The Spiritual path is a long-term relationship with God. I choose to use the G-word, you may choose another, but the truth remains. The path includes healing, learning, practicing, serving…. it includes revelations, and blessings, and tests. It includes dry patches and sometimes grueling periods of doubt and bewilderment. It’s a long-term relationship. At least it is for me and I hope it is for you.
We may enter the relationship with that awareness or we might “fall” into the relationship. For me it was both. I entered my relationship with God (consciously) when I was around 17. I was getting clean and sober and needed to have “conscious contact with a Power greater than myself” to do the 12 Step path I was practicing. At that time I also was hanging out with some radical badass Christians who left their churches to start a small service ministry that looked after seriously disabled people. The sober alcoholics that were my sponsors and mentors, along with the no BS, hard-serving Christians were the perfect people to initiate me into the spiritual path. They all had been walking their road for some time and had also been around long enough to learn how to separate the “baby from the bathwater” – and not get hung up in extraneous dogmas. They were all also VERY “hard walkers”. The sober people worked their program every day at risk of everything. The Christians didn’t just show up to someone’s service on Sundays, they wove their whole life around their ministry and their calling to serve the people they took care of. There was nothing trendy about smoke-filled AA rooms or Gymnasiums full of mentally handicapped people. But it was in those rooms that I met my Beloved.
Later, my relationship deepened when I entered my first real spiritual community, an ashram community with a living Guru and whole structure of senior monks, lay teachers and junior teachers (of which I was one). It was a big community, and so like like any big community had its fair share of BS, but having had that initial training back in Illinois, I had some sense of how to sift the wheat from the chaff and “hang with the winners”. Hang with the winners was an AA expression that advised us to see who was working a strong program, who seemed to walking their talk, and whose sobriety and life we admired, and stay close to them. This practice served me so well in the Ashram. We had all kinds of people: cult victim types, spiritual tourists, half-hearted old timers, super intense zealots… and we also had the people that became my most beloved teachers and mentors. Mostly, they were the senior teachers and monks who had been on the road for a long time, long enough to have gone through the honeymoons, dry seasons, and big tests of faith. They had practiced and served through the best of times, the worst of times, and all the other times in between. They had seen spiritual fads come and go, they had seen iconic teachers rise and fall, and still there they were, doing their work, still holding the hand of their Beloved. And they had been there long enough to learn the Beloved wasn’t a practice, wasn’t a spiritual scene, wasn’t even their Guru – but rather that more Imperishable Beloved that is the source of all scenes and the destination of all practices.
But all of this was still just the beginning. It lasted more than 15 years, but now looking back I see it was the spiritual equivalent of the 13 weeks of boot camp that US Marines go through at the beginning of their military careers. From their I was birthed into the world and began my post-ashram, post-community, free-range period of service and life on the path. Marriage, divorce, sickness, health, success, failure, notoriety, obscurity, parenthood… Now I find myself walking with my Beloved in the Instagram age, with a middle-aged body and school-aged kids in the era of President Donald Trump.
At this point, my walk is more than 30 years old. As a 48 year old, the 30 year olds I know seem like funny creatures. They think they are very grown up, but to me they still seem half-kid or something. So I guess my walk is a little like that. It feels so seasoned but in reality I’m sure I still have so much to learn.
But I keep walking. And the Beloved doesn’t leave my side. And God is anything but an easy Beloved. Ever-demanding, ever-ready to embrace me, school me, befuddle and bemuse me, God as my long term companion and master continues to reveal His/Herself to me and keep me on my toes. God is the hardest MF to be in relationship with, but it’s SO WORTH IT.
I write this because you, like me once upon a time, might be feeling called in this way. The calling might come through a healing crisis, or a new practice that turns you on, a spiritual book you read, or an inspiration to lead a deeper life. Just know that as you take that Hand, you’ll be holding it for a long time.
How is your walk with God? How would you characterize your relationship with the Divine? I would love to hear.