as a depth of it.  For more than twenty years I have been on a journey to see how many brothers and sisters in Christ I can discover outside my tradition as well as within it.  The findings have been transformational!

About Steve Harper

Dr. Steve Harper is retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 45 books. He is also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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1 Response to Ponderings: Broader Life

  1. It’s funny that you are writing about this. I met with a Baptist minister last week and not only had a wonderful and inspiring conversation, but it gave me a perspective that was needed in my situation. I never could have imagined that happening a year ago. I love this post and appreciate your wisdom and inspiration!

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