We need a new language for talking about our spiritual life and our encounters with the divine.
The “thees” and “thous” of ancient texts no longer hold resonance for our lives today. But the stories these texts tell most often remain as true to our lives today as they did in antiquity. We need a new means of talking about the divine spirit that inhabits us, invites us, and engages us in our lives today.
The old leather-bound cover of the Bible bears the scars of much debate. While it can be waved around like a general rallying the troops before battle, the contents reflect more of the gathered remains of those generations who survived the war. The love, the heartache, the defeated, the triumphant, the fallen and the restored. These are the stories of people seeking to understand, celebrate, mourn and teach. They were recited and later written down for the benefit of others. The lost, the scattered. the seekers. People like you and me.
And while those stories still convey meaning in our lives today, the circumstances and customs fall so far from our contemporary context to create obstacles and impediments to our understanding and appreciation of the layers of significance and meaning that they hold.
Too often the Biblical stories are stripped down to a bare bones skeletal moral upon which to hang a convenient theology or belief. But these stories, like our own, offer more meaning, metaphor and substance. They offer a testament, rather than a theology. A theology asks you to think, believe or debate. A testament asks you to relate, to feel, to connect with the story and seek meaning for how it resonates in your life.
The experiences of our lives have power and meaning within their natural habitat if we have the courage to confront and wrestle with them. Otherwise, they can only lurk in the shadows and haunt us.
Understanding your own story better can be a sacred experience, and it can also offer a testament for someone else. Your story can create a connection to a particular aspect of the human experience that serves as a lifeline to someone who may be floating hopeless among the turbulent currents of this life.
In my little Lutheran church, the worship assistant always follows the Gospel reading with the recitation: “Word of God. Word of Life.” While we tend to focus on the significance of the first sentence, the words always resolve on the second sentence. And that is where we find their application and resonance, in the moments of joy, angst, adversity, and celebration of our everyday lives.
I invite you to delve into the stories from the lives of others and perhaps find greater insight into your own. Or share your own Word of Life here, because your story can connect someone else in this web of life and offers a lifeline of recognition and hope, as Walt Whitman so eloquently wrote in his poem A Noiseless Patient Spider: “Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.”