Whether you know it or not, whether you like it or not, you are on a spiritual journey. Spiritual journey speaks to our relationship with God through Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit. Spiritual journey is usually easier to see in the rearview mirror than in the present. As I look back in my life, I see where God put things in place for me, steered me back on course, and guided me beyond my wildest expectations. You may have heard the saying, “God does for me what I could never do for myself.” Another one of my favorite sayings is, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.” All of this requires my putting my agenda aside or at least holding it lightly so I may listen and be guided by God. The other day a friend said, “ If you want to hear God laugh, tell God your plans.” Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you.”
While spiritual journey may be an individual’s coming home to know God, Christ, Holy Spirit more intimately, it is also a community concept. While clubs exist to bring people together for purposes of service or playing sports, or fellowship; churches, synagogues, temples exist to help people with their relationship with God and each other. Through the action of the Holy Spirit, people form spiritual communities to grow their faith and offer their actions in the service of God’s higher purpose of bringing the kingdom near.
Last summer, the leadership team of my church met with a consultant over two days to work on our vision as a church community wanting to deepen into more intimate relationship with God and each other and to envision where God is leading us in service to our community and the world. It’s all about the kingdom. The kingdom of God is within you, among you and all around you. How well we listen to and act toward each other brings the kingdom closer. These are God moments that happen when people connect in meaningful ways through sharing their spiritual stories. Religious communities often do a great job of welcoming visitors or new members and making them feel like they belong. Beyond those initial introductions though, how we share our spiritual journeys, what we feel has impacted us and brought us thus far requires more intentional listening. And to share where we think God is leading us takes courage and sincere intimate relationship. It is through the sharing of our personal stories that we deepen our relationships and grow in our faith individually, but also as a community. The 12-step recovery programs have been achieving healing through this exercise since 1935.
In a sermon a few weeks ago, I mentioned Frederick Buechner. Pronounced, “Beekner,” he was an ordained Presbyterian minister, who rather than serving a church, wrote beautiful narration in novels, theological writings, poetry and memoir. Writing was his true calling. His childhood was chaotic as his family moved often due to his father changing jobs and trying to find work. His father’s suicide when he was 10 was a trauma that unfolded and found healing in his writing. He died in August at the age of 96 in Vermont where he had lived for decades with his wife and family. Fans of his four memoirs consider him to be the American CS Lewis, whose greatest gift was communicating the individual’s search for God.
“My story is important not because it is mine, God knows, but because if I tell it anything like right, the chances are you will recognize that in many ways it is also yours….It is precisely through these stories in all their particularity, as I have long believed and often said, that God makes himself known to each of us more powerfully.” Frederick Buechner, 1926-2022
The humble sharing of story is truly a powerful way God makes God’s self known. Through spiritual journey stories God’s grace finds expression in our lives. This brings the kingdom near and gives us courage to go forward by way of God’s gift of wholeness, shalom.