Friday, August 16, 2013

Spirituality: More Than Flipping a Switch

Sometimes when I stop to think about something, my reaction is to be stunned.  Occasionally, I become aware that something I routinely do is really amazing.  This experience occurred today.  I walked into a room in my home, flipped on light switch and, no surprise, immediately the lights glowed.  Instantly, I had transformed darkness into light.  Instead of groping in the dark, I go directly in the light.  As we would say, I could “see.”  This may not be miraculous, but it still is amazing to me.

Of course, I know the technology of our times makes things like this possible.  Once upon a time, I would come into my home, find the matches, light a lamp, and have some dim light to find my way.  Before modern technology, this would have seemed perfectly normal.  And it would have been better than no light at all.  I suppose once upon a time when night came, that was it.  Go to bed and wait for another day to dawn.

But today we artificially alter the way we have to live.  If I want to come home and stay up till midnight---or beyond---all I do is switch on the lights and that’s that.  Easy, effortless, and done…without one thought.  And now my artificiality seems perfectly normal.  This normality is only (and temporarily) interrupted by some kind of nasty storm that “knocks out my lights.”

Now that I am into this image, I realize how often I use the imagery of “light” to talk about my own spirituality and my spiritual path.  Quakers easily talk about the “Light Within.”  By this we mean the inherent gift God places within each human being.  It is a God-given capacity to connect with the Divinity.  I can come to be “in the Light.”  For me this means I come to be in the presence of God.

Furthermore, I can “mind the Light.”  This classic Quaker phrase is one of my favorites.  It is a way of saying I want to be aware of and live in the Light.  I can mind the Light.  The alternative is obvious enough.  Don’t mind the Light.  Live in darkness!  If I mind the Light, that makes it possible to “walk in the Light.”  This is how I would talk about a way of living---a life-style, if you will.

As I talk about my spiritual path, I realize how different it is from flipping a light switch when I come into a room.  That is instantaneous.  Spirituality is never instantaneous.  It takes more effort than “hitting the switch,” as we say.  God did not equip us with a switch!  Oh, that would have been easy.  But I understand why God probably did not do it this way.  Too easy, indeed.

When I walk into a darkened room and hit the switch, I do not even think about it.  I do not think I “really did anything.”  I do not feel good about it.  It brings no meaning into my life.  It is purely a functional move to make something else possible, like reading.

However, spirituality is not possible without thinking about it.  Typically, I feel like I am doing something when I am pondering spirituality or walking my spiritual path.  And I am doing something.  I feel good about what is happening.  God’ s grace matches my human effort and that is good.  I find that spirituality brings meaning and purpose to my life…thankfully.  Spirituality is not merely functional; it has become essential.  I cannot live without spirituality. 

Without it I am in the dark.  And there is no switch to flip!  See?


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