Some folks — especially those who are familiar with my interfaith work, or my books from before 2005 about neopagan and non-Christian Celtic spirituality — might wonder why I am so committed to the path of Christ. Couldn’t I explore mysticism and meditation and contemplation in a non-sectarian or exclusively interspiritual way?
Well, yes, of course I could, and I hold no judgment for those who seek their spiritual maturity in such a transreligious way. But I would fear that, for me at least, trying to cobble together my own spiritual practice from the teachings and exercises of multiple traditions would leave me “jack of all faiths, master of none.” I would rather dig one deep well than many shallow ones. And so I need to be grounded in one wisdom tradition, even while I treasure the good friendships and wisdom I’ve received from those who by birth or choice walk other paths.
If I am committed to the one deep well, then, why Christ?
On the simplest level, Christianity is my “home faith,” the faith of my birth. But beyond that, I find in Christ the incarnation of the love of God. Since I find religious debate rather boring, please note that I say this not to challenge other peoples’ faith, but simply to share the discovery of my own journey. I find the love of God in Christ, and in at least some of Christ’s followers (and yes, there’s plenty of woundedness and sin and brokenness among Christ’s followers, too! But in all honesty, that would be true of the followers of all wisdom traditions).
Christianity holds that to be a Christian is to be a partaker of the Divine Nature (II Peter 1:4), to be part of the body of Christ (I Corinthians 12:27), and to have the mind of Christ (I Corinthians 2:16). These are bold statements indeed, for Christ said “the Father and I are one” (John 10:30). So Christianity is a wisdom tradition that promises union with God through Christ. And contemplation is the dimension of prayer that seeks to recognize, to experience, this profound Union with Love.
What is contemplation? Simply put, it is resting in God. It is casting the noise and turmoil of our hearts and minds into the vast serene silence of the hidden God (Isaiah 45:15). Many people find contemplative prayer extraordinarily difficult, because even sitting in silence for five or ten or twenty minutes means coming face to face with the chaos and turmoil that characterizes our ordinary waking consciousness. We are “distracted from distraction by distraction” as T. S. Eliot put it. The Desert Fathers and Mothers wrote about this, and so did the early Celtic Christians. The turmoil within us has always been part of us. Contemplation does not seek to shut down the mind, any more than it seeks to still the heartbeat. Rather, it merely invites us to be present to the chaos within, but even more so, to seek the loving silence of God that constitutes the ground of our being. When we learn to “peek over the shoulders” of our mental chaos, we learn to recognize the profound and vast, limitless love and forgiveness and Divine presence that is always, already, within us. We know this is true, for God is everywhere (Psalm 139:7-12). We contemplate because we are seeking to learn to love ourselves the way Christ loves us, as training for a lifetime of learning how to love others the way Christ loves them (and us). Contemplation, in short, is a spiritual practice designed to slowly, practically, teach us to love like Christ, to live like Christ, to respond to the chaos (both within us and in the world at large) as Christ would respond.
Clearly, this is not something that we can master in a weekend, or perhaps even in a lifetime. But by the grace of God, it is not the mastery of the Christian life that we are required to achieve! All that is required of us is that we simply receive the grace that is given to us, and by that grace, to continue on the journey.
So… that’s why I am a Christian. In Christ I recognize, I encounter, the incarnation of the Love of God. And in my own contemplative practice I seek to live into the gift that I have been given: the gift of becoming a “little Christ” (which is what “Christian” means) so that I, too, may bring Love into our world which is so hungry for it.