Richard Rohr talks about ‘second half of life maturity’. It is something I have experienced myself but have been grappling with recently for reasons unknown to my conscious mind. The rough idea is that one has to live a bit and experience pain and loss and failure in order to overcome our immature mindsets. Caught up in there is the idea that we must go through the phase of ‘the law’ and religion before we can experience grace and spirituality.
I have done religion with great gusto. I have done sin with great gusto. Now, I am doing spirituality with great gusto. (Do you see the trend?) My struggle is this: Were religion and sin optional or necessary? Fr. Rohr seems to think that it is par for the course. I’m not 100% convinced. Much of what some would call ‘ministry’ that I do these days is premised on the belief that one can be birthed into the kingdom of God straightaway into a relational intimacy with Father, Son and Holy Spirit without the need to go through the intellectual, self-righteous, Christian membership club phase. I have even seen spiritual growth models that show an initial phase of rapid growth that includes becoming a church member and getting involved in church activities etc. But then we hit a wall of some sort (loss, sin, divorce, health issues, burnout, spiritual dryness). You can get stuck at the wall or overcome it to start growing again in deeper relationship with God.
It does seem difficult to traverse from a very black-and-white, biblical mindset to a more mystical (union with Christ) mindset. You can’t really teach someone into maturity if they are already convinced that they know all the truth and have all the answers. I know. I have tried and failed repeatedly. It is because of these experiences that I tend toward agreeing with Richard. It is very difficult to jump 2 or 3 steps from where you are. This realization has helped me to be more patient and far less inclined to try to influence others. It is far better to wait on God to bring to me those who are ready to go deeper and leave those who are not yet ready to go their way in peace (or hit their wall). Perhaps the adage is true – when the student is ready, the teacher appears.
There is one problem with this school of thought – Jesus. Paul (formerly Saul), the self-named Pharisee of Pharisees has one encounter with Jesus and leapfrogs over years of tradition and indoctrination and self-righteousness into the most mystical understanding of the faith recorded in the Bible. Jesus appears to him as a blinding light and a booming voice and Paul is never the same again. Listen to Paul:
…You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of the purity of my religion, even to the point of persecuting the church; a meticulous observer of everything set down in God’s law Book. The very credentials these people are waving around as something special, I’m tearing up and throwing out with the trash—along with everything else I used to take credit for. And why? Because of Christ. Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus as my Master, firsthand, everything I once thought I had going for me is insignificant—dog dung. I’ve dumped it all in the trash so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him. I didn’t want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules when I could get the robust kind that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I gave up all that inferior stuff so I could know Christ personally…
(An excerpt from the Message translation of Philippians 3)
One encounter with Christ is all it takes. I believe that a newborn babe in the faith can be catapulted into second-half-of-life-maturity with one encounter with the Son of God. I don’t believe that you have to wait until you are over 40 like me. You don’t have to be sucked into religion. An encounter with Jesus is available to you now. No frills. No holds barred.
This is of course, what Jesus offered when He said the Kingdom of God was at hand. He did not just offer a message, He healed the sick and cast out demons. He offered a foretaste of heaven! Any message without a spiritual experience is what Paul called persuasive words of human wisdom without a demonstration of the Spirit and of power! (1 Co 2:4)
Nothing less than a knock-your-socks-off, high-voltage contact with the very power of Love personified is yours for the having… if you want it.
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This content has been republished with permission from authenticjoy.org.