I simply went to Chapel to nurture my own soul. One of the things I learned a long time ago was that I need to take care of myself spiritually. In my own case it is easy to fall into the illusion that I do this all day long. The illusion is grounded in the fact that I teach spirituality. Most days I am reading and talking about spirituality. Most days I actually try to write a little bit about spirituality. In that sense I am immersed in spirituality.
Because of this fact, it would be easy to assume that I live in spiritual luxury. It would be analogous to being a spiritual millionaire! If it is all around me, why not assume that daily I am being fed soulfully? At one level, I am fed daily. Doing what I do is certainly better than having a job I hate and which drains my soul. I am very lucky. Again, it is like I am rich.
However, I became aware of the illusion of looking at myself and my job teaching spirituality and assumed I would automatically be spiritual. The illusion would assume that just because I read a spiritual book, I therefore become spiritual. This is simply not true. Think about another example. I could read a book on evil, but that does not mean I automatically become evil. Knowledge about something does not mean I become that something. Why would spirituality be any different?
So I try to do some things that feed my soul and nurture my spirit. Often this means I need to be in a context where I am not responsible for leadership. That is why I like to go to Chapel on my campus or to Catholic Mass or even worship with the Jewish community and meditate with the Buddhists. They never ask me to get up front and provide leadership for everyone else sitting in the audience. I like that. I need that. I can be present for my own spiritual time.
So there I sat at the back. I was participating. I was listening. In the meditative words being shared by my friend he used a phrase that struck a chord in my soul. I can imagine he does not even remember that particular phrase. There is no way he could be aware how it hit me. I am not even sure why it struck me in the manner it did. I am just thankful.
I am grateful that I cannot recall the context in which he used the phrase. That means I can take it however I please! The phrase he uttered was, “to make a way when there is no way.” The first thing that occurred to me was how often I have heard people say, “No way!” In fact, it is sometimes used almost as a slang phrase. I have heard it used with a disbelieving inflection of the voice---people saying, “No wayyyyyy!” In the more secular usage, people say the same thing when they admit “there is no way in hell that is going to happen!”
At another level, when I think about the phrase, “No way,” I think more literally. This phrase can be used when things seem impossible. We see some elite athlete perform and think, “No way I could do that.” And that’s usually true. I can think about many things like this. I don’t have enough talent, enough money, enough time, enough courage, and so on to be or to do something. “No way!”
However, “no way” was only half the phrase my friend used. He said “to make a way when there is no way.” There was something that felt just right about that. I am convinced I had that feeling because it seemed spiritually true. Perhaps it was just because I was sitting in the Chapel feeding my soul. But it seemed somehow spiritually true. How do we make a way when there is no way? Allow me to offer two spiritual answers.
One way my own spiritual tradition says we can make a way when there is no way is to bring grace into the picture. Grace is God’s gift to me. Sometimes that gift comes directly. At other times it comes indirectly from other people---God graces me through them. Grace is God’s gift. Grace is God’s presence and power in my life. Sometimes it supplements my efforts. Grace is not magic---some kind of spiritual hocus-pocus.
The second spiritual answer I offer to help understand how we make a way when there is no way is community. I don’t know how many times I have been in a place where there was “No way!” And then community would come into play. Being in and with community meant I was in a place where we make a way when there is no way. Sometimes the community itself would make the way. Sometimes they would make it possible for me to make a way when I could not have done it on my own.
When I am given grace and community, there is only one response possible: thanks! Gratitude is the currency of grace and community. Perhaps that is why the phrase my friend uttered resonated deeply in my soul. Once again I was reminded how profoundly I have been enabled to make a way when there was no way. Thanks be to God and to my community.