Listenings: The Essence

Evelyn Underhill is well-known for her assertion that we spend most of our lives conjugating the wrong verbs:  to want, to have and to do.  Instead, she says, we must conjugate our lives in terms of the verb to be.  Living by our “wants” can turn us into equating God’s will with our desires.  Living by “haves” can create a life in which we think that our possessions are the evidences of our spirituality, and this quickly becomes “more is better.”  And living by our “doings” makes the spiritual life about our performances.

It is only in terms of “being” where we find the roots of our spiritual life.  This is the essence of the spiritual life, where we find our meaning, purpose, and power in terms of who we are (God’s beloved sons and daughters), not in the cravings, clutchings, and quantifications which can so easily divert us from reality.

It is in our “being,” Underhill asserts that we have our “sure hold on the eternal.”  It is a spiritual life rooted in “being” which enables the other dimensions (wanting, having, and doing) to fall into their proper place.

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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