And this year, what it even means to talk about spiritual development seems to be on my mind.
I remember that time of my life when several people were trying to name me a prophet. One person confused me because she seemed to think that she could consult me, like some oracle or psychic, to tell her how to run her life. At one point I had to stop myself from just telling her to follow through on the things that God already told her to do before asking for the next step. She would have believed me, too. I was just too honest to put words in God's mouth.
But the more confusing one was the "leader" who asked me what I was doing to "work on my gift." Now, I know I haven't been trained in these things, but I'm pretty sure if it is a gift, that means I didn't work to earn it. Also, here is that pesky honesty again. I know what he was really asking me: was I working on conforming of all the expectations of that God Club.
And see, I am kind of a contrary thinker about things. I mean, they told me that grace was unearned favor. I was told over and over again that it wasn't by "might or power, but by the spirit." That doesn't seem to leave me a lot to work on.
Somewhere along the way, I saw another viewpoint of God. I mean, if you are going to say the Bible has something to say about who God is, let's start with the picture of him at the beginning of Genesis, where he just wanted to hang out and talk with these people he made. We keep wanting to add the rules and the buildings.
So I never know how to talk to people who use the term Spiritual Development. I get curios, I try to understand things. I stand in wonder at the complexity of the universe. And I talk to God, have for years. And sometimes I experience what seems to be answers, sometimes even whole conversations. No, not out loud and it may just be a whole made up conversation in my head and I will admit I well may have a screw loose. But if the conversations are, ultimately, just talking to myself, it doesn't really matter. These conversations help me clarify my emotions and my desires. And they feel like the only conversations where I can be completely myself without ever having to explain or make excuses, because I really am already completely known.
Not to mention that grace thing.
But here is the other thing about this, the one that really puts me outside most God Boxes. I don't think my experience is supposed to apply to everyone. I mean, if you are going to start with a premise of this huge all knowing, all loving being that is both in all time and transcends time, in all and through all, it just seems to me a bit disrespectful to think that I could possibly know the one and only way he/she/it would choose to relate to other people. I don't know your needs, your heart, all the experiences of your life. I have to trust that this mighty, overarching spirit being is handling it just fine. My only obligation is to continue in my daily journey of learning love.
And yes, some times I'm better at being in that space than other days. But if I had to give just one definition of spiritual development it would have to be this: an ongoing journey of showing up and paying attention.
So in reflecting on this past year, I have been distracted and maybe not always paying attention. I hope I haven't been hurtful to anyone I care about because of my personal difficulties this year. And so my hope for the coming year for myself just about writes itself. Show up. Pay attention.
And peace. Never hurts to hope for peace.