Monday, August 15, 2005

What does it take?

I’ve gotten the same question in different forms lately, and it’s along the lines of, “What does it take to grow spiritually and to understand spiritual reality?”

Some are asking for specific daily disciplines, others for a feeling or a sign, others for a requirement to commit to something. And I’ve become kind of puzzled myself, not really knowing if there is one right answer to this question. What does it take? Every person is different, every path is different. Is there one thing that, if we all did it, we’d ensure widespread spiritual growth?

So of course, I looked at my own life. How have I managed to get as far as I have along this path? I don’t believe I have any special virtues; many others are kinder, more compassionate, more intelligent, more principled. Many others know the Bible better, or the spiritual teachings of the world’s great leaders. I’m just me, Laura, slogging through life. My motivation to pursue spirituality is as much to bless my own life as it is to bless others. I’m no saint.

But I think I can pinpoint one quality of thought that I do possess, and have in fact cultivated. Without it, I would have gotten nowhere. There have been times when it’s been the one thing that’s kept me from the abyss.

This quality is willingness.

I’ve always loved this passage:

Willingness to become as a little child and to leave the old for the new, renders thought receptive of the advanced idea. Gladness to leave the false landmarks and joy to see them disappear, — this disposition helps to precipitate the ultimate harmony. The purification of sense and self is a proof of progress.

--Science and Health

Willingness to leave the old for the new. Joy to see the old disappear. Purification of sense and self. “This disposition” Mary Baker Eddy calls it, a wonderful characterization. You know how we sometimes say, “She has a lovely disposition”? It’s the person’s attitude, her frame of mind, her world view, her demeanor we’re commenting on.

So for spiritual growth, we need the disposition of willingness.

Once I had reached an impasse in my spiritual struggle. I had battled many years with the effects of a sensual mindset, but that sensuality was so entwined in my self-definition that I could not fathom giving it up. But getting hurt, once again, catapulted me into a night of wrestling. I felt like Jacob at Peniel.

All night I struggled. Back and forth, arguing with God, clinging to the past, afraid for the future. The message kept coming, gently but firmly, Laura, you’ve got to give up the sensuality. But I was convinced that I couldn’t. There was no way. I would become undesirable, boring, alone forever. But I also knew that there had been pain upon pain associated with the choices I’d made. I couldn’t think of one good thing sensuality had brought me.

Finally, as light dawned in the eastern sky out my window, I gave up. I remember feeling so exhausted, so spent. And I said one tiny thing, right into the heart of Love.

“All right, Father,” I said. “I don’t know how I’m going to do it, but I’m willing. You’ll have to help me. I don’t have the strength to do it myself. But I’m willing.”

What happened next blew me away. It was like a blazing light was turned on in the room. I felt transported, and I received a vision of something completely new. I can only describe it as a vision of complete perfection. I was inside of perfection. It was not boring or lonely—it was infinite and energized. It was light and foundation and grace. And it was clear to me that I was seeing and feeling for the first time who I really am. The perfect man, as Science and Health describes. I was the perfect man.

“Oh!” I thought. “I want that!!”

It happened that fast. All desire to be sensual dropped away in that moment. I had seen something better, and that’s what I wanted. My very desire had been reoriented spiritually. What gladness to leave the false landmarks, what joy to see them disappear. And the instantaneous receiving of that glimpse of ultimate harmony.

I have to emphasize—all it took was willingness. A deep wholehearted willingness to obey and to follow where God leads. Throwing myself at God’s feet and letting Him shape me anew.

What external path your own willingness will lead you down is individual to you. It may look to the eyes completely different than even the paths of those closest to you. But there’s only one destination. And a first step we all have to take is willingness.


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5 Comments:

At 8/16/2005 06:45:00 PM, Blogger Rev. Veronika Birken said...

Dear Laura,
How I loved your article! How true it rings to me and how simple are divine Love's 'requirements!'
It brought the following process I experienced to memory:



TAKING MY UPSETS TO GOD’S LOVE

I quiet my mind and take this upset to God’s Love.
I surrender the upset to Love
to do Its healing work
in my mind.

Reading this affirmation and really trying to take in the meaning took me by surprise. I had never thought of taking my upsets to God’s Love. They seemed too unimportant and He too far away.
I had to skip the part about quietening my mind though but I thought that this would be all right with God. I surrendered willingly because I didn’t want to keep the upsets. The rest was up to divine Love.
It was good to be able to go to someone. I didn’t feel so alone anymore. And the little bit of willingness was apparently enough.
I became still and peaceful and was totally comforted.

“I cast my burdens on the Lord,
And trust His constant care.” (C.S. Hymnal 124)

 
At 8/17/2005 06:32:00 AM, Anonymous Rev. Myron said...

I, too, love your posting on willingness. I know that willingness to allow God to give me a new way of seeing is all that is required. In fact, my "doing" just gets in the way of God's healing. Complete surrender to the Truth is what I want. A favorite prayer for me is, "Father, I am willing. Please heal my unwillingness."

Thank you for sharing your story. I am deeply inspired.

 
At 8/17/2005 02:21:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

thank you to both rev's!

and welcome, Rev. Myron!

hearts,
Laura

 
At 4/04/2006 04:18:00 PM, Blogger SueC said...

Thanks for sharing Laura. Such a personal event....but is this surrender complete, or do you continue to do battle with the letting go? In other words, is the healing so complete that the willingness to "let God" just happens now all the time? I don't know why this seems important to me....?! Guess I feel in a war zone most of the time.

 
At 4/04/2006 05:14:00 PM, Blogger Laura said...

I hear you, Sue... I think I can say I'm always willing, but sometimes I don't see that I need to be willing. Like, I get caught up in thinking somehow it's my own effort that gets things done. when I remember that God has all power, I know I have to let go more. I'm always willing to do so, just don't always remember to do so!

 

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