Instead of expanding our capacity for life, joy and mystery, religion often contracts it. As systematic theology advances, the sense of wonder declines. The paradoxes, contradictions, and ambiguities of life are codified, and God Himself is cribbed, cabined, and confined within the pages of a leather-bound book. Instead of a love story, the Bible is viewed as a detailed manual of directions" (79).
Full and abundant life.
Do these adjectives describe your spiritual daily journey? If not, what words would you use to describe your daily spiritual journey?
Manning suggests that we will most often polarize toward observing our faith either like a Pharisee or like a child. Notice in the Gospels to whom Jesus directed his harshest words (the Pharisees). And notice the ones Jesus welcomed (the children). Even when we do become a little "high and mighty" like a Pharisee, if we turn back with humility to our Father's embrace, there is always a welcome. Jesus came to "expand" our sense of life and living, not restrict it. The very word "salvation" in the Old Testament (yasa) has the connotation of "freedom from restriction."
What might it look like for you to be more childlike in your approach to the day?
Notice, I said childlike, not childish. Childlike is full of wonder, expectancy, curiosity, with twirls and shouts and giggles and playful arm wrestling; there's listening and gratitude and welcome of the other. A child will spend three hours playing with pebbles when we can scarce find thirty minutes to play with a child (or pet or friend or spouse). Manning suggests that the way to NOT become a Pharisee, is to be like a child. How?
- Cultivate wonder at ordinary, every day life
- Have a "steadfast refusal to be intimidated and contaminated by peers whose 'lives are spent not in living but in courting applause and admiration; not in blissfully being themselves but in neurotically comparing and competing, striving for those empty things called success and fame even if they can be attained only at the expense of defeating, humiliating, and destroying their neighbors" (96).
What adjectives describe your relationship with God and your spiritual journey? What would you like to have define them?
- Does your way of following God expand your capacity for life, joy and mystery or contract it?
- Do you enter every day with a sense of wonder?
- When was the last time you "tasted" joy, wonder, delight, mystery, awe?
- Describe your "appetite" for a spiritual life full of wonder, awe, mystery, love and joy?
- Do you believe that you, as a follower or Jesus, are in a love story or a belief system? How would you know the difference?
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