Listenings: A Convergence Of Two Worlds

In our consideration of the spiritual life as a “whole-life” endeavor (what has also been called a “God alone” perspective), we must not come to think of it as becoming so heavenly-minded that we are no earthly good.

There is a pseudo spirituality that virtually “de-materializes” the spiritual life and moves it almost exclusively into the “heavenlies.”

Evelyn Underhill knew that this danger existed in her portrayal of an “intense” Godward spiritual life.  So, she turned to make it clear that the living out of this spirituality is “not in some mysterious spiritual world I know nothing about; but here and now, where I find myself, as a human creature of spirit and sense, immersed in the modern world–subject to time with all its vicissitudes, and yet penetrated by the Eternal and finding reality not in one [world] but in both.” (p. 64)

Our ultimate example of this is Christ himself—the Incarnation, where “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).  Another place to see this is in the lives of the saints—ordinary men and women who lived in this world to the glory of God.

But unfortunately, we have allowed “other worldly” concepts of both Jesus and the saints to keep us from realizing that humanity and spirituality are not competing categories.  I’ve seen pictures of Jesus that made him look like one good gust of wind would blow him away, and I’ve seen plaster statues that make the saints look weird and very fragile.

Instead, Underhill offers us what she calls “the formula of the spiritual life: a confident reliance on the immense fact of His Presence, everywhere and at all times, pressing on the soul and the world by all sorts of paths and in all sorts of ways, pouring out on [the world] His undivided love and demanding an undivided loyalty.” (pp. 65-66)

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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