There is the idea that function follows form. And the idea that the end does not justify the means. And the idea that the medium is the message, or “massage,” as Marshall McLuhan put it, emphasizing the steamrolling aspects of the manner in which the message is couched. And the idea that substance is communicated by its packaging. And the idea that content is dependent upon process. And the idea that how we do something is as important as what we do. After a while, we begin to get the idea. If you are going to sell grace to the people, you have to be gracious. If you are going to sell life, you have to be alive.
If you were going to look for grace and life, say for a scavenger hunt, you probably wouldn’t knock on the door of a church, or make inquiries to a group of preachers. You know what I’m talking about. The church, and the preachers, of our experience don’t know a thing about being gracious, or about being alive. They know about fear. They are good at fear. They have being afraid, say of thinking a thought they haven’t been taught to think, down. And, the rules. They have the rules down. The rules help them fight the fear. If they keep the rules, they think they don’t have anything to be afraid of. But, between the rules and the fear, they don’t have a chance of being gracious, or of being alive.
If we believe that function follows form, and the rest of those ideas about the importance of process and presentation, we have to be concerned about the way in which we carry ourselves through the world. How gracious are we? How alive are we? How loving are we? How kind are we? How generous are we? To what extent are we good company? To what extent do people enjoy being around us? These are the kinds of questions we have to ask, and answer. Not do we believe in the Holy Trinity and in the Infallible Authority of the Bible. We can believe what we want to about the Holy Trinity and the Bible as long as we are fearlessly compassionate, kind, and generous, and gracious, and alive, and good, restorative, places for others to be.
There was a softness of spirit about Jesus that welcomed women and children, tax-collectors and prostitutes, foreigners and the people on the fringe of society. And, there was a hardness about him that dealt coolly with the bearers of the religion of his day because they were not softer themselves. It is not about hoops to jump through, and rules to keep, and appearances to maintain. It is about being genuinely good places for other people to be. It is about being gracious; it is about being alive.
We cannot be alive without loving life. What’s to love about your life? How deeply do you love it? How well does it show? Do people, looking at you, know you love your life? Know what you love about your life? Why aren’t you spending more time recklessly loving what is to be loved about your life?
You want to be spiritual? Recklessly love what is to be loved about your life. And, if someone gives you grief about daring to love your life, be gracious to them. Loving your life and being gracious is the best springboard you will ever get into spirituality. Stop waiting for someone to give you the rules. Start loving your life and being gracious. And work laughter into your days. You will develop a healthy spirituality in no time at all.
Ambivalence. Ambiguity. Paradox. These are the watchwords of spirituality. It’s the Yin/Yang principle of spiritual development. Spirituality is necessarily oppositional. When we see into the heart of things, we see what is true, and what is also true. Everything exists in tension with everything else. Everything lives along a continuum with everything else. Opposites are more alike in their extremes than in the middle ground between them. Our sworn enemies are more accurate reflections of who we are than our best friends are. At lease, we can see things about ourselves in our enemies that we would never see about ourselves in our friends. With only our friends around us, we can forget how it also is with us. We hate in others what we cannot face in ourselves.
A healthy spirituality says “Yes” to it all. And, it lives away from evil and toward good, even as it knows the good is not without evil, nor the evil without good. Both/And not Either/Or. That is the essence of the Yin/Yang principle and the foundation of spirituality.
Being gracious includes graciousness for our own littleness of spirit and smallness of heart. We will never be as big-hearted as we wish we were. We will never be as thoroughly and genuinely kind as we would like to be. The father along the spiritual path we travel, the more we realize we are only at the beginning of the journey. The Master knows that if we knew the Master like the Master knows the Master we would know there are no Masters. Don’t follow anyone who thinks she, who thinks he, should have disciples. If you are going to follow anyone, follow someone who sees you as someone to be followed. And be gracious. And be alive.