Capacity for Marvel

I am very aware there are many definitions of spirituality floating around in our world. I first became aware of the word, spirituality, in the 1980s. That was the time people in non-Catholic universities and theological schools discovered what Catholics had been using as a normal word. Before that time, Protestants normally used the word, religion, and other similar words.

As last century ended, a number of people began to use spirituality to talk about their experience with the Divinity. Many of these folks either did not like the traditional religious language or sometimes had even walked away from the institutional church and wanted nothing to do with “religion” anymore. I don’t share the “reject religious language” view, but I also like what spirituality has to offer.

For many people spirituality seems preferable language to describe their experience because their experience of God, of the Holy One, of the Spirit is less defined. For many folks spirituality is a better way to talk about the mystery of dealing with the Spirit. Spirituality offers a way to “talk about” their experience without precisely defining it. I appreciate this element because mystery plays a significant role in my religious experience.

Another facet of spirituality that I like is the phenomenon of marvel. Perhaps you have not thought about how “marvel” is a spiritual word. I like the verb, marvel. It also can be a noun. No doubt, most people use it in its adjective form, marvelous.

That is a word that can describe an amazing concert or spectacular game played in an athletic event. People come away exclaiming, “that was simply marvelous.” Let’s play around with the phenomenon of marvelous in order to see how it can have a spiritual function. Let’s simply suggest life has two possible levels: the ordinary and the marvelous. I like “marvelous” language better than “extraordinary” language because marvelous sounds so much more than extraordinary. Extraordinary can be only slightly more than ordinary. If something is marvelous, it is way better than ordinary. Marvelous leaves the ordinary in the dust!

Now let’s drag human beings into the story. I like the Genesis 2 account of creation (yes, there are two creation accounts in Genesis). In Genesis 2 God creates Adam from the ground. In fact God comes along and scoops up some dirt---some dust---and forms that into a human being whom God calls Adam. I like the fact that the Hebrew word for ground or earth is adam. So in the beginning we are dirt---we are nothing but dust! That is ordinariness.

The good news is this is only the beginning of the story. We may be ordinarily dust, but we have such marvelous capacity. We can be so much more than our humble beginnings. In fact, God wanted and expected so much more for us and from us. Our marvelous capacity is symbolized by the fact that we were created in the image and likeness of the Very Divinity Itself. I would say our capacity for marvel is our capacity to be imitators of the God who created us.

We are the apple of God’s eye! We were meant for so much. And sadly and so often we do so little. Too often, we turn out to be bad apples! Everyone knows a few bad apples spoil it for the whole bunch. But it does not have to be that way. We always carry with us the capacity for marvel.

I recently spent a long weekend with a fair number of select college students. I marveled at how good they were and how well they worked at making the whole group even better. I began to notice how they were developing their marvelous capacity. It is not complicated, but it takes a dream, discipline and determination. And that seemed just like a recipe for spirituality.

To be spiritually marvelous requires a dream. Jesus called the dream the Kingdom. My own Quaker tradition has sometimes called it the Blessed Community. The dream is a group of people who are committed to and working for peace and harmony. We are a gathering who wants to love and be compassionate in the world. We want to incarnate the same kind of energy I see in young people. We want to incarnate God’s Presence in the world just like Jesus did and similarly to how the Buddha did it and probably Muhammad and all the other saints.

I want to be a marvel…spiritually speaking. I want to hang out with marvelous people. It is a simple dream. It will take some discipline and determination. But I don’t have anything better to do. And I certainly don’t want to be ordinary. Join me!

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