“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience.
We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)
These mystical words of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a visionary French Jesuit priest and scientist, feel true to my experience. Yet they beg the question – to what end? Why would a human experience be essential to our development as spiritual beings?
The answer comes out of the death of a loved one and out of every important relationship we treasure. If my mother’s life and death taught me anything, it’s that our human existence is about love, from beginning to end–how to grow it, how to share it and how to gracefully receive it. Only love is eternal. Only love is essential. Only love survives the grave. Didn’t the Beatles say the same thing –“love is the only thing” – in their song, “All You Need is Love?”
Love grows out of humility, like a garden grows out of the rich dirt of humus. Neither just happens. Both take a whole lot of work. In the gardening realm, especially here in Oklahoma where red clay lays just under the earth’s surface, dirt must be amended in order to create the proper environment for growth. When preparing the soil of my new backyard garden last fall, I dug up a small dump truck of red clay and stones and replaced it with cotton burr compost and spagham peat moss, mixing both together with the remaining soil. Digging up the red clay was back breaking work. But, in comparison to the amending spiritual practice of humility, it was easy.
Humility requires us to empty ourselves of pride and the desire for honor and riches, which have no currency in the spiritual realm. Like Jesus, we are called to travel the road of life lightly, without a lot of baggage, so that honor, possessions and pride do not insulate us from others and ourselves. Cultivating a humble spirit in which to grow love takes more than a truck load of apologies, forgiveness, and putting others before our own needs. And over the course of our human experience, we keep from strangling on humility by taking many, many deep swallows of pride. As hard as all of this sounds, it’s actually harder in practice.
With age, I’ve come to believe environmental influences like family & friends have less to do with who we are and who we become than the unique and personal blueprint given us on the day of our creation. All of us have God’s eternal love buried deep within us to grow and share in a way that we alone can express it. Our life’s work is to make visible this divine love –this image of God created and hidden within us. We do this through our daily actions and life choices, punctuated by time-outs for reassessment of life purpose and direction.
So what does this divine spiritual image of God look like in you? Click here to go to The Upper Room, where you can begin to answer this question by taking a short test to learn more about your own spirituality type.